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Choose to study in Spain, and one thing is for sure: your friends will be very jealous!
Stretching to the Pyrenees in the east, the Mediterranean in the south, the Bay of Biscay in the north, and Portugal in the west, Spain is one of the biggest countries in Europe.
Spain is also the fourth most popular tourist destination in the world, welcoming an annual volume of tourists which considerably exceeds its population. It's also among the most popular destinations for international students, due to its winning combination of good universities, attractive lifestyle, and the fact that Spanish is one of the world's most spoken languages.
Spain is a country of contrasts, where the affluence and cosmopolitan bustle of Western Europe is mixed with a distinctly southern extravagance and charm; where an expressive and flamboyant culture segues into afternoon naps and long languid evenings in bars and cafés; where distinct regional identities often take precedence over a unified national one.
Of course, lifestyle alone isn’t enough to draw in the punters – you need to have good universities too! And Spain has plenty, including 18 universities in Spain featured in the 2012/13 QS World University Rankings, of which 14 are within the top 500.
The largest concentrations of Spain's highest ranking universities are in capital city Madrid and second city Barcelona, with the latter boasting the country’s two highest ranking universities, Universitat Autónoma de Barcelona and Universitat de Barcelona.
Studying at Masters or PhD level? Read our graduate-level guide to Spain >
You may know you want to study in Spain, but where exactly? Find out about some of Spain's top student cities...
Universities in Madrid - Spain’s capital and largest city - include four entries in the QS World University Rankings, led by Universidad Autónoma de Madrid (206), followed by Spain’s oldest university, Universidad Complutense de Madrid (226), Universidad Carlos III de Madrid (343), and Politécnica de Madrid (451-500). Like any historic European capital worth its salt, you’ll find fast paced modern life taking place against a backdrop of beautiful historic architecture, with plenty of culture on offer; including the Prado – one of the world’s most celebrated art galleries. The city’s biggest football team, Real Madrid, is one of the world’s most decorated and famous.
See where Madrid appears in the latest QS Best Student Cities >
Spain’s second city is the capital of Catalonia, a region to the southeast of Spain with a proud regional identity. It is one of the most aesthetically distinct cities in Europe – dominated by daring modernist architecture, such as the Sagrada Familia cathedral. It is a famously youth-orientated city, and plays host to the annual Primavera Sound music festival. Universities in Barcelona include Spain’s two highest ranking universities, Universitat Autónoma de Barcelona and Universitat de Barcelona (176 and 187 respectively), as well as Universitat Pompeu Fabra (266) and Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya (350). Some football team or other is also based there...
Read more: A student's guide to Barcelona >
A conservative city on Spain’s south coast, Valencia is probably best known for being the spiritual home of paella. It is also home of the massive Les Falles festival (in praise of St Joseph, nominally…) and the Festival Internacional de Benicàssim, one of the biggest music festivals in Europe. It is a major tourist magnet due to its beautiful beaches and unique picturesque centre. Notable universities in Valencia include the Universitat de Valencia and Universidad Politecnica de Valencia, both of which make the top 500 of the QS World University Rankings.
Granada, located towards the south of Spain, has a distinctly North African feel, the result of centuries of Moorish rule. The most famous example of this legacy is the spectacular Alhambra, a huge castle which overlooks the city. It is fair to say that it is a major student city, with universities in Granada led by the Universidad de Granada (ranked 451-500). This large university hosts more than 80,000 students across its five different campuses, so you’ll probably feel right at home – a feeling which will be bolstered by the free tapas you’ll get with every drink you order, a quirk of this region of Spain.
Another charming historical city, located towards the southwest of Spain, Seville is the capital of the region of Andalucía. Universities in Seville are led by the sizeable Universidad de Sevilla (551-600). The city is known for its festivals (Semana Santa and the Feria de Sevilla are the biggest), and its tapas, but Seville is probably most famous for being the home of flamenco – Spain’s national dance and the accompanying music. In the modern age, Seville is also famous for its relaxed but exciting nightlife – so if you like to party into the early hours, this Spanish city should certainly be on your list.
There is no centralized application system for Spanish universities, and each institution will set its own entry requirements and deadlines – be careful to check with the university itself. You may need to sit an entrance examination, though EU students and others who have done International Baccalaureates will often be excused this part of the procedure.
Teaching, as you might expect, will almost certainly be in Spanish, so it’s important that you have a grasp of the language; in many cases you’ll struggle to even apply without this.
The tuition fees and requirements for student visas for Spain depend on whether or not you’re from the EU. Students from Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Switzerland are treated the same as EU students.
Search universities in Spain >
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