Best Universities in Spain for International Students

Best Universities In Spain

Study Abroad University Students in Seville. Photo by: Kate Allen

Best Universities in Spain for International Students

Which university in Spain is best for international students?

Spain is an attractive place to study for many international students. This article will look at which city and university in Spain might be suitable matches. As with most decisions, preferences vary, so let’s look at several different universities and factors.

We understand that some people wish to study abroad for a short period, such as a semester, while others may want to complete an entire degree abroad. In the first section, we also discuss some universities as short-term study options. 

Studying In Seville

American students in Seville

Spanish Studies Abroad

American students in Seville

Spanish Studies Abroad

Why study in Spain?

First, you may wish to consider why it is valuable to study abroad. Studying in another culture can open up many possibilities for a student, and Spain can be a fascinating option to consider.

Tens of thousands of students visit Spain each year, from Europe, Latin American, and North America. There are many reasons to choose Spain – many point out its history, warm climate (in most regions), quality education, and lifestyle. 

Beyond the climate, Spain’s lifestyle may be the most significant draw, having been named the healthiest country in the world. Visitors love Spain’s cafes, cuisine, outdoor lifestyle, and nightlife. Spain offers an excellent quality of life, regardless of whether you go for a short-term course or a full degree.

University Marbella

Marbella, Spain. Photo credit: Astrid Schmid

Study in Spain: Languages of Instruction

Castilian Spanish is the primary language in most parts of Spain although several areas speak regional languages. This is especially true in Catalonia, where Barcelona is located. Traditional universities there teach predominantly in their Catalonian language (Catalán).

At many universities, you may find some English coursework in areas such as Business and STEM, despite most of the instruction being in Spanish or a regional language.

At traditional public universities, it’s not uncommon that the professor chooses the language of instruction. As a result, you have to research carefully whether a class will be in Spanish, Valencian, Catalán, or English, for example.

Best universities in Spain for international students

Best University: Pablo de Olavide in Seville (la UPO)

Svq Keosha Cosby 2019 Seville Intl Studies Usev Fall Semester

American student in Seville's Plaza de España. Photo credit: Spanish Studies Abroad

  • Location: In the outskirts of Seville, in Spain’s south
  • Accommodation: Students live off-campus
  • Campus: This is a new and modern university with research laboratories and amenities such as sports facilities

Interesting Facts

  • Opened in 1997
  • Approximately 10,000 students
  • A variety of degree areas (link in Spanish) including the sciences, business majors, law, social sciences, and humanities.
  • A traditional university experience with opportunities to create authentic relationships with locals

Course Languages

Almost all university coursework is in Spanish, but the international center offers instruction for up to 600 international students (typically for a semester or an academic year) in English and Spanish. Most international students are from the USA or Europe (Erasmus).

Study Abroad Option

Spanish Studies Abroad partners with UPO to provide student services, including placement with host families, excursions, conversation partners.

Why choose this university?

Pros
  • An excellent public university with great STEM offerings
  • Seville is a beautiful environment with an attractive climate
  • Great study abroad option
Cons
  • A high level of Spanish is needed for degree studies
  • The campus is located in the city’s periphery

Where can I find out more?

Best University: Universitat Pompeu Fabra in Barcelona

Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Barcelona

Photo credit: David Anderson

  • Location: Barcelona, in the Northeast of Spain
  • Accommodation: Students live off-campus
  • Campus: An urban campus, with buildings spread out away from the main campus. Compact and easy to reach through Barcelona’s excellent Metro system

Interesting Facts

Course Languages

Most instruction is in Catalán, with some Spanish and English courses. UPF has coursework in English primarily for study abroad students, but local students also take these classes.

Study Abroad Option

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Spanish Studies Abroad provides accommodation, student support, and excursions for North American students taking study abroad courses at UPF.

Why choose this university?

Pros
  • High academic reputation
  • The city of Barcelona attracts students and visitors due to its blend of cosmopolitan lifestyle and Mediterranean feel
  • Wide range of courses from STEM to business, humanities/social sciences and language study
  • Located in a dynamic, urban environment
  • Easy access by public transportation
Cons
  • For degree study, the majority of coursework is in Catalán
  • With Barcelona’s popularity, the cost of living has seen a dramatic rise

Where can I find out more?

Best University: Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (UAB)

Universitat Autonoma De Barcelona (sant Pau Campus)

Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona, Sant Pau (study abroad campus). Photo credit: David Anderson

  • Location: 30-45 minutes from central Barcelona
  • Accommodation: Students live off-campus
  • Campus: Large & traditional. The main study abroad campus - Sant Pau - is in the city itself, about 15 minutes from the center. The small Eixample campus is near the famous ‘Rambla’ area.

Interesting Facts

Course Languages

Study abroad courses are all in English. Bachelor’s classes at the main campus are mostly in Catalan and Spanish (A level of B2 proficiency is recommended). Some Master’s degrees are in English.

Study Abroad Option

Spanish Studies Abroad provides accommodation, student support, and excursions for North American students taking study abroad courses at UAB’s Sant Pau campus.

Why choose this university?

Pros
  • The city of Barcelona, with its culture, atmosphere and sophistication
  • Master’s degrees in English and a few Bachelor’s degrees in English
  • Great study abroad offerings in English!
  • Courses on the main campus are often offered in Spanish or Catalán
  • Wide range of degree offerings (80 Bachelor’s degrees)
Cons
  • The main campus is not centrally located
  • A limited number of Bachelor’s programs in English
  • The cost of living in fashionable Barcelona

Where can I find out more?

Best University: Universidad Complutense de Madrid

University Madrid

Madrid, Spain. Photo credit: Falco

  • Location: At the heart of Madrid
  • Accommodation: Students live off-campus though there are some residences very close by
  • Campus: It is a large and sprawling campus in Madrid’s university district

Interesting Facts

  • Founded in Alcalá in 1293; relocated to Madrid in 1836
  • Enrollment is over 85,000, making it one of the largest universities in Europe
  • Has been ranked as one of top 250 universities globally by sources such as CWUR, and QS Top Universities.

Course Languages

Courses at the Complutense are taught in Spanish.

Why choose this university?

Pros
  • In the heart of Spain’s capital
  • Respected university
  • Comprehensive university
Cons
  • Size of the university means less personal attention
  • Degree programs are in Spanish

Where can I find out more?

Best University: La Universitat de València

Valencia University

Photo credit: Mathieu Militis

  • Location: In Valencia, Spain’s 3rd-largest city. Situated on the Mediterranean
  • Accommodation: Students live off-campus
  • Campus: Three predominantly urban campuses

Interesting Facts

Course Languages

Most are in Spanish, but a growing number are available in Valencian.

Why choose this university?

Pros
  • Mediterranean climate and lifestyle of Valencia
  • Excellent education
  • Lower cost of living than Madrid and Barcelona
Cons
  • Coursework is in Spanish and Valencian
  • Traditional Spanish university

Where can I find out more?

Best University: La Universidad de Alicante (UA)

Alicante University

Photo credit: David Anderson

  • Location: 25 minutes outside the city of Alicante, on Spain’s southeast coast
  • Accommodation: The campus offers some student residences and homestays for international students. Private student residences are available near campus
  • Campus: This is a large and attractive campus, not typical of European universities

Interesting Facts

  • Opened in 1979 on the location of a former airport. Its initial focus was on foreign language teaching
  • Alicante is the 2nd-largest city in the Valencia province, with approximately 330,000 residents.
  • The campus itself is large and spacious with cafeterias, an indoor sports and fitness pavilion, and outdoor sports fields and courts
  • UA offers dual degree programs with five universities, including two in the United States

Course Languages

Most degree work is in Spanish, with some courses offered in the local Valencian language. Various classes are offered in English each term.

Study Abroad Option

Spanish Studies Abroad provides accommodation, student support, and excursions for North American students taking study abroad courses at UA.

Why choose this university?

Pros
  • A brilliant university with a good reputation for STEM research.
  • A long history of hosting international students, especially for language study
  • Mediterranean living with beaches, delicious seafood, and a warm climate
  • Reasonable cost of living in Alicante
Cons
  • Degree programs are primarily in Spanish
  • Alicante does not have the cultural life of Madrid and Barcelona

Where can I find out more?

Best University: Universidad de Salamanca (USAL)

University Salamanca

Photo credit: Alison House

  • Location: Salamanca, northwest of Madrid, not far from Portugal.
  • Accommodation: Students live off-campus
  • Campus: The university itself has more than 9 campuses in various cities. The main campus is beautiful and historic

Interesting Facts

  • USAL has a history of 800+ years, dating to 1134 and given a royal charter in 1218
  • Historic city with a small population of around 150,000
  • The city pre-dates Spain’s Roman era and its founders had Celtic roots. Its “old city” is a UNESCO world heritage site
  • The university hosts over 8,000 foreign students each year. More than 20% of its enrollment can be international students
  • The university is known for Spanish courses for non-natives
  • The campus has around 30,000 students

Course Languages

Degree programs are in Spanish. The university has extensive offerings for international students to learn Spanish

USAL has a semester program to take Business courses in English while taking Spanish language courses

Why choose this university?

Pros
  • Historic city and university - great environment
  • Safe setting to practice Spanish
Cons
  • Small city living is not everyone’s preference
  • Cool climate
  • High number of international students - temptation to speak English
  • Lack of degree programs in English

Where can I find out more?

Want to Study in Spain in English (full degree)?

These places all have entire programs in English:

Best universities to study Business in English (full degree)

There has been a growth in Spain in English degrees, which are often more attractive to international students. You can study Business in English at the following institutions:

Best places to study tourism in English (full degree)

As a popular tourist destination, it is not surprising that Spain has areas in this field that can lead to strong credentials. Check out the following institutions if you have an interest in studying Tourism:

How to apply for Spanish universities?

  • If not already clear, decide how long you will go for- a semester? An academic year? Or a full degree? If interested in a short-term, semester or academic year program, then Spanish Studies Abroad can guide you through the process.
  • Use this article and your own research to help choose your location. If interested in a study abroad program check out our destinations on this page.
  • Be realistic about your language skills and if they match what your goals are and adjust accordingly.
  • Ask for advice and support from your current university. You can reach out to Spanish Studies Abroad at [email protected] about any of our locations and programs. Discuss your ideas with your family, too, of course.
  • Student visas for Spain. If an EU applicant - no visa is required. If a non-EU applicant, you should check the Spanish embassy or consulate in their region for a student visa, required for any program over 90 days. Please note that some consulates have different procedures. List of Spanish consulates in the USA here.
  • Fees & Funding: EU applicants pay the same tuition fees as local students. Normally study abroad in Spain costs around $16,000 for a semester. Investigate all your study abroad financial aid options.

Finding universities in Spain for international students has never been so easy

There are three main types of international students in Spain: 1. Full degree students with fluency in Spanish 2. Full-degree students with fluency in English and 3. Short-term students in study abroad programs, seeking to improve or perfect their English. 

 

This article has given you information and summaries to consider programs in all of these categories. Once you understand your needs, review the links carefully to see if there might be a match. Consider lifestyle, cost of living, and weather to narrow down your options and research the above links.

 

We always recommend thinking ahead by at least a year in advance to ensure that you have enough time to make arrangements and settle your finances. 

 

A program of study in Spain can mean a lifetime of benefits. Weigh up whether it’s right for you and which program makes the most sense.

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