International Education
Costa Rica

Higher Education in Costa RicaCosta Rica has a well-respected higher education system which encompasses public universities and smaller, private universities where students can find a wide range of subject areas to study. Located within the Ministry of Education, the Higher Education Council defines education policy and strives to promote quality, equity and efficiency in higher education. The National Accreditation System for Education (SINAES) provides voluntary accreditation to tertiary institutions. Admission requirements vary with some universities providing open admission and others requiring that entrance exams be taken and additional criteria be met. Admission to most of the public universities is competitive as there are not enough spaces to meet the demand. Relatively new, private universities have been created to fill the gap. Tuition at public universities is very low and many students receive scholarships, while tuition at private schools is generally much higher. Types of Schools and DegreesThere are five public universities, each with regional campuses and each specializing in particular areas of study. By law, public universities are not allowed to overlap in the careers they prepare students for. As of 2010, there were also 10 private universities which are relatively new, smaller institutions that offer programs in specific subject areas. The public universities are regarded more highly than the private schools in general although the UN sponsored University for Peace and the INCAE Business school also have strong reputations. Universities in Costa Rica are more career-focused than western universities, offering more structured programs and little opportunity to take classes of interest outside of one's specific program. Degrees that can be earned include four-year bachelor's degrees which can be followed by one to two-year licentiates for some professions, master's degrees and doctoral degrees. International StudentsCosta Rica is a popular destination for those who want to study in a Latin American country. It has a stable democracy, natural beauty, tropical climate and offers many opportunities for those who want to explore outside the classroom. Studying at public universities as a foreign student is best done as a visiting student, exchange student or through a study abroad program. Although some public universities accept full-degree graduate students, undergraduate students may find they need to reside in Costa Rica for several years prior to attending a public university as a full-degree student. International students need to be fluent in Spansh as coursework at public institutions is taught in Spanish. Private universities are more welcoming to international students and often offer courses taught in English. The University for Peace, operated by the United Nations, has students from over 50 countries attending and the Universidad Americana welcomes all foreign students who have completed secondary school. About Costa RicaCosta Rica is a Spanish-speaking, developing country in Central American with a population of over four million. It is located south of Nicaragua and north of Panama with oceans to the east and west. The eastern and western plains areas are separated by rugged mountains containing over 100 volcano cones. Costa Rica is known for its extensive national parks and natural tourist attractions that draw ecotourists from around the world. Other than ecotourism, other major industries include pharmaceuticals, software development and financial outsourcing. Among Latin American countries, Costa Rica ranks first in a number of areas including environmental, democratic freedoms and tourism. Costa Rica's literacy rate is about 97 percent, which is one of the highest in Latin America. Almost 90 percent of students complete secondary school and about 38 percent of college aged students attend a higher education institution. English is spoken by approximately 11 percent of the population. ResourcesMinster of Education (Spanish language)Costa Rica Tourism