Best universities in Spain 2018

Explore the top universities in Spain using data from the Times Higher Education's World University Rankings

September 7 2017
University of Seville

Many students are attracted to Spain for its beach resorts, vibrant cities, local festivals and beautiful architecture. Geographically, Spain shares the Iberian Peninsula with Portugal at the western end of the Mediterranean Sea.

There is much to explore across the country from the Pyrenees to the coastal towns. Interestingly, it is the country with the third-largest number of UNESCO World Heritage Sites – after Italy and China. There is an abundance of things to do including eating at quirky restaurants, visiting the many art galleries and museums and spending time at the beach and the countryside. 

Spain has some 76 universities spread across the country, with some of the most highly ranked and popular based in Madrid, Barcelona and the smaller cities of Pamplona and Granada according to the Times Higher Education World University Ranking 2018. Each region of Spain is entirely different and students should base where they want to study not just on the university, but also the lifestyle associated with the region.

One of the contributing reasons for Spain’s popularity with international students is that, generally, it is relatively cheap to live there. The cost of goods and services in Spain is below average in comparison with other European countries.

While the majority of courses are taught in Spanish, there are also a number of courses at both undergraduate and postgraduate level in English to accommodate overseas students. One of the biggest reasons students choose to study abroad is the opportunity to learn another language and as Spain’s national dialect is the second most spoken language in the world it has become a popular destination for international students. 


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1. Pompeu Fabra University

Pompeu Fabra University is still a fairly young university having been set up in 1990 in Barcelona.

The university's specific strengths lie in the social sciences and humanities, health and life sciences and communication and ICT.

The university is named after the linguist Pompeu Fabra, an expert on the Catalan language, who was credited with giving the language the status it has today. Catalan is the official language of Pompeu Fabra University. Students wishing to learn Catalan will have plenty of opportunity in Barcelona and around Pompeu Fabra.

There are three campuses located around the city of Barcelona. Social and human sciences are studied at Ciutadella, health and life sciences at Mar and communication and IT at Poblenou.

2. Autonomous University of Barcelona

The main campus is located in Bellaterra, in one of the main industrial and technological locations of Mediterranean Europe and only 25 minutes away from the centre of Barcelona. 

The university offers 87 bachelor's degrees, 315 master’s degrees, and 68 PhD programmes. Undergraduate degrees in business management and administration, economics, primary education and tourism are offered fully in English, and many other degrees offer subjects in English. The university attracts many international students due to this. 

The university has 13 faculties including biosciences, communication, arts and humanities, medicine and translation and interpreting. 

3. University of Barcelona

The third best Spanish university is also located in the vibrant city of Barcelona. 

The University of Barcelona is one of the biggest universities in Spain, and welcomes a large number of students from both Spain and abroad every year

There are 73 bachelor's degree courses, more than 140 official university master's degree courses, more than 400 UB-specific master's degree courses and postgraduate diplomas and 48 doctoral programmes.

Two degree courses are taught wholly in English (international business and English studies) and five are taught partially in English.

4. University of Navarra

This private non-for-profit university was founded in 1952 by the founder of Opus Dei, Josemaría Escrivá de Balaguer, to transmit the movement's values. The university still maintains a Catholic ethos today. 

It initially started as a law school and now has 14 faculties, two university schools, 17 institutes, a business school and many other centres and institutions. The university offers more than 120 degrees, but all courses include aspects of theology.

The university has agreements with other universities including the University of Washington, the University of Hong Kong, and the University of Edinburgh to encourage international exchanges in students. 

The university is located in Pamplona, which is famous for the running of the bulls during the San Fermín festival.

5. Autonomous University of Madrid

The main campus is situated on the outskirts of Madrid, in the Cantoblanco area, and is connected to Madrid by commuter train. 

There are 16 cafes and canteens, indoor and outdoor pools, a medical centre, sports pitches and beach volleyball courts as well as a train station and bus services, all on campus. 

Famous alumni include several former government ministers, Gaspar Llamazares former leader of the United Left Party and HM King Felipe VI of Spain who graduated with a degree in law and courses in economics.


Student experience of studying in Spain

Barcelona named one of the best university cities
Spain is one of the most affordable cities to study in abroad
Applying to university overseas: what to consider


Top universities in Spain 2018 

Click each institution to view its full World University Rankings 2018 results 

Spain Rank 2018 World University Rank 2018 University Province
1 140 Pompeu Fabra University Barcelona
2 =147 Autonomous University of Barcelona Barcelona
3 201–250 University of Barcelona Barcelona
4 301–350 University of Navarra Pamplona
5 351–400 Autonomous University of Madrid Madrid
=6 401–500 Polytechnic University of Catalonia Barcelona
=6 401–500 University of Rovira i Virgili Tarragona
=8 501–600 Complutense University of Madrid Madrid
=8 501–600 University of Granada Granada
=8 501–600 Polytechnic University of Valencia Valencia
=8 501–600 University of Valencia Valencia
=12 601–800 University of Alcalá Madrid
=12 601–800 University of the Basque Country Leioa
=12 601–800 Carlos III University of Madrid Madrid
=12 601–800 University of Jaén Jaén
=12 601–800 King Juan Carlos University Madrid
=12 601–800 University of La Laguna Tenerife
=12 601–800 University of Murcia Murcia
=12 601–800 University of Oviedo Asturias
=12 601–800 University of Salamanca Salamanca
=12 601–800 University of Santiago de Compostela Santiago
=12 601–800 University of Seville Seville
=12 601–800 Technical University of Madrid Madrid
=12 601–800 University of Vigo Vigo
=12 601–800 University of Zaragoza Zaragoza
=26 801–1000 University of A Coruña Galicia
=26 801–1000 University of Alicante Alicante
=26 801–1000 University of Almería Almería
=26 801–1000 University of Castilla-La Mancha Ciudad Real

Read more: Best universities in the world

Reader's comments (1)

Autonomous University of Madrid is ranked 210, not between 351-400, and Complutense of Madrid, 239, not 501-600. Check the link: https://www.topuniversities.com/university-rankings/world-university-rankings/2016

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