Number of international students at Spanish universities to halve

  • 4 min read
Number of international students at Spanish universities to halve

For decades, Spain has been one of Europe’s top study abroad locations. Although it’s home to excellent universities and a glorious climate, the country’s appeal mainly stems from the widespread use of the Spanish language.

With approximately 500 million native speakers worldwide, Spanish holds epic global importance. It’s a key language in international business and diplomacy, so it’s no wonder language students accounted for most of the country’s 1.1 million foreign enrollments last year1.

In the 2018/19 academic year, foreign pupils contributed an estimated €2.2 billion to Spain’s economy2. However, with experts predicting a 57% decrease in international admissions because of the COVID-19 pandemic, this revenue could plummet to just €94.6 million1.

Your university simply can’t afford to miss out on such a core income stream. Luckily, it doesn’t have to. As your rivals brace themselves for the decline, it’s time to step up your recruitment game.

Spain's weaknesses

A 2019 report by SEP3. concluded that “international education is now a major economic sector for the Spanish economy”, so institutions must do all they can to nurture this market.

However, the report also identified the key weaknesses that were holding Spanish universities back. Two of the main pain points were lengthy visa processes and ineffective marketing strategies.

How can your university survive?

Visa support

According to the SEP report3, 66% of respondents said they’d like more support and flexibility with legal requirements and processes, including helping students secure their visas.

Navigating the visa application process can be a confusing and stressful process for international students. In fact, many prospective pupils decide against studying in Spain because of it. That’s why helping students to secure their visas is so important.

We know your admissions team is already stretched, so offering one-to-one support might be out of the question. Luckily, Studee can do all this for you.

Our NAFSA-trained advisors provide tailored visa advice to pupils using This prevents them from dropping off the radar and gives you the best possible conversion rates.

Marketing magic

When trying to engage with international students, the power of good marketing cannot be underestimated. Without it, students won’t know who you are or what you offer, so they’re never going to enroll.

When you partner with Studee, you’ll join one of the world’s leading platforms for international student recruitment.

Thousands of prospective pupils use our website every day to search for their dream university, so you’ll gain exclusive access to promising new leads and markets from across the globe.

Learn more about Studee's services

In the SEP report3, 61% of university respondents believed scholarship programs would help them recruit more international students.

Financially smart Gen-Z students are always on the lookout for scholarship opportunities, and they can play a huge role in their eventual application decisions. So, if your university offers any scholarships, shout about them on your website and in your marketing materials.

Not all universities can afford to dish out financial incentives, but this doesn’t mean you have to miss out on enrollments.

If you’re upfront about the costs of studying at your institution and offer financial and budgeting advice throughout the student lifecycle, you’ll prove that your university is a worthwhile investment.

Promote intercultural interaction

Whether it’s online or in-person, your institution needs to make students feel welcome and accepted.

There are several ways you can do this, but the SEP report3 drew particular attention to the following:

  • International online events and seminars

  • Promote existing international student associations

  • Buddy programs

  • Language and cultural exchange programs with locals

Each of these measures will help students to meet new people and form friendships. This will enrich their university experience tremendously.

Prioritize international student satisfaction

Unfortunately, Spain doesn’t have the best track record when it comes to foreign pupils’ experiences.

Spanish universities have often failed to feature in international student satisfaction rankings4, which could be discouraging for some prospective pupils. So, if your university wants to improve its reputation and boost its appeal, creating a remarkable international experience is key.

Providing an excellent on-campus experience will help futureproof your international recruitment strategy. If your current students are satisfied, they’ll promote your institution to their friends, family, and across their social media channels, essentially becoming ambassadors for your university.

Since ambassadors have the largest influence on prospective students’ application and enrollment decisions5, a fantastic university experience has the potential to send your international admissions through the roof.


1 ICEF Monitor, 2021

2 ICEF Monito, 2019

3 SEP, 2019

4 StudyPortals, 2016

5 Unibuddy, 2020