Park Guell views of Barcelona

The Spanish Resurrection

For the past few years Universities in Southern Europe had deeply suffered the consequences of the world financial crisis. As most Spanish universities rely mainly on public funding, the Higher Education industry has been particularly affected by the consequences of the budget cuts.

However, the latest edition of the QS World University Ranking shows that Spanish universities are doing its best to overcome the adversities. In general terms, they are performing better for a second year in a row. In the top we find the Catalan flagship universities; the historical University of Barcelona (UB), which this year has progressed from 178 to 166, followed by the Autonomous University of Barcelona; which went up from the 177 position to 173.

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Image courtesy of taesmileland /

Spain: university entrance exam scrapped for international students

A government decree in Spain has been promulgated in June 2014 with immediate effect. The traditional entrance exam to access higher education programs after high school – the Selectividad – is now scrapped for foreign students.

The Selectividad consists of exams in four or five areas, in Spanish:

  1. Foreign language
  2. History of Spain or History of Philosophy
  3. Spanish Language and Literature
  4. Specialty subject
  5. Other official language

At the moment, international students from several countries were already exempt from this exam, including EU and China students, as long as they took part in their respective end of high school exam in their respective countries (e.g. Gao kao in China, Baccalaureate in France).  But for students from the rest of the world, the exam required an excellent knowledge of Spanish language and history, and was definitely a barrier to enrol at Spanish universities.

With this move, Spain is aiming at significantly increasing the number of international students as access will be much easier. In 2012/2013, it was reported Spain had 73,639 international students, representing 4.7% of its total student population. This is much lower in Europe in comparison to several other countries such as the UK with 427,686 foreign students enrolled in 2012, France with 271,399 or Germany with 206,986 according to the UNESCO Institute for Statistics.

international students in Spain 2012-13

The chart above represents the top ten countries sending international students to Spain. As published on the Institute of International Education, this reveals that currently at least 13,129 students (representing at least 17.9% of the total inbound student population) from this top ten hail from Latin America (Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Mexico) where Spanish in widely spoken. We don’t have access to the full list of countries but clearly Latin America represents a strong provider of overseas students.

As far as Spanish students are concerned, the national Selectividad will be stopped from 2017/2018 and regions will define their own exams.


L’Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science UK & Ireland Fellowships


There has been a lot of discussion to support more students to study STEM subjects in the UK and Ireland, as a special efforts to support long term economic growth. It is the same with many other countries around the world.

However, how to support women to play a more active role in STEM subjects never seems to be easy.

I used to sit on the Education Committee of the UK National Commission For UNESCO. I recently come across this prestigous international fellowship to women in science. I thought I should do a short blog about it so that people who are interested in it could find out more.

Hope you will find it useful.

Best regards,

Dr. Christina Yan Zhang



2014 L’Oréal-UNESCO UK and Ireland Fellowships For Women In Science

1.      Introduction
The L’Oréal-UNESCO UK and Ireland Fellowships For Women In Science are awards offered by a partnership between L’Oréal UK & Ireland, the UK National Commission for UNESCO and the Irish National Commission for UNESCO, with the support of the Royal Society, to promote, enhance and encourage the contribution of women pursuing their research careers in the UK or Ireland in the fields of the life and physical sciences.

The National Fellowships are offered under the umbrella of the L’Oréal-UNESCO For Women In Science Programme, which has promoted women in scientific research on a global scale since 1998.

Four Fellowships will be awarded in 2014 to outstanding women scientists in the early stages of their career to enable and/or facilitate promising scientific research. The Fellowships are tenable at any UK or Irish university or research institute to support a 12-month period of postdoctoral research in any area of the life or physical sciences.

The value of each fellowship is £15,000 (equivalent € for candidates in Ireland). The Fellowships are designed to provide flexible support. The prize money can be spent in innovative ways to enable women scientists to pursue and continue their research careers – such as buying equipment, paying for childcare or funding travel costs to an overseas conference.



2.  Who is Eligible?


  • Candidates must be female postdoctoral level researchers who have already been awarded their research doctorate in the fields of life or physical science.
  • Candidates must have no more than 10 years’ active full-time equivalent postdoctoral experience (discounting career breaks, but including teaching experience and/or time spent in industry).
  • Candidates must not currently hold a permanent academic post, or have ever held a permanent academic post in the past, or have received, before the start date of the award, the promise of a permanent academic post.
  • Candidates must be undertaking research in the life or physical sciences. Computer science, engineering, mathematics, psychology, science education and social sciences are not eligible for this Fellowship.
  • Candidates must be conducting their research at a UK or Irish university or research institute.
  • Candidates must be a citizen of the European Economic Area (EEA), or a Swiss citizen, or have permanent residence status in the UK or Ireland; and must be residing in the UK or Ireland at the time of application.
  • Applications are welcomed from candidates who wish to establish/re-establish themselves after a career break or other period of absence from active research or where the candidate is establishing a research career as a mature entrant or after experience in other fields.



3.     Application and Deadline
We can only accept applications made online. You will need to visit to create an account and complete an application.

Closing date: 14th March 2014 at midnight (BST)




4. Criteria are as follows:
1) Intellectual merit of candidate
· Academic records
· Ability to interpret and communicate research findings
· Evidence of originality, initiative and productivity
· Strong recommendation in reference letters (two requested)

2) Clearly articulated research proposal
· The relevance of the research and its impact
· The originality of the research proposal
· The proposal should be presented in a clear and compelling way

3) How the fellowship will enhance the candidate’s career and/or assist with a successful return to scientific research
· Whether the candidate has made a convincing case for the difference that this fellowship will make to her.



5.  Key Dates
· Applications website will be open from the 1st February – 14th March 2014 (Midnight)
· Reader assessment of applications takes place between 28th March – 8th May 2014
· Jury assessment of applications takes place between 9th May – 29th May 2014
· Shortlisted candidates will be contacted by phone and by email on Friday 30th May 2014
· Assessment day and awards ceremony takes place on Thursday 19th June 2014
2014 L’Oréal-UNESCO UK and Ireland Fellowships For Women In Science Application Terms & Conditions



6. Further Information
For further information, visit or email



‘Adopt a student’ scheme, a new concept in Spain?

Struggling with financing tuition fees? Spanish universities have launched a new scheme consisting in “adopting a student” by funding the tuition fees. Considered to be an emergency measure, Spanish universities are hoping this will be temporary. The aim is mostly to help students coming from low-income families, as there are more and more students tempted to abandon their studies because they cannot pay for them anymore. And it works. 11 students from Polytechnic University of Valencia have already seen the benefit of the new scheme, their tuition fees have been funded by a citizen of Alcoy. Another anonymous donator has given 70,000€ to University of León. Read more

students olympics

European Universities Games held in Spain

While the UK is busy undergoing the final preparations for this year’s Olympics, Spain has been playing host to the first European Universities Games.

Organized by the European Universities Sports Association (EUSA), this first edition of the European Universities Games was held in Cordoba, in southern Spain, between 13 and 23 July 2012.

More than 2,500 students took part, representing teams from 151 universities in 32 European nations.

During the ten days of the Games, these teams participated in a total of 667 sports matches, competing to be named the champions in ten different sports.

A glance at the final results of the contests gives an overview of the wide range of universities taking part – and the diverse sporting strengths of Europe’s students.

However, while teams from many different countries were named as champions, several nations had a particularly good run. Read more

HE News Briefs 27.9.11

by Abby Chau

  • AUSTRALIA: Visa restrictions have been lifted for international students
  • UNITED STATES: Admission officers feel pressure to look at students who can pay their own way
  • SAUDI ARABIA: The country has been building partnerships around the world but some warn caution
  • SPAIN: Finding it difficult to implement its second year plan for the Bologna Process
  • BRITAIN: Tuition fee hikes have made some consider other routes for students Read more

Using rankings to set policy and funding criteria

by Ben Sowter

I recently received an email from a professor at a Spanish university. In a nutshell, his university had revised its funding policy guidelines to include the criterion that PhD students should have taken their undergraduate program at a university within the top 500 in Webometrics in order to be eligible for funding. Before applying this criterion, he had a PhD candidate from the University of Mumbai that was placed 3rd, introducing it dropped her to 7th and ineligible for a grant. The professor pointed out the University of Mumbai’s position of 155 in our ranking but this was dismissed by the committee due to the fact that QS is a commercial entity and thus our observations somehow invalid.

Our response (below) may make for interesting reading – it’s not just about promoting the strengths of the QS approach to ranking but also about how rankings might more responsibly be applied to this kind of context.

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Visas, another homework for governments towards international education and Latin America students. Part.II

by Liliana Casallas

Part II. USA and Spain System

In the US actions to create a transparent and efficient process are related to make students a priority so that they may travel in time to begin their course of study, having focused on cutting wait time for interviews.  There are also procedures in place to expedite student applicants, even on short notice. From March 2010, the visa programme is moving towards applying through a unique online form (DS-160), replacing three forms previously used.  According to an official source, 90% of applications have wait times of less than 30 days for student and business travellers.

There is no current updated information on rejection rates, however, between 2001 and 2005 the rate of visa rejections was 31%. Table III shows the number of student visas issued, which has been growing proportionally since 2006.  Brazil, Mexico and Colombia are on the top of the list.

Country 2006 2007 2008 2009
Brazil 5,926 7,418 10,556 9,160
Mexico 7,885 7,778 7,538 6,281
Colombia 2,933 3,317 3,961 3,912
Venezuela 1,928 2,244 2,363 2,543
Argentina 1,115 1,061 1,117 1,076
Chile 992 1,108 1,076 1,074
Peru 1,089 1,065 1,101 1,005
Ecuador 1,144 1,067 1,005 960
Panama 613 499 579 547
Cuba 7 18 21 16

Table III. Student Visa (F-1) issued for Latin America

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