Objective: to turn Barcelona into an international university campus

The city that attracts talent will make the difference. And the college is a way to do it. In 2016, 5.1 million students changed countries to obtain a college degree, 76% more than the previous decade. And the forecast is that in 2030 the figure will rise to 10.2 million. The vein has been clearly seen by cities like Amsterdam, Copenhagen or Warsawwhich in recent years have become powerful centers of attraction for international students and they have made higher education a national policy. Both the Netherlands and Denmark have given their universities great autonomy of action and have reduced the limitations on the free entry of international students. The Netherlands has gone from hosting 14,012 young people in 2000 to hosting 96,289 in 2017, an increase of 587%. Denmark has tripled the figure to 34,000. In both cases, this group of students represents 12% of the total number of students. university students or graduate.

“In Amsterdam, the universities have a centralized website in English in which you can find out about all the degrees, with EU tuition prices. In February you sign up and in March-April they give you a date for a personal interview in which they will measure your level of English and your maturity. They will require you to certify the English level and high school and selectivity of your country is accepted as is. And they don’t tell you if you’re admitted and they offer you residency”, describes Matthew HernandezCEO of Global Barcelona.

Selectivity and homologation

Dan facilities, in summary. That is the difference with cities with potential like Barcelona, which has good universities, good weather and is seen by international students as an attractive destination. It has a competitive cost structure and an important services sector. “But it is practically impossible to do a degree in Barcelona,” he points out Aurora Cata, president of Barcelona Global. Why? By obstacleswhich are even higher than in Madrid or Valencia.

Starting with the admission regulations. In Madrid, universities such as Carlos III make a seat reservation 8% for non-community students. In addition, they validate the baccalaureate and/or selectivity studied abroad out of 14, not out of 10 as in Catalonia. By doing it out of 10, the students have to pass the specific phase of selectivity, in Spanish and with a syllabus that they have barely been able to prepare, to raise their grade to 14.

Likewise, in Madrid, facilities are provided so that non-EU students can start the degree even if they do not have a firm homologation of high school diploma. It is done through a conditional enrollment. In Catalonia, this is not the case and the student must wait for the official homologation, which can take a year, with which the student misses a course, at least if he wants to access a public university. Another barrier results from the fact that students applying for a place do not know if the university has accepted them until July. Too late for many. And then there is the lack of places in residences. “There is a lack of culture of internationalization in universities. The private ones are more aware and are moving,” Hernández underlines.


Another front, which already depends on the State, is that of the visas, which last one year, so each course the student must go through the bureaucratic process of renewing the visa. Barcelona Global calls on the Government to simplify the procedures and allow the visa to not be less than the duration of the studies. “It should be two years longer than the studies, so that the student can stay and undertake,” says Catà, who welcomes the fact that the preliminary draft of the law on universities (the Losu) contemplates granting visas for the duration of the studies and even two years of margin after completing them. The president of Barcelona Global considers it important that these young people be given a margin, once they have graduated, to stay and take root in Barcelona. At all times, there is talk of students from outside the EU, since Europeans do not have so many difficulties. And that they come to study a full degree.

Barcelona Global has discussed all this problem, which supposes that Barcelona and Catalonia lose opportunities to attract international students, with all the rectors and also with Department of Universities and Research. They all see it clearly. “After speaking with us, the Generalitat has created a working group. They share our model but they don’t see the urgency They don’t even know how to do it. They are not aware of how important it is to focus on this. We want to convey that urgency to them,” says Catà.

Petitions to the Government

From the outset, this lobi demands that the Government, as other autonomies do, validate the baccalaureate completed abroad out of 14, not out of 10 like now. “Other communities like Madrid validate about 14. And those who have completed high school in countries with an agreement, the homologation is immediate”, explains Catà. This would not only benefit foreign students, but also those Catalans (increasingly) who are completing their baccalaureate or a degree in countries like the USA or the UK. “These students lose a year for a guaranteed position. A pre-evaluation could be done like Madrid does, which allows them to start their studies without losing a year“, points out Catà. Another request is that the universities make a seat reservation for this group and that they can find out in the spring if they are admitted or not.

The same facilities are requested for foreign teachers. They demand that these be considered at the same level that they have in their countries of origin and that they be equated to a Spanish teacher. The approval process for international teachers to come to Spain is currently “very complicated”.

The Department of Universities confirms that it is up to the task. To get started, will shortly deal with the issue of homologation with the Department of Education. They clarify that a foreign student can access the pre-registration without the approved title, and therefore with provisional admission, in the September call. In this case, “they do not lose a year, but it is true that the number of seats in September is small.”

Towards three-year degrees

Barcelona Global sees positively that Losu has left an open path for three year degrees. The law allows them if they occur within the framework of international university alliances. For this lobi, this is important because most degrees in the EU are three years. “It is an opportunity for the country and we have to see it that way. If not, we will not capture anything of the 10 million foreign students that there will be in the coming years,” Hernández warns.

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Facilitate and not add barriers, they repeat. They are concerned about the test of intellectual maturity that, apart from selectivity, will come into force in the 22-23 academic year. “They should leave it to the universities”, they ask about this exam that Lomloe foresees and that is not yet defined. “It is in the process of being defined. We ask that the universities be given autonomy and that it be allowed to be a personal interview like the one carried out by universities in other countries,” says Catà.

And then there is the tongue. Barcelona Global is committed to generalize english as the language of instruction in the public university, a key factor for internationalization. “English should be the vehicular language,” says Catà. This request comes up against the plan approved by Universitats that contemplates that in 2025 80% of classes at Catalan universities will be taught in Catalan.

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