I don’t get excited about every school I visit. There are some that are fine, but not especially impressive. Other visits lead to a few concerns. There are some that would be great for a very specific group of students, but not the majority. While I share this information with Beyond the States members in various ways, I don’t write blogs about these schools.
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I was a little concerned about my visit to review options to study in Spain. A few years ago, I went to Barcelona and it was incredibly difficult to get information from a number of Spanish universities, much less get an appointment to discuss the topic of study in Spain! Members have experienced this lack of responsiveness from some Spanish schools as well. I was thrilled that this was not my experience with University Carlos III Madrid (UC3M). They were very responsive and what I learned at my visit put this school on my list of favorites!
This school made it to our in-house Rankings 2023 page – check it out!
The university is known for their focus on internationalization, which is somewhat rare in this part of Europe. Since they are a younger university (founded in 1989), internationalization has been a priority from the get go. They didn’t experience the resistance from “old school” faculty and staff that some universities encounter when introducing internationalization efforts. International students make up 20% of their student population, and about 8% are degree seeking students.
The school has four campuses, with the English taught programs held in Leganes (engineering programs) and Getafe (all others). I visited Getafe, which is just under 20 minutes by train from Madrid. The centralized campus is just a short walk from the train station and includes two libraries, three cafeterias, multiple academic buildings, a large sports center (with a spa no less!), and two student residences. Single rooms start at 472 euros per month and first year international students have priority.
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Internationalization efforts are evident by the opportunities the university provides students to study abroad, not only to study in Spain. Of course, just about all universities in Europe allow students to study abroad for a semester. UC3M though has the unique offering of studying abroad for up to two years – and in two different places! I had questions about how this works logistically-how a student would meet their graduation requirements if they weren’t on campus to study in Spain for half of the program? Most schools accommodate a study abroad semester by setting the semester aside for electives or a minor, but this isn’t possible for longer term study.
However, UC3M has in-depth bilateral agreements and worked together to identify the courses offered by each school that are comparable to those required by UC3M programs. So cool! The other advantage is around cost. Students continue to pay UC3M tuition for this time abroad. While the annual tuition is pretty comparable to most other European universities, it leads to huge savings if students decide to come back to the US to study for a year. The majority of their partner universities in the US-schools like Boston College, Tulane University, Duke University, Vassar College, and Middlebury College-cost over $50,000 per year! Going to these universities as a UC3M students will cost under $8,000 for the year!
The 14 undergraduate programs and 21 master’s degree programs (English-taught) are in various areas of engineering and business. Of note, the university has AACSB accreditation for their business programs, something I find more important than global rankings. They also offer a multidisciplinary bachelor’s in International Studies and a master’s in Social Sciences. Additionally, the school offers more than 21 bilingual degree programs. These programs offer at least half of the courses in English (though most have many more). This opens up options for students who have a decent level of Spanish proficiency and who want to become fluent. The nice thing is that most of the more technical classes, which are much more difficult to learn when taught outside of one’s mother tongue, are offered in English. It is worth mentioning that all students must learn Spanish while they study and reach a conversational level of proficiency in order to meet the graduation requirements.
Incoming Spanish students have the highest grades of all Spanish universities so the application process is quite competitive for international students as well. Each bachelor’s program has a minimum GPA required, with most between 3.2-3.65 (weighted). The admissions rate for international students is just 8%, which sounds pretty discouraging. Remember though, many of those who are not admitted didn’t have the minimum GPA. Further, you can increase your chances (assuming you meet the GPA) if you apply earlier. The rolling admissions process is from October-April and so decisions are issued monthly. Bonus! They use the common application!
All is not lost if you are not accepted. The university offers a foundation program with many benefits. First of all, unlike a number of other foundation programs I have seen, the price for this program is quite reasonable, at 6500 euros for the year. There are two different tracks; Social Sciences & Humanities or Engineering. Not only do students learn the skills and knowledge needed to succeed in the actual bachelor’s degree program, but they also are introduced to various fields within the tracks. For instance, students in the Social Sciences and Humanities track take Economics, Business Administration, Politics, Law, Sociology, Philosophy. Communication, Statistics, as well as electives. This exposure may help guide them if they are unsure of the specific area they would like to study in their bachelor’s. Twelve credits gained in the year are university level courses, taken with bachelor’s students and these credits can be counted towards their bachelor’s. 70% of students who go through the foundation year are admitted to the university afterwards.
The administrators I met with were passionate about the importance of internationalization and provide resources to help them succeed as students. There are welcome events, a buddy program, a number of international student associations, and advisors specific for international students at the program level. I am thrilled to have found another Spanish school that I can recommend without hesitation!