Barcelona's race for exchange students

Published on by Georgina Garriga (author), Emelie Kempe (author), Peter Dalsgaard Thomsen (author)

Barcelona is among the leading cities in the world when it comes to international students. The brand of Barcelona is a leading factor in attracting the students and has established Barcelona in the top.

People usually say the years they spend as university students were the best of their lives. During the last few years, it has become quite a common practice to include international exchanges as a part of this experience. Something quite recommendable as it is, according to both teachers and students, a great personal and educational experience. This situation has led European cities and countries to become places of interest for students who plan to temporarily move from their home countries looking for places to fulfil both their educational and personal objectives. Has a new international competition been born?

Actually, students have a lot to say about that. According to the QS Best Student Cities 2015, Barcelona is the 19th top city in the world for students interested in higher education programmes, right after New York and Chicago. Also, according to the City Rep Track 2014 study, Barcelona is considered the 9th city with the best reputation in the world, ranked particularly highly in the areas of tourism, sport and culture.

The Pompeu Fabra's case

Pompeu Fabra University in Barcelona, for instance, is one of the centres who receives more than a thousand international exchange students per year. That’s why they have a Mobility and Welcome office to attend international students coming to Barcelona or Catalan students travelling abroad. “We offer academics. Not the city of Barcelona”, says Iris Cros, a member of the Mobility and Welcome office.

However, she admits most of students come because of the Barcelona’s brand worldwide impact. “Students, specially Americans and Europeans, love the city and the activities it offers”, Iris Cros says. As well as most of Catalan universities, Pompeu Fabra has a department focused on the promotion of the University abroad to catch potential student’s attention. “I think they use this brand to catch talent. I mean, why not? Using Barcelona as a brand can be a good thing”, Cros explains. Participating to international and educational fairs or offering courses and degrees completely in English are some methods universities use to attract foreign students. Moreover, there is also common that these centres have worldwide exchange agreements in order to make students' movements easier.

Two years ago, Pompeu Fabra university received almost 1,500 exchange students coming from every continent in the world.


This huge amount of international exchanges has grown thanks to the Erasmus program which is more than ten years old. This program facilitates many procedures to students as it offers them information through the Erasmus Student Network available online. Nowadays, students can choose among so many destinations through this program. But still Barcelona is in the top. Why?

We decided to look for the answer asking to Pompeu Fabra’s students why they think foreigners choose Barcelona as a reference.

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