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.
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.
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 Seville and Granada. 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.
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.
More best university guides
Best universities in Europe
Best universities in the UK
Best universities in Ireland
Best universities in Italy
Best universities in Denmark
Best universities in Scotland
Best universities in Germany
Best universities in the Netherlands
Universities in Barcelona
Dating back to 1450, the University of Barcelona is one of the oldest in the country. It also ranks as one of the highest of all Spanish universities, making it a popular choice for those who can attend. Notably, the university is the main centre of university research in Spain and has become a benchmark for research activity across Europe.
Across some 18 different centres within the inner city of Barcelona, the university offers around 67 bachelor degrees, more than 140 master's degrees and over 700 postgraduate courses.
Another popular university in Barcelona is the Polytechnic University of Catalonia (Barcelona Tech) which – as its name suggest – focuses on the study of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
Universities in Madrid
While Barcelona draws in a huge crowd, Spain’s capital city Madrid has its offerings too. As the capital, it is a commerce hub and offers a wide variety of programmes. Madrid is Spain's most populous city and attracts students with its bustling nightlife and its rich repositories of European art.
The Complutense University of Madrid is known as one of the best and one of the biggest in all of Europe; with over 77 subjects on offer there’s plenty for students to choose from. To keep students informed, there is a bi-monthly newspaper called the Gaceta Complutense, as well as more than 100 political, social and sports-related societies.
The university has a plethora of successful alumni, including winners of the Nobel Prize and the Prince of Asturias Award as well as European commissioners, presidents of the EU Parliament and the NATO secretary general.
Another popular university in the capital is the Autonomous University of Madrid, which ranks as one of the top universities in Spain. The university has an environmentally sustainable campus and hosts several festivals annually including rock concerts by amateur rock bands.
Universities elsewhere in Spain
For students looking to live outside the two main cities of Barcelona and Madrid there are plenty of other universities to choose from.
For instance, the University of Seville is a magnet for students wanting to experience the country’s warm climate and welcoming culture. Students looking for a more active lifestyle might consider the University of Granada, where they can take a range of subjects while being able to take advantage of the nearby mountains.
Top universities in Spain 2017
Click each institution to view its full World University Rankings 2016-2017 results