Only one Spanish uni makes world’s top 200

Limited use of English could help explain why only one Spanish university, Barcelona's Pompeu Fabra, is among the top 200 in the world, the editor of the newly published Times Higher Education rankings has told The Local.

Only one Spanish uni makes world's top 200
Barcelona's Pompeu Fabra acheived 165th place in the Times Higher Education global rankings. Photo: Eduard Reguant

Barcelona's Pompeu Fabra is the only Spanish institution to feature in the top 200 of the new THE ranking.

A further five Spanish universities featured in the top 400 worldwide, while three others dropped have out of the high profile list since 2013.

"In any nation where austerity’s hurt a bit harder, we’re starting to see some pressure," rankings editor Phil Baty said to The Local, speaking about the new results.

"Spain’s made some fairly significant moves. Pompeu Fabra University’s stood firm at 165th. It’s not all doom and gloom but they (Spanish universities) are certainly behind," said Baty.

"That's especially true when (Spain is) compared to South Korea, China, Singapore, where there’s been government-backed investment," he added.

"There seem to be an issue around the Mediterranean universities not doing so well, whereas the Nordic countries and Germany seem to be doing well," Baty explained, speaking more generally about the rankings.

He said successful universities were "more willing to use English", and highlighted Germany's focus on international collaborations."

"There is an issue that the majority of leading journals tend to be in English," he said, as the rankings use citations from 13,000 journals charted by Thomson Reuters.

"There is a challenge for European universities that English has become the lingua franca of research," Baty said.

In order to improve their international reputation, universities must also look at their ties to power.

"Are they at arms’ length from government?" Baty asks. "US and UK universities have a large amount of autonomy from the state. They have state funding but they are independent institutions."

It is no coincidence that such universities are the best in the world, the rankings editor said: "This leads to a healthy culture of free inquiry on campus. It also allows them to be entrepreneurial; to behave a bit more like businesses and be dynamic." 

In Spain, apart from Pompeu Fabra, the five Spanish universities to make the top 400 were Barcelona University, the Autonomous University of Barcelona, the Autonomous University of Madrid, the University of Barcelona and the University of Navarre.

Dropping out of the list were Catalonia's Rovira i Virgili University, Valencia Polytechnic University and Vigo Univeristy. 

The California Institute of Technology held on to the world number one spot for the fourth consecutive year, ahead of Harvard University in second and the University of Oxford in third.

Rounding out the top five were Stanford University in the US and the UK's Cambridge University.

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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.