Spain’s universities welcome record number of international students

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Spain's universities welcome record number of international students Education Beyond Borders Podcast

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14–JUL–2023 | In the latest academic year, Spain experienced a significant increase in the number of international students pursuing higher education, reaching an all-time high.

The government’s data reveals a growth of 13.6 percent, with noteworthy contributions from various Latin American countries. During the 2021/22 academic year, Spanish universities enrolled a total of 170,222 international students, marking a substantial increase compared to the previous year’s figure of 155,919.  

Colombia emerged as the largest source country, sending 18,575 students, representing a 14.3 percent increase from the 2020/21 period. Ecuador closely followed, with a growth of 9.8 percent, contributing 17,761 students. France secured the third position among non-Spanish-speaking markets, with 12,871 students, an eight percent rise. Italy and China completed the top five, with 12,554 students (a 3.9 percent increase) and 12,182 students (a 4.3 percent increase), respectively.  

Remarkably, all of the top 10 markets experienced growth in the 2021/22 academic year, surpassing the pre-pandemic levels.

International students - Universidad Católica de Murcia in Spain, PRODIREKT Education Group
Universidad Católica de Murcia, one of the largest and best private universities in Spain

Chile achieved the most significant year-on-year increase among the top 10, with a remarkable growth of 47.3 percent, resulting in 5,513 students. Peru, in eighth place, witnessed a notable jump of 32.7 percent, reaching 6,923 students.  

According to data from the Ministry of Universities, public universities hosted 102,968 international students, while private universities welcomed an additional 67,254 students.  

Examining regional statistics, Madrid emerged as the leading host of international students, accommodating 46,223 individuals pursuing both full degree programs and mobility options. Catalunya followed closely with 43,787 students, followed by Valenciana (25,513), Andalucia (25,472), and Castilla y Leon (13,757).  

To create a more welcoming environment for international students, the Spanish government introduced measures last year. These included increasing part-time work rights for non-EU international students to 30 hours per week and eliminating the requirement for non-EU students to reside in Spain for at least three years before obtaining a work permit.   Furthermore, the government is actively considering additional measures to enhance post-study work opportunities for international students, demonstrating its commitment to fostering a vibrant and inclusive educational landscape.

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