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Barcelona beckons: the allure of Catalonian universities

Catalonian higher education institutions have a long, rich history: the University of Barcelona was founded in 1450

Catalonia has twelve universities, seven of which are public, four which are private and one which is both public and private. Seven of these academic institutions are located in the immediate Barcelona area. Catalonian universities have a total enrolment of about 233,000 students, with about 20,000 of them coming from outside the region.

Catalonian universities

Catalonian name English name Location
Universitat de Barcelona University of Barcelona Barcelona
Universitat Politécnica
de Catalunya
Polytechnic University
of Catalonia
Universitat Pompeu Fabra Pompeu Fabra University
Universitat Ramon Llull Ramon Llull University
Universitat Oberta de Catalunya Open University of Catalonia
Universitat Internacional
de Catalunya
International University of Catalonia
Universitat Abat Oliba
Abat Oliba CEU University
Universitat de Vic University of Vic Vic
Universitat Autònoma
de Barcelona
Autonomous University
of Barcelona
Cerdanyola del Vallès
Universitat de Girona University of Girona Girona
Universitat Rovira
i Virgili
Rovira i Virgili University Tarragona
Universitat de Lleida University of Lleida Lleida

The universities of Barcelona offer more than five hundred educational-programme options. The languages of instruction are Catalan and Spanish in most universities, but many academic institutions also offer programmes in English. For instance, the University of Barcelona delivers two of its 73 undergraduate programmes in English, while at Pompeu Fabra University, the ratio between the programmes in English and in Spanish is 1:1. Usually, the universities have pre-entry Spanish and Catalan language courses. The University of Barcelona organises such courses in the summer.

Top universities

Spain ranks fourth by the number of "new" higher education institutions in the Times Higher Education World 2016 Ranking, listing only the universities founded less than fifty years ago. The Spanish universities listed in the ranking include four in Catalonia.

According to the U-Ranking of Spanish Universities 2016 report, several universities make the top five (there are many ties): Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, Universitat Politécnica de Catalunya, Universitat de Barcelona, Universitat Ramon Llull, Universitat Rovira i Virgili, Universitat de Lleida and Universitat Internacional de Catalunya. Among these, Universitat Pompeu Fabra is the clear leader.

Tuition fees

Public university tuition fees are determined by the Catalonian authorities. The government of the autonomous community annually issues a brochure containing tuition fees for different categories of students and programmes. Private universities determine their tuition policies independently.

The average tuition for undergraduate students in the universities of Catalonia is about €2,500 per year. The tuition fees for non-resident, non-EU students are at 1.5 times higher. For instance, at Pompeu Fabra University, non-EU nationals pay from €6,800 to €9,500, much more than what EU nationals pay.

The highest tuitions in Catalonia are paid by medical students

Degrees in medicine, bioengineering, IT and telecommunications are the most expensive.

Educational programmes in business, administration, management, economics, or liberal arts can be several times cheaper in some cases.

How to enter

To enter a Catalonian university, international applicants need to prepare the required documents beforehand. The secondary education certificate must be apostilled, translated into Spanish and certified at Spain´s Ministry of Education, Culture and Sport (Ministerio de Educación, Cultura y Deporte). The originals and certified copies of the secondary education school certificate and transcript must also be provided.

Subsequently, you can get the necessary documents to the university either in person or via email. You also need to provide photos and passport copies together with the application. All the documents must have Spanish translations and be notarised.

Additionally, you may need a motivation letter and proficiency test results for the language of instruction. Lastly, international applicants must take an entrance exam (Prueba de Acceso a la Universidad o Selectividad, or PAU).

Every applicant must take an entrance exam

The exam for foreign nationals is held by the National University of Distance Education (UNED). The test is administered in Catalan or Spanish and consists of two parts: the language proficiency examination that includes a general aptitude test and major subject tasks. The admission score is the sum of the examination scores and GPA.

Student life and residence

According to the 2015/16 QS Best Student Cities Ranking, which assesses the largest cities around the world by how attractive, comfortable and livable they are for students, Barcelona was among the highest-ranked cities in the "price affordability" category.

Living and renting a residential property in Barcelona is indeed cheaper in comparison with London or Paris. One-bedroom flats rent out for at least €600, while two-bedroom apartment rentals in good neighbourhoods cost closer to €1,200 per month.

Some universities allow their students to live in residence halls (los colegios mayores and las residencias universitarias). It's better to discuss the availability of accommodation in advance, as they are typically fully occupied by the beginning of the school year. Moreover, in Catalonia, being able and ready to spend up to €1,100 per month on meals, entertainment, commuting and other expenditures is recommended.

Julia Gushchina, Tranio.com

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