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International students find Spain to be quite an attractive study destination. This country has a well-organized educational system, numerous degree programmes to choose from, and unmatched academic expertise. Studying in Spain has many advantages that international students tend to find appealing, such as the wonderful climate, the active and fun-packed lifestyle, and the numerous employment opportunities or simply opportunities to advance academically.

Spain has around 80 universities, among which the vast majority are public universities funded by the state, and the others are private universities. Some of the best universities in Spain are largely located in Madrid and Barcelona, but other areas have their share of universities as well. Many Spanish universities are ranked among the top worldwide universities, which means their academic expertise is recognized and valued around the globe.

Number of International Students in Spain

Spanish higher education institutions are highly sought after, not only by international students but national students as well. According to the latest statistics, the total number of students in higher education in Spain is 1,548,369. This includes both international students as well as national students in higher ed, according to the Ministry of Education.

The total number of international students in higher education institutions in Spain is 194,743 (including students on mobility programmes), according to the Ministry of Science and Innovation. This number has been on the increase during the last few years, considering that the appeal of studying abroad is constantly increasing for international students. 

Statistics from the academic year 2018/2019 show that foreign students enrolled in Spanish universities consist of a total of 194,743 students, out of which 56,892 are international students on mobility programmes. This number is for both public and private universities and both, male and female, international students.  

International Students in Spain Through the Years

Through the years, Spain has shown to increase in popularity among international students. Higher education institutions in Spain have always shown a great level of success, which is what has made them so appealing to students worldwide. The statistics below show how the number of international students in Spanish higher education is increasing:

  • In the academic year 2015/2016, there were 153,193 international students in Spanish universities. 
  • In the academic year 2016/2017, there were 166,963 international students in Spanish universities.
  • In the academic year 2017/2018, there were 185,145 international students in Spanish universities. 
  • In the academic year 2018/2019, there were 194,743 international students in Spanish universities.

Note: The number of international students in Spanish universities also includes students on mobility programmes, such as Erasmus. 

Statistics show that in a matter of 3 years, international student numbers in Spain have increased drastically, more specifically there is a percentage increase by approximately 27%. Only in the latest years, one year apart, the number of international students has increased by approximately 5% from 2018 to 2019. 

It seems quite evident that international students have a growing interest in the qualifications that educational institutions in Spain have to offer. But not only is Spain excellent in its quality of education and qualifications, but it is also a place where students get to thrive in their careers and showcase their talents. It is basically a destination full of opportunities to advance.

International Students in Mobility Programmes in Spain

Mobility programmes, such as Erasmus, are also quite popular among international students who want to experience what it is like to study abroad. Spain also has its fair share of intl students who arrive on the pursuit of such programmes. The number of international students in Spain enrolled on mobility programmes, in the past few years, is:

  • In 2015/2016 there were 51,253 international students on mobility programmes in Spain.
  • In 2016/2017 there were 52,663 international students on mobility programmes in Spain
  • In 2017/2018 there were 57,548 international students on mobility programmes in Spain
  • In 2018/2019 there were 56,829 international students on mobility programmes in Spain

The above statistics show that even mobility programmes are receiving an increase in popularity. Within the period of 3 years, the number of intl students in these programmes has increased by approximately 10%. However, in the latest years, within a period of one year apart, mobility programmes have received a decrease of approximately 1%.

International Students in Spain by Country of Origin

Spain receives international students from all over the world. Ambitious students from around the globe come to Spain to pursue their qualifications and start their careers. From Italy to Finland, Spain gathers numerous nationalities and cultures in its educational institutions, all with the goal of pursuing the knowledge, skills, and qualifications that Spain has to offer. 

Top 5 countries bringing the most international students to Spain, according to the latest statistics are:

  • Italy: 21,044
  • France: 15,793
  • Columbia: 14,656
  • Ecuador: 12,101
  • China: 11,810

Top 5 countries bringing the least international students to Spain, according to the latest statistics are: 

  • Republic of Moldova: 519
  • Guatemala: 532
  • Hungary: 535
  • Panama: 551
  • Finland: 567

In the past 4-5 years, Italy has been the biggest importer of international students in Spain. In the academic year 2015/2016, the number of intl students from Italy who enrolled in higher education institutions in Spain was 17,810, only to increase by 18% four years later. In addition, in 2015 there were no students from the Republic of Moldova in Spain, only to increase to 519 in 2019.  

International Students in Spain by Field of Study 

The majority of international students in Spain are interested in fields like Engineering, Management and Administration, Languages, Humanities, Law, or Health Sciences. However, the number of international students in Spain is distributed among all study fields available in Spanish public and private universities.

There are international students in Spain at all levels of study. A bachelor degree programme at a Spanish university typically lasts around 3-4 years, while a master’s programme lasts 1-2 years depending on the study field. For those who are interested in getting their PhD in Spain, the duration of a doctoral degree programme is 3-4 years.

International Students in Spain by Sex

According to the latest statistics, there are more female than male international students pursuing their qualifications in Spain. The total number of female international students in Spanish universities (including mobility programmes) is 113,975. The number of male international students in Spanish higher education institutions is 80,768

During the past four years, Spain has always received a larger number of female international students, compared to male intl students, in its universities. 

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