Authors of the SEPIE report suggest that the Spanish language offers unique opportunities, and universities should be looking to take advantage of Latin American and growing Spanish-speaking student markets in the US.
“Being able to open up our degree programs, especially at postgraduate level … is a huge advantage for our universities”
The research explains that Spain has been successful in attracting European international students, as part of Erasmus programs.
However, it argues that a clear strategy is needed to increase the country’s inbound results from outside the EU, and to continue to build as one of the most popular European study destinations.
“Being able to open up our degree programs, especially at postgraduate level, to native Spanish speakers from most of Latin America, and also to an increasing population in the United States, is a huge advantage for our universities,” the report states.
The latest government figures from Madrid cite that Spain attracts only half of the OECD average of international students, but the large Latin American and Caribbean communities among that population show that further exploitation of that market can improve growth.
“International undergraduates represent 4.1% of all registered students, which is below the OECD average of 8.5%… the majority come from Latin America and the Caribbean.”
“More work must be done to develop the potential of Spanish as a higher education language”
“Most institutions have progressed very cautiously, due in part to insufficient funding or a lack of specialist staff in this field,” the report reads.
The paper suggests that institutions should promote Spanish language studies as an asset.
“More work must be done to develop the potential of Spanish as a higher education language by exploring possibilities not only in the Spanish-speaking world but also in other countries and regions with a growing interest in our language and culture,” it says.
Spanish institutions should be “insisting on the rightful place of Spanish as a global language for academic and scientific collaboration and exchange”.
Spain is also different to other European countries “whose national languages are languages of limited diffusion”. Spanish can be considered a global language, and therefore bring similar benefits to those often spoken about of English. Spanish is spoken widely in the Americas, and at least three million people in the Philippines also speak the language, giving it a truly global footprint.
Despite the will to boost Spanish learning, Spain is ranked fifth out of European countries to offer English-taught courses.
The report identifies that only 6% of European courses are in English. Denmark, Sweden, Germany and the Netherlands all have more available according to StudyPortals.
Evaluating the initiatives of the Mobility Strategy 2020 launched as part of the University Strategy 2015 by the Ministry of Education, the report highlights that initiatives have simplified mobility for students and academic staff. The strategy has also promoted an international doctorate.
“In the time remaining before the culmination of the strategy in 2020, progress should continue to be made by implementing the outlined initiatives, such as … an increased amount of qualifications in English and other foreign languages.”
The report states that Spain has been successful in attracting students as it is gradually becoming possible to use the 4+1 degree model, alongside the new 3+2 model, used in the majority of European countries.
It also suggests that “the admission requirements for international students are becoming more flexible”, and highlights that by recognising international qualifications, foreign students no longer need to take entrance exams.
Finally, the paper suggests that student mobility is not the only factor that Spanish universities should be focussing on, with other important factors including closer international cooperation on research projects and strategic investment.