Though it has long been a popular tourist destination – it is the second-most visited country in the world – Spain is now the tenth-most popular destination in the world for international students. With one of the warmest climates in Europe, affordable tuition fees and universities that are steadily rising up the global rankings, more and more international students are studying in Spain every single year – regardless of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Whilst the majority of the top-ranked institutions in the country are located in Spain’s two major cities, Madrid and Barcelona, historic and prestigious universities are dotted all over the country. The University of Salamanca is the third-oldest university in the world whilst The University of Navarra is rated as one of the best in the country with the highest ratio of international students (22%) of any Spanish university.
But it is perhaps in the realm of business education that Spain thrives the most. In the most recent Bloomberg ranking of European business schools the country had four schools in the top 20. The story is a similar one in the Financial Times, who had Spain’s IESE Business School and IE Business School ranked #6 and #8 in Europe respectively. So what is it that makes Spain such an amazing place to study? Let’s take a look.
The Cost of Studying in Spain
Despite its pre-eminence as an international study destination, Spain offers a significantly cheaper cost of living and studying than many of its global contemporaries. Master’s tuition fees at the country’s vast network of public universities are unlikely to exceed €4,000 per year. Even at one of the country’s private institutions, such as IE, IESE or ESADE, the fees for studying in Spain are very affordable compared to equivalent European schools.
Whilst many other European countries offer cheap tuition fees – and Norway charge no tuition at all for master’s degrees – Spain is one of the few nations that can combine affordable tuition fees and teaching excellence with a cost of living that compares very favorably with its European neighbors. In Madrid and Barcelona you can expect to pay in the region of €400-€600 for a room in a shared flat, whilst one-bed flats can be acquired for around €600 per month. Accommodation costs outside of Madrid and Barcelona are likely to be substantially cheaper, meaning there should be plenty left in the kitty for a vino tinto at the local bodega.
“One of the good pillars of our program was that our students came from different countries; Germany, Poland, Russia, Mongolia and Italy. All of us coming together in one classroom and putting different perspectives and ideas on the table…it was one of the great experiences.” Gantulga Erdenesukh (Mongolia), MA in International Business, Deusto Business School
Spain welcomed 120,991 international students to its shores in 2019, making it the tenth-most popular destination for international students in the world. Yet of those ten countries Spain saw one of the highest increases from the previous year, with 10% more international students arriving here than in 2018. Although that can partly be attributed to the increasingly expensive tuition fees in the likes of the UK and USA, there is little doubt that Spain is a major attraction for international students in its own right. Students from all over the world are studying in Spain, and the top three sending countries are France, Italy and the United States.
“I would totally recommend studying at EU Business School Barcelona because you can focus on your studies and at the same time enjoy the beautiful city of Barcelona, meet great people who you never thought would become your best friends for life.” Rebeca Yee Delgado (Panama), BA in Business Management (International Business), EU Business School
International students typically make up around 10% of the intake at Spanish universities although some, such as The University of Navarra, host more than 20%. Business schools in the country have an even more international flavour, with Barcelona’s EU Business School made up of 95% international students. Yet it is not just within the educational institutions that the country has a distinctly international feel. Nowadays the likes of Madrid and Barcelona are dynamic, multicultural cities that have attracted expats from all parts of the globe. You will be rubbing shoulders with South Americans, Asians and Europeans almost every day of your time here, and it is this cultural diversity which has enriched these already wonderful cities.
It’s official: Spain hosts more international students than any other Spanish-speaking country. With an estimated 572 million speakers of the language worldwide, it benefits from a huge global network of people keen on studying in Spain for a master’s degree in their own language. Studying in Spain is also a perfect opportunity to improve your Spanish skills. Most universities will offer Spanish language courses for its students, and depending on where you choose to study you might even pick up one of the local languages found in Catalonia, Valencia, Galicia or the Basque Country.
“One of the main benefits of the double degree is that we have to learn two new languages (Russian and Spanish). I think it’s very important to speak several languages for our careers.” Lujain Rabat (Syria), MA International Relations, Marbella International University Center
Although the majority of master’s programs you will study in Spain are taught in Spanish, there is an increasing number of English-taught master’s degrees to cater for the country’s growing international student population. Whilst there is a greater selection of English language programs in Spain’s major cities, the reality is that it is almost becoming a prerequisite for Spanish universities all over the country to offer master’s programs taught in English.
Culture, Cuisine & Climate
“I love living in Barcelona. I love the city and its people. I already did my year abroad here during my undergrads and I had more time to discover the city, enjoy the local food and the local culture.” Patrick Altmeyer (Germany), MA in Economics & Finance, Barcelona Graduate School of Economics
Whether you’re sipping sangria by the playa, enjoying some tapas in the early evening sun or joining your friends for a morning café con leche, the Spanish cultural norms are known the world over. The country has a distinct cultural identity that fascinates onlookers, and with Spain predicted to have the highest life expectancy in the world by 2040, it’s difficult to argue against the merits of the Spanish way of life.
Plenty of Spanish people will put that high life expectancy down to the Mediterranean diet, which is full of olives, fruits, vegetables and seafood. In general Spanish cuisine is one of the most admired in Europe with paella, gazpacho and churros all signature dishes that originated here.
If that wasn’t enough, Spain also has one of the best climates in Europe – if not the world. Madrid and Barcelona are two of the sunniest cities in Europe whilst Sevilla and Córdoba both lay claim to being the warmest city in the continent. The summers here are long and hot, the winters are short and mild, so it makes for a wonderful place to be all year round.
Thinking of Studying in Spain?
Spain has really come into its own as an international study destination in recent years. If you’re interested in joining the country’s booming international student population then you can visit MASTERGRADSCHOOLS to search for master’s programs in Spain and find your dream one. Alternatively you can also read our latest articles or contact current master’s students to learn what it’s really like to study for a master’s degree.
by Nick Harland