The Colombian Higher Education System

Higher education in Colombia is available from public as well as private higher education institutions. The Ministry of National Education is responsible for higher education system in Colombia. 

Main Decrees Regulating Higher Education 

Decree: Decree No. 2230 
Year: 2003
Deals with: Ministry of National Education

Decree: Law No. 30 
Year: 1992
Deals with: Higher Education

Decree: Decree No. 272 
Year: 1998
Deals with: Higher Education Programmes

Higher Education Institutions

Higher education in Colombia is offered by the following higher education institutions:

Universities (universidades): Universities in Colombia offer undergraduate and postgraduate programmes. These provide academic knowledge as well as professional training. Technological research and academic programmes are offered by the universities in Colombia. Universities are composed of faculties (facultades), departments (departmentos), and schools or colleges (escuelas).

Professional technical institutions (Instituciones tecnicas profesionales): These institutions provide programmes that are instrumental and operational in nature. These institutions offer programmes in the technical and vocational fields, with strong emphasis on practical training. 

University institutes or technological schools institutes (Instituciones universitarias or escuelas tecnologicas): This type of higher education institution provides undergraduate courses at all 3 levels and postgraduate- specialization and master’s programmes. Programmes offered by these institutions provide strong base in academic knowledge and research. 

Technological institutions (tecnologicas): These institutions provide undergraduate programmes in the field of technology and technique.

Other Institutions of Higher Education

Other institutions offering higher education in Colombia are:

Regional centres of higher education (CERES, or Centros Regionales de Educacion Superior): These institutions are formed in the areas where there is no or limited access to higher education institutions.  In Colombia, there are many regional centres of higher education offering a wide range of post-secondary courses as per the regional needs.  

Post-secondary distance education institutions: In Colombia, there are many distance education institutions offering virtual and distance education. 

Training centres managed by National Apprenticeship Service (SENA, or Servicio Nacional de Aprendizaje). These centres provide apprenticeship and vocational programmes that lead to the title of professional technologist and technician. 

Special regime institutions (Instituciones de regimen especial): These are military institutions that offer all levels of higher education. 

Higher Education Qualifications

Academic programmes in Colombia are divided into 2 levels:
  • Undergraduate (Pregrado)
  • Graduate (Posgrado)

Undergraduate (Pregrado)

Undergraduate studies in Colombia consist of university professional, professional technician, and technological levels.


This is the first level qualification offered by the universities in Colombia.  Students are required to write a graduation thesis in order to receive the Licenciado degree. 

Admission requisite: Students must hold a secondary school diploma and pass the ICFES state exam. 

Duration: 4 to 5 years

Credential: Title of Licenciado 

Diploma Programmes (Technical)

Professional Technician Education (formacion tecnico Profesional)

These programmes are offered by professional technical institutions. This level of education concentrates on specialized theoretical knowledge and hands-on skills. Students after completion of the programme are awarded the tile of Professional technician (tecnico Profesional) in a particular field. 

Admission requisite: Students must hold a bachiller and pass the “State Exam” in order to gain admittance into this educational level. Also, pupils who have finished grade 9 and whose age is 16 years are eligible for professional technical programmes if they hold a certificate of professional or occupational aptitude from SENA, and have worked in their specialization field for at least 2 years. 

Duration:  5 to 6 semesters

Certificate awarded: Professional technician (field name- international commerce; machine design, or graphic design)
Students who graduate from this level are eligible apply for studies at the post-secondary technological level, or enter workforce. 

Technological Education

Technological education in Colombia is provided at technological institutions.  

Fields of study: Management, communications, business, and engineering technology

Admission requisite: Students must hold a bachiller and pass the “State Exam” in order to gain admittance into this educational level. Also, students who hold the title of tile of Professional technician in a related field are eligible for admittance into the technological programmes.

Duration: 6 to 8 semesters, depending on the area of specialization

Certificate awarded: Technologist (tecnologo)
  • Business Administration Technologist (Tecnologo en Administracion de Empresas)
  • Industrial Engineering Technologist (Ingenieria Industrial Tecnologo)
  • Computer Technology and Telecommunication Technologist  (Tecnologia Informatica y de Telecomunicacion Tecnologo)

Specialist Professional Technician (Especialista Tecnico Profesional)

This programme provides in-depth knowledge in a particular field of study.

Field of study: Specialization in the following fields is offered: Agriculture, finance, technology-related and management

Admission requisite: Students must hold the title of professional technician (tecnico Profesional)

Duration: 2 to 3 semesters

Specialist Technologist (Tecnologo Especialista)

This programme provides in-depth knowledge in technological field. 

Fields of study: Finance, management, commerce, communications and technology

Admission requisite: Students must have the title of technologist for admission to the technological specialization.

Duration: 2 to 4 semesters

Graduate (Posgrado)

Graduate programmes consist of masters, specializations, doctorates and post-doctorates.

Specialization Programme

Students who have finished their undergraduate studies are eligible to apply for specialist programmes that provide in-depth study in a particular field of study. 

Fields of study: Business administration, medicine and law

Admission requisite: Students must hold an undergraduate degree in a related field of study.

Duration: 2 to 3 semesters

Credential: Specialist (Especialista)

Master’s Degree (Magister)

Students who want to deepen their knowledge in a particular branch of study can opt for master’s study. Students are required to complete the coursework as well as a research project in order to obtain the magister degree.

Admission requisite: Students must hold an undergraduate degree.

Duration: 1 to 2 years (2 to 4 semesters)

Doctorate Studies (Doctor)

Students are required to complete and defend a doctoral thesis which is based on an original research. After completion of the programme, title of doctor is awarded, which is the highest educational qualification in the Colombian education system. 

Admission requisite: Students must hold a master’s degree in a related field of study.

Duration: 4 to 8 semesters (2 to 4 years)

Admission Requirements

Students must have competed secondary education in order to apply for higher education in Colombia. 

For admission to the undergraduate degree programme, students must hold a secondary school diploma and pass the “State exam”. 

For admission to the graduate degree programme, students must have finished undergraduate degree programme in a related area of study.

To know more about the admission requirements for higher education institutions in Colombia, click here.
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