Healthplan Spain


How Many International Students Study In Spain's Universities? Expat Tips

Are you considering pursuing your education in Spain? If so, you're about to embark on a journey that many consider the right choice.

Spain attracts thousands of international students every year, all seeking to broaden their educational horizons and obtain valuable qualifications. But the question is, how many foreign nationals actually take the plunge and choose Spain as their study destination?

In this article, we'll delve into the official statistics to answer these questions and provide you with insights into:

  • The number of international students who choose Spain each year.
  • The diverse nationalities of these students.
  • The regions of Spain that are most favoured by international students.

Let's begin this exploration.

Spanish Government reports a surge in international students

The latest data released by Spain's Ministerio de Universidades offers a compelling narrative of recovery and growth in the country's higher education sector for the academic year 2021/22, marking a promising post-pandemic resurgence.

In this academic year, Spanish universities witnessed an unprecedented milestone with the enrollment of a record-breaking 224,080 international students. This remarkable figure encompasses 170,222 students pursuing degree programs, alongside an additional 53,858 engaged in shorter-term academic exchanges.

These numbers signify an impressive 27.8% surge in comparison to the preceding academic year, 2020/21, which bore the brunt of the COVID-19 pandemic's impact on international student mobility in Spain. During that challenging period, the Ministry reported an aggregate of 175,382 international students, comprising 155,919 degree-seeking students and 19,463 participants in exchange programs.

Even more noteworthy is the fact that the student enrollments for the 2021/22 academic year have eclipsed those of the pre-pandemic year 2019/20. In that period, Spanish universities welcomed a total of 208,321 foreign students, consisting of 153,044 degree students and 55,277 participants in exchange programs.

From these figures, it becomes apparent that the 2021/22 totals have surpassed the pre-pandemic peak by almost 8%, demonstrating a robust recovery in international student numbers. Notably, the levels of participation in short-term academic exchanges have nearly fully rebounded to the levels observed prior to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Student enrollment by nationality

It comes as no surprise that a substantial number of students hail from European countries. In the 2021/22 academic year, Italy led the way with an impressive 22,688 registrations, closely followed by France with 19,519 and Germany with 10,063 registrations.

Moreover, Spain has proven to be an attractive choice for Romanian students, with a notable 8,919 enrolling in Spanish universities. Portugal and the United Kingdom also featured prominently, with 4,614 and 3,585 students, respectively.

Looking beyond the borders of Europe, Colombia emerged as a prominent source of university students, sending 19,351 to Spain in the same academic year. Ecuador followed with 17,854 students, while China, the United States, Morocco, Peru, and Chile also contributed significantly, with 12,525, 7,717, 7,456, 7,377, and 5,395 students, respectively.

Image Credit: Ministerio de Universidades

Which are the most popular regions in Spain for international students?

When it comes to preferred study destinations in Spain, certain regions clearly stand out as magnets for international students.

In the academic year 2021/22, the capital city, Madrid, proved to be the most popular choice, drawing 46,223 students. Close on its heels were Catalonia with 43,787, the Valencian Community with 25,513, Andalusia with 25,472, and Castilla y Leon with 13,757 students.

Notably, specific nationalities display preferences for particular regions. For instance, Italians tend to favour Madrid, followed by Catalonia and Andalusia. French students, too, show a preference for Madrid, followed by Catalonia and Valencia.

Chinese students are drawn to Madrid and Catalonia, while Catalonia remains the top choice for German students, followed by Andalusia and Madrid.

Meanwhile, American students found Catalonia to be their number one location, closely followed by Madrid, whereas British students were evenly distributed among Madrid, Valencia, Catalonia, and Andalusia.

This article was brought to you by HealthPlan, a leading provider of health insurance cover for international students in Spain. If you would like a quote for a policy that meets all visa requirements, please see our students page.