Immigration. Travel. Living.

Spain: universities for expats

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On the other hand, enjoy student life in this picturesque and sunny country, get acquainted with the local culture and traditions, find a job in Spain, and later obtain Spanish citizenship.

Higher education in Spain

As in most European countries, Spain’s higher education system is part of the Bologna Process. Accordingly, diplomas from Spanish universities are recognized in almost all countries of the world. A system of credits is used to assess students’ knowledge.

Top 3 Universities in Spain

Below there is a list of the best Universities in Spain according to Times Higher Education (THE) World University Rankings in 2021:

University Pompeu Fabra 

Established: 1990

City: Barcelona

THE world ranking: 152nd

Cost: from 3.977 € per year


University Pompeu Fabra is one of the leading European educational institutions, a public city university in Barcelona. UPF was founded in 1990 by the Catalan government to create a public university that will contribute to the country’s development.

The mission of the institution: To educate through a rigorous, innovative, and personalized educational model, people with deep scientific and cultural experience, general skills that can be adapted to the changes and challenges of society, and the specific skills they need to live successfully.

Autonomous University of Barcelona

Established: 1968

City: Barcelona

THE world ranking: 182nd

Cost: from 3.000 € per year


For 50 years of existence of this university, the educational institution has become one of the best in Europe. The university has a multidisciplinary educational direction. You can study medicine, humanities, and arts, economics and law, tourism, and technical sciences. The language of instruction is Spanish and Catalan.

University of Barcelona

Established: 1450

City: Barcelona

THE world ranking: 198th

Cost: from 3.000 € per year


This educational institution is one of the most prestigious in the country. Graduates of this university are employed by large companies and corporations. There are exchange and distance education programs here. The University of Barcelona is known for its high-quality teaching.

It applies both to the sciences of the humanities and to the exact academic disciplines. The teaching staff includes more than 3000 highly qualified specialists. To improve the quality of education, teachers from prestigious universities in other countries are invited.

people sitting on chair in front of computer

Higher education programs in Spain

In Spain, there are the following higher education programs:

Undergraduate (Grados)

The term of study is 3-4 years, depending on the specialty. During this period, you need to get 240 credits. With a bachelor’s degree, you can start working.

Master (Posgrado)

The term of study is 1-2 years, for which you need to collect 60-120 credits. Here students gain more knowledge in the chosen field of education.

Doctorate (Doctorado)

The term of study is 3-5 years, after the compulsory master’s degree. During your studies, you need to get 60 credits and publicly defend your doctoral dissertation. After that, you can continue to engage in scientific activities.

Education is mainly in Spanish, less often in a regional language, for example, Catalan. If you wish, you can find a university teaching in English. Most Spanish universities offer special preparatory language courses before the start of the academic year.

How to enter the University of Spain for a foreigner

First, you need to decide on the specialty you want to enroll in. Fortunately, universities in Spain offer a wide range of educational areas, and it is difficult to argue that teaching is stronger or weaker in some areas. Quality is guaranteed in every area of ​​expertise.

Spain does not have a single information system for international students. Therefore, for detailed requirements for admission, you need to contact the website of a particular university. The only thing that can be said for sure is a very limited number of places for foreigners. Usually, it is around 5%. However, there are exceptions.

The most unpleasant news for those wishing to enter a Spanish university is the need to pass an entrance exam (Selectividad). It is rented not only by foreigners but also by residents. Although formally passing this exam is not a mandatory procedure, practice shows that it is impossible to enter a university in Spain without Selectividad.

Selectividad consists of four subjects. Two of them are required, it is Spanish and one foreign language. The third subject is history of philosophy or the history of Spain. The fourth one is based on the future specialty. It can be chemistry, biology, mathematics, geography, and so on. To increase the chances of admission, especially to prestigious faculties, you can additionally pass several subjects in your specialization. But this is optional.

Based on the above, it is quite difficult to successfully pass Selectividad without preparation. Therefore, universities in Spain offer special preparatory courses for up to 9 months, depending on the knowledge of the Spanish language and other subjects. The exam usually takes place in June and August, with the possibility of retaking in September.

Apart from the mandatory examination, there are usually no special requirements. You will need a certificate of complete secondary education with grades, sometimes a certificate of proficiency in Spanish (DELE). In any case, for accurate information, you need to contact a specific university in Spain.

Tuition fees at the University of Spain

It is relatively inexpensive to study in Spanish universities. International students pay slightly more than Spanish or European Union citizens. Studying at a private university in Spain will cost 5,000-18,000 euros per year. In a state university, these figures are much lower, on average 1500-4000 euros per year.

A pleasant bonus in the higher education system in Spain is the wide network of scholarships, benefits, grants, and special programs for students, including foreigners. With their help, it is possible to reduce tuition fees by more than 50%, which is remarkable. It also applies to private universities.

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