After a civil war in Costa Rica, the army was abolished in 1948. This event became one of the foundations of Costa Rican culture. A year later, work began for the establishment of a new model of State, including social and labor guarantees, solidarity health plans coverage, human rights and education.
In 1957, these efforts proved to be extremely effective through the issuance of the Fundamental Law of Education. The idea was to build a new “army” of Costa Rica, made up of teachers, armed with books and blackboards. The most important goal was to make Costa Rican society the Central American example of solidarity, education and welfare. Through universal and required primary education, Costa Rican society has been able to achieve this goal.
Costa Rican leaders understood that education was the first step in the advancement of society and that the improved education model needed to be extended to higher education. Advances in the creation, consolidation and diversification of state higher education in the 1960s and 1970s were accompanied by the expansion of private universities in the 1990s. This expansion provided a wide range of opportunities for the development of different academic profiles, economic and social research and more development of the country.
As of 2018, advances in the quality of education allowed Costa Rica to have two state universities and one private university considered among the best universities in Central America and Mexico. Many other Costa Rican universities, both state and private, hold privileged places within the world rankings.
The Premier Nearshore Destination
On top of the stable political and economic environment, a central location and an oasis of natural beauty, Costa Rica also has incredible human talent to offer.
With an annual 4,000 new graduates going on to engineering and technology careers, Costa Rica is beginning to position itself as an attractive technological development destination for clients from around the world.
A Leader in Technology and Science
How can Costa Rica, a country of only 5 million inhabitants, be able to produce so many world-renowned professionals in the areas of technology, medicine and science? The education in Costa Rica explains it:
The promotion of free and universal education and the commitment to create training and education programs have allowed Costa Ricans to develop their full potential in these areas. Quality standards have been established to accredit graduates of state and private universities, ensuring a comprehensive professional profile, which is both attractive and competitive in the current global market. The commitment to education has paid off through the attraction of medical and technological companies looking to Costa Rica as a destination with a skilled and eager talent selection.
Another essential characteristic of Costa Rican education is the study of several languages. Bilingual, trilingual and technical studies programs have been implemented since the 1990s that give added value to the Costa Rican workforce.
Universities play a central role in the development of the country. Out of 141 higher education centers that exist in the country, more than half are located outside of the Central region, which guarantees all Costa Ricans access to quality education programs.
The following is an overview of the main universities in Costa Rica, listed in order, according to international quality rankings:
Universidad de Costa Rica (UCR) Public University
- National Ranking: 1
- Latin American Ranking: 18
- Global Ranking: 411
Universidad Nacional (UNA) Public University
- National Ranking: 2
- Latin American Ranking: 50
- Global Ranking: 801
Instituto Tecnológico de Costa Rica (TEC) Public University
- National Ranking: 3
Universidad Latina de Costa Rica (ULatina) Private University
- National Ranking: 6
- Latin American Ranking: 201
Universidad Latinoamericana de Ciencia y Tecnología (ULACIT) Private University
- National Ranking: 8
- Latin American Ranking:122
Centro de Formación en Tecnologías de la Información y Comunicación (Cenfotec) Private University
- National Ranking: 23
Costa Rican Higher Education in numbers
- The five state universities enroll more than 102,000 students annually, while the 54 private universities in the country absorb 105,000 students per year.
- More than 15,000 new professionals graduate from state universities each year and enter the labor market.
- Private universities graduate around 45,000 people per year. This difference is due to the length of state university programs being longer than the private institutions.
- 94% of the graduates of state universities manage to place themselves in jobs related to their profession.
- Every year in Costa Rica, about 4,000 people from the universities graduate from an engineering program.
- The lowest percentage of unemployment in graduates is presented in the areas of Engineering and Health Sciences.
- This year Texas Tech University will be open in Costa Rica, expanding the academic offerings of the country.
University overall stats
- Gender distribution: 55% of university students are women and they graduate relatively more often than men. Nonetheless only 7% of women choose a career path related to Engineering and Technology. Historically, most women chose Education, Social Sciences or Business Administration as majors. 22% of the total of graduates in technology and engineering are women.
- Age distribution: Most students enroll at age 18 in public universities and graduate between ages 23-26, while 42% of private university students are 25 years or older. By 2017 48.5% of Costa Ricans between ages 18 and 25 were enrolled in Higher Education Program. Overall 25% of the adult population in Costa Rica has a University degree.
- Enrollment rates: Most public universities offer financial aid, scholarships and lower enrollment fees. A year in a public university will cost, at the most, $600. Private universities have higher enrollment fees and fewer financial aid or scholarship options. The tuition of a year of private education can cost up to $2,000.
- Academic Offer: By 2017 the estimated amount of careers offered was 1300, mostly in Education, Social Sciences and Economic Sciences. 19% of the academic offer is focused in Technology related areas (Software engineering and the like). 94% of postgraduate programs for Technology fields are offered in public institutions.
- Demographics: 75% of university students come from urban areas.