Best Universities in Spain

18 de March, 2024

Best Universities in Spain

In search of the best universities in Spain where you can enroll? We've gathered the top ones. Check out prices and how to apply!
Universidade de Granada, uma das melhores universidades da Espanha
Reading: 9 min

Are you considering studying in the land of Picasso and Gaudi? Searching for the best universities in Spain to enroll in? If you’re contemplating embarking on this incredible journey, we’re here to help you choose your ideal university. In our previous articles, we’ve covered topics such as how to live in Spain, obtaining your student visa, the spain’s major cities, and acquiring Spanish citizenship. Now, let’s showcase the standout universities scattered from north to south of the country.

Studying in Spain is undoubtedly an incredible opportunity to combine quality education with an unforgettable cultural experience. Spanish universities are renowned for their academic excellence, offering various undergraduate and postgraduate options in fields such as engineering, medicine, business, arts, and humanities. Choose where to study now!

The Top 10 Universities in Spain

We will use two reputable global rankings as reference points: the QS World University Rankings and the Center for World University Rankings (CWUR). Both assess universities based on criteria such as teaching quality, alumni employability, faculty quality, sustainability, international research network, among others. The results are similar, as can be seen in the tables below.

Center for World University Rankings (CWUR)

National RankWorld RankInstitutionLocationEmployability RankResearch
1134Universidade de BarcelonaBarcelona, Spain6316780.6
2190Universidade Autónoma de BarcelonaBarcelona, Spain13179.0
3249Universidade Complutense de MadridMadrid, Spain18722077.7
4285Universidade de ValênciaValência, Spain150423077.1
5291Universidade Autónoma de MadridMadrid, Spain108923977.0
6336Universidade de GranadaGranada, Spain29876.3
7347Universidade do País BascoPaís Basco, Spain111831076.1
8374Universidade Técnica da Catalunha (UPC)Barcelona, Spain58334575.8
9402Universidade Pompeu FabraBarcelona, Spain114737775.4
10410Universidade de SevilhaSevilha, Spain170138275.3

QS World University Rankings

National RankWorld RankUniversityLocationScore
1149Universitat Autònoma de BarcelonaBarcelona, Spain51.7
2164Universitat de BarcelonaBarcelona, Spain49.7
3171Universidade Complutense de MadridMadrid, Spain48.8
4199Universidad Autónoma de MadridMadrid, Spain45.9
5310Universitat Pompeu Fabra (Barcelona)Barcelona, Spain33.8
6319Universidad Carlos III de Madrid (UC3M)Madrid, Spain33.2
7349Universidad Politécnica de Madrid (UPM)Madrid, Spain31.3
8354Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya · BarcelonaTechBarcelona, Spain31
9403Universidade de GranadaGranada, Spain27.8
10428IE UniversitySegóvia, Spain26.4

University of Barcelona

For many years, the University of Barcelona (UB) has held the title of Spain’s top university in various global rankings. Founded in 1450, it boasts a rich history and tradition, coupled with excellent teaching in various fields. UB is a public institution, offering 73 undergraduate courses, 150 university master’s degrees, and over 800 of its own postgraduate courses, along with 48 doctoral programs. In other words, it provides a wide range of innovative and interesting courses. For example, have you ever considered studying Earth Sciences, Biological Anthropology, Cosmology, delving into Medieval Female Spirituality, or Meteorology around the World? There are plenty of options!

Moreover, the university reports being responsible for over 7,100 scientific publications (Web of Science), with approximately 1,029 active research projects, 250 consolidated research groups, and 16 research institutes of its own. In total, more than 60,000 students attend UB! These are quite impressive numbers!

Its most renowned courses include Medicine, Psychology, Law, Economics, and Business Administration, all highly recognized internationally. UB also excels in fields such as Chemistry, Physics, Biology, and Pharmacy, while offering a wide variety of undergraduate and postgraduate programs in other areas.

Universidad de Barcelona

Autonomous University of Barcelona

The biggest competitor to the University of Barcelona is the Universidad Autónoma de Barcelona- UAB, always vying for the title of the country’s best university, located in the same city. Both are public institutions, financed by the government of Catalonia, offering high-quality education at affordable prices. Founded in 1968, it has about 40,000 students enrolled in its over 100 undergraduate courses, 140 master’s degrees, and 68 doctoral programs.

Among its most renowned programs are those related to medicine, law, engineering, economics, and social sciences. It is a leading international research center, with a focus on Biomedicine, Nanotechnology, Materials Science, Energy and Environment, and Aerospace Engineering.

It stands out for its academic excellence, modern infrastructure, highly qualified faculty, and cultural diversity, bringing together students from over 100 different countries.

Complutense University of Madrid

Also at the top of Spain’s best universities, the Complutense University of Madrid stands out. Founded in 1499, it is Madrid’s oldest university, with its origins in the 13th-century University of Alcalá. It is also the largest university in Spain, with over 86,000 students. It is spread throughout the Ciudad Universitaria area in Madrid and also has institutions in the neighboring city of Pozuelo de Alarcón. Complutense has an impressive list of alumni, including historians, philosophers, poets, Prime Ministers, and 3 of the 8 Spaniards who have won a Nobel Prize.

At the Complutense University of Madrid, it is possible to study a wide variety of university careers in various areas of knowledge. Among the options, it is possible to point out: Medicine, Health and Health, Communication and Media Sciences, Computer Science, Arts, Veterinary Medicine, Law, Fine Arts, and Psychology.

University of Valência

The Universitat de València is another prominent center of education in Spain, with a history of over five centuries. Initially focused on medicine, humanities, theology, and laws, the University underwent intense transformation in the last two decades, becoming a modern global institution. A leader in the application of new technologies, it is connected to the main international science and education networks. It offers 42 undergraduate degrees, 61 master’s courses, and 35 doctorates.

Its location in the heart of Valencia, together with its connection to international scientific and educational networks, makes it a vital center for academic and cultural development in the region.

The University of Valencia stands out for offering a variety of high-quality courses in various areas of knowledge. Among the main courses offered by the institution are Philosophy, Law, Journalism, Biology, Chemistry, Mathematics, Physics, Electronic Engineering, and Nursing. These courses reflect the university’s commitment to academic excellence and its contribution to the educational and professional development of its students.

Autonomous University of Madrid

The Autonomous University of Madrid (UAM) was founded in 1968 and currently has more than 30,000 students and 3,200 professors, offering a complete university experience on its sustainable and easily accessible campuses. The institution offers 58 undergraduate degrees, 87 master’s degrees, 34 doctoral programs, and nearly 100 proprietary titles, covering a wide range of areas of knowledge.

UAM stands out for its strong academic reputation and among employers. In the research field, it positions itself as a leader in areas such as Nanoscience, Advanced Materials, and Life Sciences, largely due to its collaboration with the Superior Council for Scientific Research (CSIC) on the International Campus of Excellence.

University of Granada

Located in the heart of the historic city of Granada, the Universidade de Granada is a world-renowned institution, recognized for its academic excellence and rich cultural heritage. Founded in 1531, it has a long tradition of innovation and leadership in various areas of knowledge, including sciences, humanities, arts, and technology. Its beautiful building was recognized as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2013.

With a vibrant and multicultural atmosphere, the university welcomes over 50,000 students from around the world, offering a wide range of courses, exchange programs, and research opportunities. Among the most unusual or sought-after courses are Arab and Islamic Studies, Food Science and Technology, Optics and Optometry, and Criminology.

Moreover, Granada’s privileged location, at the foot of the majestic Sierra Nevada and a few kilometers from the sunny coast of the Costa del Sol, provides an inspiring environment for studying, exploring, and growing personally and academically.

What language is spoken at the best universities in Spain?

This is an important detail that needs to be checked when you are choosing your course and institution. In Spain, languages other than Spanish are spoken. For example: the medicine course at the University of Barcelona has almost 80% of classes taught in Catalan. It will depend a lot on the university and the chosen course. Other languages spoken in the classroom are English, Galician, and Basque.

How much does it cost to study in Spain?

The costs of courses may vary depending on the type of university (public or private), the nationality of the student, the number of credits taken, and the course mode (in-person or online). Below, we have an approximate list of values for one year of teaching. The values are charged per credit and are available on the universities’ websites.

For example, at the University of Valencia, the medicine course costs 18€ per credit for a national student (academic year 2023/2024). Being a full-time student, he must complete at least 60 credits per year, so 60 x 18€ = 1,080€/year.

For the economics course, the credit costs 12.79€ x 60 credits = 767€/year. Note that the total number of credits for completing the economics course (240) is less than that of medicine (360). This can result in a lower annual credit load and, consequently, potentially lower annual fees as well.

It is important to note that in several universities, international students from countries without bilateral agreements with Spain or without residence in the country may be subject to higher fees compared to national students. This happens because public universities in Spain are funded by the government and therefore offer more accessible fees for Spanish citizens.

UniversidadeMedicina (€)Economia (€)Psicologia (€)
Universidade de Barcelona1.100€ -6.500€1.060€-
1.100€ -6.500€
Universidad Complutense de Madrid1.200€ –
1.000€ –
Universidade Autônoma de Madrid1.240€-
1.015€ –
Universidade de Valência1.160€ –
850€ –
Universidade de Granada860€ –
800€ –
Source: Websites of the universities

In addition to tuition fees, foreign students also need to consider other costs, such as health insurance, accommodation, and living expenses.

How to get into a Spanish university?

To apply for an undergraduate course at the best universities in Spain, it is necessary to follow some important steps. Firstly, it is essential to have a valid identification document in Spain, such as a passport, NIE, or DNI. Additionally, for candidates under 25 years old who wish to enroll in an undergraduate course, it is mandatory to have their foreign high school diploma recognized by the Spanish Ministry of Education, so that you can obtain your average grade equivalent to the average grade of the Bachirelatto.

Once the studies are recognized, access to undergraduate courses can occur in various ways, depending on the candidate’s age and the competitiveness of the desired course.

Candidates up to 25 years old

For courses with a lower candidate-place ratio, direct access or through the average grade of the recognized High School diploma is possible. However, for more competitive courses such as medicine, law, and architecture, in addition to the average grade of the High School diploma, candidates must pass an entrance exam called “selectividad.” This exam consists of two assessments, with a general knowledge exam and a specific exam. The final grade is composed of 60% of the Bachirelatto’s average grade and 40% of the general exam. The specific exam, which is optional, is for those who wish to increase the final grade.

Candidates over 25 years old

There are other ways to enter the best universities in Spain for people over 25 years old. These include the Pruebas Libres de Acceso, which are applied in three situations: for candidates over 25 years old, for candidates over 40 years old with professional experience, and for candidates over 45 years old without the need for proof of experience. The exams for each age group vary, with exams in Spanish language, foreign language, and text interpretation for those over 25 years old.

What are Master’s Degrees of Own Title?

In Spain, it is common to find universities offering two types of master’s degrees: Own Title Master’s Degrees and Official Master’s Degrees. The difference between these two types of programs is crucial for those considering advancing their studies.

Own Title Master’s Degrees are organized by the university itself and do not receive official recognition from the Ministry of Education. Generally, these programs have a more practical focus and may not be accepted for those intending to pursue doctoral studies.

On the other hand, Official Master’s Degrees are recognized by the Ministry of Education and also have validity throughout the European Union, providing the credentials necessary to enroll in doctoral programs.

Why study in Spain?

Studying in Spain offers a rich academic experience, immersion in a diverse and rich culture, and the opportunity to acquire knowledge in some of the best educational institutions in the world. How about diving into this universe full of history, art, gastronomy, and vibrant urban life? Spain is a captivating destination for international students seeking new experiences and opportunities for personal and professional growth!

Moreover, by choosing to study in Spain, you can rely on the support of Atlantic Bridge to facilitate your academic journey. Our specialized team is here to assist you in all practical aspects, from obtaining the student visa to accommodation, insurance, and all necessary documents. With Atlantic Bridge, your study experience in Spain will be safe, fast, and smooth, allowing you to make the most of this unique opportunity for learning and growth. Contact us today and take the first step towards a bright academic future in Spain.

Silvia Resende


Silvia Resende

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