International Student Statistics in Spain 2024

Spain is a popular study destination for international students, offering a well-structured educational system, a wide range of degree programs, and exceptional academic resources. Plus, who wouldn’t love soaking up the sunny weather, enjoying the vibrant lifestyle, and exploring endless opportunities for work and academic growth?

Spain has around 80 universities, among which the vast majority are public universities funded by the state, and the others are private universities. Some of the best universities in Spain are largely located in Madrid and Barcelona, but other areas have their share of universities as well. 

Many Spanish universities are ranked among the top worldwide universities, which means their academic expertise is recognized and valued around the globe.

Number of International Students in Spain

Statistics from the academic year 2021/2022 show that foreign students enrolled in Spanish universities consist of a total of 224,080 students, out of which 53,858 are international students in mobility programs. This number is for both public and private universities and both male and female international students.

Spanish higher education institutions are highly sought after, not only by international students but by national students as well. According to the latest statistics, the total number of students in higher education in Spain is 1,557,647. This includes both international students and national students in higher education, according to the Ministry of Education. 

International Students in Spain Through the Years

Over the years, Spain has consistently attracted a growing number of international students due to the success of its higher education institutions. However, during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, there was a drop in the number of international students in the 2020/2021 academic year. But things have bounced back significantly in 2021/2022 鈥 it’s actually the highest it’s been in recent years.

The statistics below show how the number of international students in Spanish higher education is increasing:

Academic YearInternational Students
2021/2022224,080
2020/2021175,382
2019/2020208,366
2018/2019194,743
2017/2018185,145
2016/2017166,963
2015/2016153,193

Note: The number of international students in Spanish universities also includes students in mobility programs, such as Erasmus. 

  • Statistics indicate that over the span of 7 years, the number of international students in Spanish universities has risen by roughly 46% from the academic year 2015/2016 to 2021/2022. 
  • In the latest academic year, 2021/2022, there was a notable increase of 27.7% in the number of international students compared to the previous year.

It’s becoming increasingly apparent that international students are drawn to the qualifications offered by Spanish educational institutions. Spain not only provides top-notch education and qualifications but also serves as a platform for students to excel in their careers and showcase their talents. It’s a destination brimming with opportunities for advancement and personal growth.

International Students in Mobility Programmes in Spain

Exchange programs like Erasmus are highly sought-after by international students seeking to experience studying abroad. Spain also has its fair share of international students who arrive on the pursuit of such programs. 

The numbers of international students in Spain enrolled in mobility programs in the past few years are as follows:

Academic YearInternational Students in Mobility Programs
2021/202253,858
2020/202119,463
2019/202055,227
2018/201956,829
2017/201857,548
2016/201752,663
2015/201651,253
  • The statistics above reveal fluctuations in the participation of international students in mobility programs in Spain over recent years. Between 2015/2016 and 2017/2018, there was a notable increase of approximately 12%, reaching the highest level recorded to date. 
  • However, in 2020/2021, there was a drastic decline, with the number of international students dropping by approximately 64.8% compared to the previous year, largely due to restrictions imposed during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic. 
  • Nonetheless, in 2021/2022, there was a significant recovery, with a remarkable 176.7% increase from the previous year.

International Students in Spain by Country of Origin

Spain receives international students from all over the world. Ambitious students from around the globe come to Spain to pursue their qualifications and start their careers. From Italy to Nicaragua, Spain gathers numerous nationalities and cultures in its educational institutions, all with the goal of pursuing the knowledge, skills, and qualifications that Spain has to offer.

According to the latest data, the top 5 countries sending the most international students to Spain are Italy, Ecuador, France, Colombia, and China, with student numbers as listed:

Country2021/2022
Italy22,688
Ecuador19,519
France19,351
Colombia17,854
China12,525
  • These same countries were also among the top 5 in the previous academic year (2020/2021), although in a different order. 
  • In the previous year, Colombian students constituted the largest group (16,535), followed by French (16,381), Ecuadorian (16,220), Italian (16,076), and Chinese (11,826) students.

The top 5 countries bringing the least international students to Spain, according to the latest statistics, are: 

Country2021/2022
Nicaragua513
Finland529
Chinese Taipei613
Czech Republic615
Pakistan678
  • In the previous academic year (2020/2021), Finland had the fewest international students in Spain (291), followed by Canada (361), Czech Republic (378), Hungary (397), and the Republic of Korea (399).
  • In the past 7 years, Italy has been the biggest importer of international students in Spain. In the academic year 2015/2016, the number of international students from Italy who enrolled in higher education institutions in Spain was 17,810, only to increase by 27.39% 7 years later.

International Students in Spain by Field of Study 

The majority of international students in Spain are interested in fields like Business Administration and Management, Engineering, Languages, Humanities, Law, or Health Sciences. However, the number of international students in Spain is distributed among all study fields available in Spanish public and private universities.

There are international students in Spain at all levels of study. A bachelor鈥檚 degree program at a Spanish university typically lasts around 3-4 years, while a master鈥檚 program lasts 1-2 years, depending on the study field. For those who are interested in getting their PhD in Spain, the duration of a doctoral degree program is 3-4 years.

International Students in Spain by Sex

According to the latest statistics, there are more female than male international students pursuing their qualifications in Spain. 

  • The total number of female international students in Spanish universities (including mobility programs) is 131,268. 
  • The number of male international students in Spanish higher education institutions is 92,812
  • Over the last 7 years, Spanish universities consistently enrolled a greater number of female international students than male international students.