The proposed University System Law would give all international graduates the opportunity to stay in the country after study without having to apply for a new visa, according to Spanish newspaper El Pais.
The paper reported that the length of time may be increased to two years but that this is still being decided.
“We have to find ways to retain that talent that we have trained so they can keep their residence status and look for work for two years,” Universities minister Joan Subirats said.
Subirats also said that, if the new law is approved, international students at Spanish universities will no longer have to request a resident’s permit every year – instead, their permits will last for the entire length of their studies.
Alfonso Gentil, director of SEPIE, which oversees the internationalisation of education in Spain, told The PIE that he believes “the impact will be very positive for the increase of the arrival of international students”.
Some 125,000 international students studied at Spain’s universities in 2019, including students on exchange as part of the EU’s Erasmus+ program.
According to data from StudyPortals, Spain offers 6% of the 8,788 programs available in the EU and EEA region, fewer than Ireland, the Netherlands, Germany and France.
The course comparison site found that prospective international students have been increasingly interested in Europe in general over the past 12 months, but that other countries in the region have seen higher levels of demand, with Italy experiencing a 45% increase in traffic compared to Spain’s 18%.
“Spain is already a popular destination for students from Latin America”
The data also showed that growing demand for Spain is being driven by students outside of the EU.
“Spain is already a popular destination for students from Latin America,” said Jihna Gavilanes, president of study abroad platform, Studee.
“These changes could make the country even more appealing to students from this region as it would open up the possibility of studying and working in Europe after graduation.
“Alongside visa changes, it would be beneficial for authorities to look at the process of applying to a Spanish university and see if there are ways it could be streamlined and made less complex.”
Past research into Spain’s higher education sector has found that the “bureaucratic” and often lengthy processes around recognising international qualifications have discouraged some non-EU students from studying in the country.
The draft law is expected to reach the Council of Ministers, the decision-makers in the Spanish government, for a second reading in the coming weeks.