Barcelona is one of the most attractive cities for business education and attracts students from all over the world every year. But why do European cities like Amsterdam and Copenhagen attract more international students than Barcelona?
Barcelona’s business schools are one of its strengths when it comes to attracting a international students and competing with other cities, but it needs to do more.
Higher education today is one of the most important and valuable sectors worldwide, both for its role in training talented professionals and for its impact on the economy and research. And Barcelona is well set to become a global center of higher education.
The best business schools
Barcelona has a number of internationally-recognized masters and executive education programs at the top of the rankings in their field. Along with Paris and London, Barcelona is one of the most valued European cities for education in the fields of management and business education. The European Business Schools 2020 ranking produced by the Financial Times placed IESE 4th, ESADE 12th, and EADA 29th amongst the 30 business schools in Europe most highly valued by international students. IESE (en cuarto lugar), Esade (12º lugar) y EADA (29º lugar) entre las 30 escuelas de negocio más valoradas en Europa, con un alto porcentaje de estudiantes internacionales.
A long-established educational tradition
Barcelona has promoted learning for centuries and has a number of outstanding academic institutions. Along with the private business schools mentioned above, Barcelona also has several economics and design institutes that attract a large number of international students, especially postgraduates. These include the UPF Barcelona School of Management (BSM), (hyperlink to the BSM profile), and the Istituto Europeo di Design (IED).
High quality public universities
The four principal public universities in Barcelona are the University of Barcelona (UB), the Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya (UPC), the Autonomous University of Barcelona (UAB) and the Pompeu Fabra University (UPF), four campuses that are ranked amongst the best 200 and 300 in the world. The UAB boasts the highest ratios of international students in the public sector, with 40% of its masters and doctoral degree students coming from abroad.
Outstanding quality of life
International students love the city: Barcelona is a favorite amongst international students due to its excellent quality of life, its connectivity, its climate, and its geographical setting. The city was ranked 21st in the QS Best Student Cities globally and 7th in Europe.
A network of research centers and first-rate doctorates
The Greater Barcelona metropolitan area is particularly attractive as it is home to a large number of research institutes and offers masters and doctorates aimed at an international audience. Biomedicine, physics, business education, and economics are just a few of the disciplines that attract a lot of international talent.
Another outstanding sector which attracts researchers and scientists from all over the world is the science sector. The Institute of Photonic Sciences (ICFO) (hyperlink to ICFO article), with almost 70% of its members from other countries, and the Center for Genomic Regulation (CRG) are two of the centers that have a very high proportion of international researchers. Institut de Ciències Fotòniques (ICFO), con casi el 70% de internacionales o el Centro de Regulació Genòmica (CRG), entre otros.
Well-known education hubs
Of all the international higher education hubs in the world, the best known are London, San Francisco, and Boston. In recent years they have been joined by Singapore and Shanghai in Asia, and Copenhagen and Amsterdam in Europe. They are considered hubs because they attract the best students and researchers. It is worth remembering that a quarter of "unicorn" companies (new companies valued at more than a billion dollars) in the USA were created by international students who had come to study at the main American universities.
Difficulties in studying in Catalonia
Universities in Catalonia have a slightly higher number of international students than the Spanish average, but they are still well below the cities that are considered to be international leaders. Despite Barcelona’s strengths in international education, it is still far from being amongst the European elite in this respect. There are several limitations which prevent Barcelona equaling London, Copenhagen or Amsterdam. These are mainly related to regulations in the higher education sector and the enrolment procedures for international students.
Other obstacles include the absence of a long-term policy to promote the internationalization of higher education and a university system with very little real autonomy in attracting international faculty and students or designing degree programs that specifically target international students.
Barcelona still has much to do it is to position itself among the most important destinations in the sector. Attracting more students, researchers and teachers would go a long way to developing professionals with high quality profiles and consolidating Barcelona's reputation as a city with a global outlook.