Universities in Barcelona, Spain

Panoramic picture of the city of Barcelona with buildings in the foreground and mountains and the sun in the background

Barcelona is the second most populous city in Spain, and is home to 1.6 million people.

Barcelona is a city on the north-eastern coast of Spain, and is the capital of the Catalonia region. With an urban population exceeding 4.8 million residents, Barcelona is one of Europe’s largest metropolitan regions and a major centre for Spanish art, culture, politics and historical events. Barcelona is also well-known as a financial hub and is home to multiple world-leading industries including biotech and automobiles.

With over 20 percent of Barcelona residents being foreign-born, the city is exceptionally multicultural with sizable communities from every part of the globe. For example, as many as 26,000 Indian citizens currently reside in Barcelona, more than half of the total number of Indians living in Spain. Being a tourist-favourite city, Barcelona is easy to explore for international travellers because most Barcelona residents can understand English.

Additionally, the city maintains world-class public infrastructure and urban facilities, as proven by the fact that it ranked 16th in the Economist’s Global Liveability Index 2021. The city constantly displays a vibrant and youthful energy which draws big crowds of tourists every year, and is sure to be an added attraction for international students.

Top Universities in Barcelona

Universitat de Barcelona

Clustered into six campuses across Barcelona, the Universitat de Barcelona was established in 1450 and has since been an important part of Barcelona as the city has grown over the centuries. The university is home to over 90,000 enrolled students including more than 12,500 international students. The university is also well-known as a world-leader in several research disciplines and is a key member of multiple global organisations including the League of European Research Universities (LERU), the COIMBRA group (CG) and the coordination of the Arab-Euro Conference on Higher Education (AECHE).

Universitat de Barcelona offers more than 200 degree programmes across bachelor’s and master’s levels, in addition to nearly 50 doctoral programmes for international students. Award-winning research centres at the Universitat de Barcelona include the Institute for Research on Mediaeval Cultures (IRCVM) and the Institute of Biomedicine (IBUB). The university offers as many as 25 Master’s programmes entirely in English, as well as a selection of undergraduate degree programmes offered partially in English.

Universitat Autònoma De Barcelona

Located twenty-five minutes away from downtown Barcelona, the Universitat Autònoma De Barcelona was established in 1968 and is home to over 32,000 enrolled students as of 2022. The university operates technical partnerships on research and student exchange with more than 500 top-ranked universities worldwide, alongside running nearly 70 world-class research facilities across its campus in the town of Bellatara.

The Universitat Autònoma offers 45 Master’s programmes entirely in English, and even operates five hospitals in order to provide medical students with high-quality vocational training. The Universitat Autonoma offers more than 500 vocational diplomas in addition to over 200 degree programmes across undergraduate, postgraduate and doctoral levels for international students.

Universitat Pompeu Fabra

Established in 1990, Pompeu Fabra University is especially well-known for its strengths in vocational training and contributions to national scientific research. Pompeu Fabra is home to over 12,000 enrolled students, of which more than 1,400 are international students.

Located on three urban campuses across Barcelona, the university places special focus on ensuring that its students have a truly international academic experience. Nearly 45 percent of graduate students at Pompeu Fabra, for instance, have studied abroad, while 27 percent of the faculty comprises international teachers.

Pompeu Fabra University also maintains research and exchange partnerships with 28 of the world’s top universities, and is ranked as Spain’s best university for an international outlook. You will receive all the support you require to settle into life in Barcelona as an international student at the university.

Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya (UPC)

Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya is a public research university formed after a merger of local schools in Barcelona which specialise in degree programmes related to architecture and scientific disciplines. UPC is home to over 23,000 enrolled students including more than 2,500 international students.

UPC offers over 180 degree programmes and vocational degrees, with about 60 programmes offered entirely in English. The university also offers more than 50 double degrees in partnership with 34 top-ranked universities worldwide, and operates as many as 50 world-class research centres. UPC is primarily located on nine urban campuses across Barcelona.

Central University of Catalonia

The Central University of Catalonia operates on four campuses spread across the Catalonia region – Barcelona, Granollers, Vic and Manresa. The university was established in 1997 and is home to over 6,300 enrolled students including 1,250 international students.

The Central University offers strong courses in multiple areas such as biosciences, health sciences and business alongside vocational training. The university focuses on building an international brand and is increasingly multicultural, making every attempt to provide support for the international students from over 100 countries on its campuses.

Barcelona Universities World Ranking 2022

Below are the top-ranked Barcelona universities for international students, with their ranks in two of the world’s most well-respected international university rankings, the QS 2022 University World rankings and the Times Higher Education 2022 Rankings.

For more information about rankings systems and methodologies see our University rankings explained guide.

UniversityQS World Ranking 2022Times Higher Education Ranking 2022QS Rank in SpainTHE Rank in Spain
Universitat de Barcelona=168=19313
Universitat Autònoma De Barcelona=207=17022
Universitat Pompeu Fabra=24815651
Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya (UPC)=319601-800818
Central University of Catalonia401-5008

List of other top-ranked Colleges & Universities in Barcelona

In addition to the five top-ranked Barcelona universities for international students, the city and the larger Catalonia region offer plenty of specialised institutes providing degrees and vocational training in a variety of fields including the Arts, Design and Business. A few of the top-ranked institutes in and around Barcelona for international students are:

Tuition and Living Costs in Barcelona

Tuition fees at top-ranked Barcelona public universities for international students usually range between 200-3,500 US Dollars per year for bachelor’s and master’s programmes. At private universities, the tuition charges may be higher at up to 20,000 US Dollars per annum, with specialised degree programmes such as executive MBAs costing up to 30,000 US Dollars per year.

On the matter of living costs, the Universitat Autonoma De Barcelona estimates that international students should budget between 750-1,000 US Dollars per month. This budget includes 300-450 US Dollars for shared accommodation, 250-300 US Dollars for food expenses, 60-80 US Dollars for public transport and another 150-250 US Dollars for utilities and miscellaneous expenses.

The Spanish student visa currently enables you to work up to 20 hours per week alongside your academics & research, and there are plenty of online platforms where you can find ideal part-time employment and internships all over Barcelona. Many international students work alongside their degree programmes in Barcelona in order to offset tuition and living expenses.

Life in Barcelona for International Students

Barcelona’s “Gothic Quarter” forms the centre of the old city, and you can spend weeks exploring the iconic sights and sounds of the area. Barcelona is well-known for its unique architectural landmarks, world-class museums and beautiful coastal scenery.

International students can relax in the sun at one of the city’s many beaches, and enjoy picnics in the multiple parks spread all over Barcelona. On the other end of the city, the Montserrat mountain range offers stunning views of Barcelona and the Mediterranean sea alongside being home to plenty of hiking and cycling trails. Football lovers can make trips to the Nou Camp Stadium, home to FC Barcelona.

Below are a few of Barcelona’s attractions and world heritage sites that international students cannot afford to miss while in the city:

  • Park Guell
  • Palau Guell
  • Casa Mila
  • Casa Vicens
  • Sagrada Familia
  • Casa Batllo
  • Palau de La Musica Catalana
  • Mercado de La Boqueria
  • Picasso Museum
  • Ciutadella Park
  • Montjuic
  • Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya
  • Barcelona Museum of Contemporary Art
  • Joan Miro Foundation
  • Arco de Triunfo de Barcelona
  • Barceloneta Beach
  • Tibidabo
  • Parc del Laberint d’Horta

International students can comfortably travel from their home countries to Barcelona Airport, which is Europe’s sixth busiest airport. Tourist-favourite European cities including Paris, London and Berlin are all just an hour or two away by flight, and you can even plan road-journeys to explore Europe during academic breaks.

But it’s just as likely that you won’t want to leave Barcelona, with its youthful urban energy, endless list of entertainment venues, world-class public infrastructure and top-ranked universities making it the perfect city for international students.

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