Spain remains top choice for Erasmus students

Spain has held onto its position as the leading destination for European university students in the Erasmus exchange scheme and is also the country that sends most students abroad, despite offering the lowest grants in the EU.

Spain remains top choice for Erasmus students
Granada University received more Erasmus exchange students in 2011/2012 than anywhere else in Europe. Photo: Universidad de Granada

A report published on Monday by the European Commission revealed that 39,300 Erasmus students came to study in Spain in the 2011/2012 academic year, or some 15.5 percent of the total students who take part in the exchange programme.

The figure puts Spain ahead of France (28,964), Germany (27,872) and the UK (25,760).

In the same academic year a total of 39,545 Spanish students went to one of the 33 other European countries in the scheme to study or do work placements.

The financial support that Spain offers students of €123 ($160) per month is set deliberately low so that it can be offered to a greater number of Erasmus participants.

In other countries, that figure can be much higher. In Latvia, for example, students receive €641 per month, while the European Community average is €252.

Broken down by city, Granada University received more exchange students than any other in Europe in 2011/2012 and four other Spanish institutions – Madrid's Computense University, Seville University, Valencia University and Valencia Polytechnic – were in the top 10.

Poland, with 6,312 exchange visitors, pipped Spain (4,654) as the preferred destination for professors in the part of the Erasmus programme which sees teachers spend time in a foreign university.

In the report, Androulla Vassiliou, European Commissioner for Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth, highlighted the success of Erasmus since its launch in 1987.

She said:  "The latest record figures, showing that we have exceeded our target of 3 million Erasmus students, are testament to the enduring success and popularity of the programme."

"Erasmus is more important than ever in times of economic hardship and high youth unemployment: the skills and international experience gained by Erasmus students make them more employable and more likely to be mobile on the labour market."

Erasmus is scheduled to be replaced in January 2014 with a new scheme called Erasmus+.

This will be based on the existing model and will offer four million students the chance to study, train, teach or volunteer abroad between its launch and 2020.

The programme is expected to have a budget of around €14.5 billion for 2014–2020, or 40 percent more than funding for the current education and training mobility programmes.

The current Erasmus funding is some €450 million a year.

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Five things to know about the ‘best university in Spain’

A new prestigious global university rankings has included several Spanish institutes albeit well down the list. Here's what you need to know about the university that finsihed the highest in the rankings.

Five things to know about the 'best university in Spain'
Photo: Jesús Corrius/Flickr
The QS World University Rankings, one of the big three most-read top schools lists, has just been released, and it includes 27 Spanish universities amongst the world’s top thousand.
While no Spanish school ranked in the top 100, university administrators argue that they’re doing more with less – Spanish schools have about €6,000 in funding per student/per year, a fraction of the €100,000 or so spent on each student per year at the American universities at the top of the list. 
The top Spanish school was declared to be the Universitat de Barcelona, ranked 165th globally. Here are 5 things worth knowing about the university declared by QS to be the best in Spain:
A university with tradition
The Universitat de Barcelona was listed as one of the 25 best universities in the world with more than 400 years of history by QS. The school was founded back in 1450 by King Alfonso V (“the Magnanimous”) of Aragon, making it 569 years old.
While it’s not as old as Spain’s historic University of Salamanca, founded in 1134, it is ranked almost 500 spots higher in the QS World University Rankings.
Photo: Jordi Domènech/Wikimedia Commons
One of the biggest universities in Spain
With more than 46,000 full-time students and around 63,000 students all categories included, the Universitat de Barcelona has one of the largest student bodies in Spain. 
It is the fourth largest university in Spain in terms of full-time students, after the University of Seville, the Complutense in Madrid, and the University of Granada.
Strong points: academic reputation and graduate employability
One of the factors that contributed to the Universitat de Barcelona’s “best in Spain” was its good academic reputation, rated at 71 out of 100 by QS. Academic reputation is the most heavily-weighted component in the QS World University rankings, and is judged by it surveying the opinions of over 94,000 individuals in the field of higher education with regards to an institution’s teaching and research quality.
Another factor that helped the Universitat de Barcelona distinguish itself was the high employability of its graduates. There, they cracked the top 100, ranking 82nd globally, making them the most employable university graduates in Spain, a quality that demonstrates itself with 90% graduate employment rate.
Weakness: a lack of international faculty
If there’s one category the Universitat of Barcelona could improve in, it’s international faculty. QS values an international faculty as the mark of a strong international brand and a global outlook, and incorporates into its ranking system.
The Universitat de Barcelona was graded an abysmal 5.8 out of 100 on this metric, probably because only 134 of its 3,923 faculty members are from outside of Spain. That’s a 3.4% international faculty for a student body made up of 15% international students from at least 122 different countries. 
Looks like that scene in L’Auberge Espagnole where the professor refuses to teach in any language but Catalan might have contained a grain of truth in it…
An affordable education
Unlike the schools at the top of the international list, the Universitat de Barcelona provides a reasonably-priced education, charging domestic students around €1,750 to €3,500 per school year. International students are charged a little bit more, as undergraduates pay €7,000 – €9,000 per year and graduate students are charged €3,500 – €5,500 per year.
Compared to the €42,500 – €44,500 per year that top ranked Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) students can expect to pay, that doesn’t sound to bad.