Uruguay - Country Commercial Guide
Education

This is a best prospect industry sector for this country. Includes a market overview and trade data.

Last published date: 2022-03-30

Capital:  Montevideo

Population:  3.4 million (July 2021 est.)

GDP (Purchasing Power Parity):  $75.06 billion (2020 est., in 2017 dollars)

Currency:  Uruguayan peso (UYU)

Language:  Spanish

 

UNESCO Student Mobility Number

Uruguay has 5,733 students studying abroad according to UNESCO.

 

CIA World Factbook

34.65% of the Uruguayan population is under 25 years old.

 

OVERVIEW

The United States and Uruguay have a long history of building ties through educational and cultural exchanges. The United States is a leading destination for students from Uruguay, according to UNESCO data. The United States welcomed 80,833 visitors from Uruguay in 2019, and 84,399 U.S. visitors traveled to Uruguay during the same time period.  While many of the Uruguayan visitors to the United States travel for tourism or business, almost 395 Uruguayan students are currently attending U.S. higher education institutions, according to the 2021 Open Doors Report.  This number is similar but differs slightly from the UNESCO report.

Uruguay had a decrease of -12.8% of Uruguayan students going to the United States over the last year due to effects of the pandemic. Uruguay went from 453 pre-pandemic to 395 students at U.S. higher education institutions.

The breakdown is as following: 159 undergraduate students; 166 graduate students; 2 non-degree students (language, short-term non-degree programs, etc.); and 68 OPT students (Optional Practical Training).

In 2021 Uruguay experienced a -0.6 % decrease in the number of undergraduate students going to the United States and a -7.8 % decrease in the number of graduate students.

Many Uruguayans have dual citizenships in European countries and they usually take advantage of this to study there at more competitive prices and in Spanish, in the case of those going to Spain.

A great majority choose neighboring countries such as Argentina and Brazil; however, the United States is the first English-speaking country of choice, followed by the United Kingdom, Australia, and Canada. See numbers below:

414 – United States

87 – United Kingdom

65 – Australia

30 – Canada

Due to the pandemic, Uruguay’s government suspended activities in the country’s educational centers. However, Plan Ceibal (Program One Laptop per Child) helped keep education active at all levels through its digital platform.

Students have access to a variety of fields of study: over 40% of students choose Social Sciences or the Arts (Business and Economy, Law, International Relations, Education), over 30% choose fields in the Healthcare sector (Psychology, Medicine, Veterinary), and around 20% choose fields in Technology (Engineering, Computer Science, Architecture and Design).

On the receiving side, U.S. students studying in Uruguay decreased -7.1% from 212 to 197 according to recent statistics.

 

SUB-SECTORS

Undergraduate Education: Although Uruguayan public universities are free for residents, 159 students enrolled in undergraduate programs in the United States during the 2020/21 academic year.  This represents a –0.6 % decrease when compared to the previous academic year primarily due to travel restrictions and slowed economic activity. 

Graduate Education: Typically, graduate programs are popular, however during the 2020/21 academic year, the number of students decreased due to pandemic related travel restrictions. 166 graduate students were enrolled in graduate programs in the United States representing a -7.8 % decrease compared to the previous academic year primarily due to travel restrictions and slowed economic activity. 

Non-Degree: Only 2 students from Uruguay were enrolled in non-degree programs in the United States during the 2020/21 academic year. 

OPT - (Optional Practical Training): During 2020/21, 68 Uruguayan students enrolled in OPT programs in the United States representing 6.3% increase from the previous year.

Online Programs: Uruguay is experiencing increased interest in virtual or distance learning programs for executive education and certifications. 

Research and Development: As research opportunities in Uruguay are limited to a select few fields of study, many students look to U.S. universities to work on their PhDs or complete postdoctoral studies.

 

OPPORTUNITIES

Exchange programs and partnerships with higher education institutions are a common method for market entry. Private universities are interested in expanding their exchange program offerings with U.S. universities. Uruguayan universities are also interested in establishing partnerships with U.S. higher education institutions to teach Spanish and Latin American studies courses to U.S. students studying in Uruguay.

There is a limited number of master’s degrees and PhD programs in Uruguay, so students look for opportunities abroad.  

Undergraduate education in Uruguayan public universities (UDELAR and UTEC) is tuition-free so long-term study abroad programs are often not the first option for Uruguayan students due to the relatively higher costs associated with these programs. However, short-term programs could be of interest to complement the Uruguayan public university offerings. 

There is growing interest in online executive courses and programs among the business community.

Uruguay scored 509 on the English Proficiency Index released by Education First, meaning the country is considered a “Moderate proficiency” country in terms of English speakers. Uruguay ranks 8th in English Proficiency in Latin America.  From 2012 to 2017, Uruguay was considered a “Low proficiency” country, which highlights Uruguay’s achievements in this area.

In terms of public education, as of August 2021, 91% of the urban school groups in the 4th, 5th and 6th grades of Primary Education had English classes. 65% of students learn English through videoconferencing technologies. There are still opportunities for intensive English program providers, including targeted English programs on selected topics such as finance, law, and accounting at both the undergraduate and graduate levels.

The government of Uruguay incorporated English instruction and related supporting technology into the public schools’ curriculum at all levels. Uruguay is a strong contributor to the Fulbright academic programs, with masters and PhD scholarships in biotechnology, health, energy, agro-industry and food chain development, natural resources, and information and communication technologies.

Popular fields of study for Uruguayan students are engineering, law, and business.

 

CHALLENGES

Increased competition from competitors, especially in the European countries. Many Uruguayans have dual citizenship, and as EU citizens, they can access European universities which offer lower tuition rates.

High tuition costs in U.S. universities discourage students from choosing U.S. higher education institutions.

Currency exchange rates make it expensive for Uruguayan students to study abroad, especially since they can study for free at undergraduate level at UDELAR or UTEC.

 

DIGITAL MARKETING STRATEGIES

Digital marketing is a very effective tool for penetrating the Uruguayan market. According to World Bank 2021 data, Internet penetration in Uruguay is 76.95%. The most popular platforms used by Uruguayan students are Zoom, Google Meet, and Microsoft Teams. Their popularity increased exponentially due to the pandemic. The most popular social media used by Uruguayan students are WhatsApp, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, TikTok and YouTube. The most popular streaming platforms in Uruguay are YouTube, Netflix, Vera+, Instagram, TikTok and Twitch.

Uruguayan students mostly research information through the internet. They also take online courses from the INEFOP-Coursera partnership offered during the pandemic. LinkedIn is one of the sites most used by Uruguayan students to search for job opportunities, together with university platforms and university bulletin boards. Websites such as CompuTrabajo, BuscoJobs and SmartTalent are also common ways of applying for jobs.

Parents and students receive information about educational opportunities mainly through advertisements in social media, emails, ad websites. Schools’ outreach to students is done via Google ads, Instagram ads, Facebook ads, email, and LinkedIn ads. Moreover, while some private schools and universities have counselors, many parents and students listen to recommendations from family and friends.

American institutions could use an education recruitment agent. Although not widely extended, there is at least one in the market. Hiring a marketing agency that specializes in the industry of education could also be useful to prepare a recruitment strategy specifically catered for the Uruguayan market. Additionally, hiring influencers who can talk about these matters and promote U.S. education could also be an interesting way of reaching the Uruguayan digital society.

 

EVENTS

EducationUSA Fair

Education fairs are one of the most efficient means to recruit individual Uruguayan students, including the EducationUSA fair, supported by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA). The fair happens on the second semester of the year. Universities interested in participating and exhibiting at the fair should contact the EducationUSA office in Uruguay. 

Since 2013, an average of 2,000 students looking for undergraduate, graduate, and intensive English programs register every year for the EducationUSA Fair which is co-organized by the U.S. Embassy in Montevideo and the binational center Alianza Cultural Uruguay - Estados Unidos.  This annual, 4-hour fair gathers over 1,000 students from all over the country. In 2020 and 2021 the fair was virtual due to the Covid-19 pandemic. See information about the last in-person fair in 2019 on the U.S. Embassy in Uruguay’s website (https://uy.usembassy.gov/es/vii-feria-de-universidades-de-estados-unidos-declarada-de-interes-por-el-ministerio-de-educacion-y-cultura/). The Uruguay Ministry of Education is very supportive of this program and participating university representatives highlight the quality of the Uruguayan students and their English levels.

The EducationUSA advising center in Uruguay organizes general information sessions, workshops, group and individual advising sessions, clubs, webinars and other activities to support students who want to pursue university studies in the United States. For more information visit: educationusa.org.uy

 

RESOURCES

 

U.S. COMMERCIAL SERVICE CONTACT

Stephanie Grunvald, Commercial Specialist

U.S. Commercial Service – Montevideo, Uruguay

Phone: +5982 1770 2322

Email: Stephanie.Grunvald@trade.gov