Higher Education in Colombia
Colombia does not have colleges, only universities and other educational institutes that offer professional, technical or technological diplomas to prepare students for a given profession. Undergraduate programs last for up to five years for most programs. Technical and technological institutions offer only undergraduate degrees, while universities offer both undergraduate and graduate programs, including doctorate degrees. In addition, university or technological institutes offer undergraduate degrees and master’s programs.
Why Study in Colombia?
Colombia provides a multi-ethnic, multi-cultural, high quality academic environment for international students. Colombia is also a great place to learn or perfect Spanish skills for non-native speakers, as the Spanish spoken in the country is standardized, very clear and easy for foreigners to understand. Since Spanish is the second most widely spoken language for international communications, those proficient in the language will be highly sought after by international corporations. Its location also makes it a good jumping off point for those who want to travel to North America, Central America, South America and even Caribbean countries.
Universities in Colombia
Colombia has 20 accredited universities, and both public and private institutes of higher education exist. Master’s degrees are offered in a wide range of academic disciplines, including engineering, marketing, finance and public health, just to name a few. Nearly all programs are taught in Spanish.
Tuition and Program Duration
Average tuition at Colombian universities is about $US 6,000 per year and can be as high as $US 14,000 per year. Most master’s degree programs take two years to complete, but some can be completed in as little as one year.
Most institutions and programs use the semester system. There are two calendars, “A” and “B,” although A is the predominant calendar. The first semester for the A calendar begins in February and ends in June and the second semester begins in July and ends in November. The first semester of the B calendar runs from September through December and the second semester runs from January through June.
Colombian citizens will find a wide range of opportunities for employment or doctoral research studies once they complete their master's programs. However, post-graduate employment options for foreign nationals in Colombia are available only in some industries, such as the petroleum industry and other industries that are international in nature.
International students must be enrolled in a program of study that requires at least 10 hours per week and have a Temporary Student Visa (TE). The student may obtain this visa from the Colombian embassy or consulate in their home country. The Visa is granted for a maximum term of one year and may be renewed. To obtain the visa, the student must provide proof of admission to a legal education institution in Colombia, proof of financial solvency and proof that the program of study requires a minimum of 10 hours per week. The student must obtain the visa in person at the embassy or consulate and all documents submitted must be translated into Spanish if they are in another language.
The Colombian health care system is dominated by private insurance. Students should obtain insurance in their home country that is valid in Colombia. Even with insurance, many doctors and hospitals will still require an up-front cash payment, although some may accept credit cards.
Some Colombian cities are at very high elevations, in particular Bogota, which is at nearly 3,000 meters. Students studying in or traveling to high elevations should take precautions such as maintaining hydration and allowing the body to adjust gradually to the higher elevation.
Students not already proficient in Spanish may want to consider learning Spanish in Colombia before applying for master’s degree programs.
Colombia is bordered on the northwest by Panama, on the east by Venezuela and Brazil, and on the southwest by Peru and Ecuador. In recent years Colombia's economic growth has been impressive, reaching 8.2% in 2007, one of the highest rates of growth in Latin America.
Colombia is a South American country located in the northern part of the continent. The country shares borders with Panama to the northwest, Venezuela and Brazil to the east, and Ecuador and Peru to the south. Colombia also has coastlines along the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean. The country is the second largest (by population) Spanish speaking country in the world. Major industries include coffee, flowers, emeralds, textiles, chemicals, plastics, steel, coal, petroleum and financial services. Colombia offers a diversity of landscapes from beaches and jungles to mountains. Spanish is the official language and Colombian Peso is the currency.
Colombia has five major geographical regions – the Andes Mountains (Bogata, Medellin and Cali), the Caribbean coast (Cartagena), the Pacific coast, the Orinoco plains and the Amazon forest. Although Colombia is located almost on the equator, the country still sees a wide range of climatic conditions due to differences in elevation. Most of the country is warm year-round, with an average temperature of about 24 degrees C. Areas with elevations of 2000-3000 meters have an average temperature of 12 degrees C and elevations above 4500 meters have snow. The country is usually rainy, with a dry season from December to March in most parts except for the coast, which is always rainy.
Because of its location, Colombian culture has been influenced by a wide range of cultures, including Native American, Spanish, African, Caribbean and even Middle Eastern. Until recently, the country’s rugged terrain made travel difficult, so various areas in Colombia have developed strong regional identities and cultures as well. In general, Colombians have a fun-loving culture that offers dancing and some of the best salsa music in the world. In addition to delicious cuisine, Colombian culture include painting, sculpture, literature, music, theater and film. Sports are also very popular, with soccer being by far the most popular. Other popular sports include cycling, baseball, car racing and Taekwondo.
Cost of Living
Despite its world-class infrastructure, the cost of living in Colombia is low. Apartments can be rented in major cities for under $US 500 per month and other living expenses are low as well; a student can expect to live in the country for about $US 1,000 per month, exclusive of tuition. Student visas do not generally allow international students to work.