The 9 Best Universities in Madrid for International Students [2024]

Have you decided to experiment with the life-changing adventure of living abroad for a while? If you have, you should know that Spain is one of the most popular choices among travelers because it gives you the opportunity of exploring a new culture and learn a new language at the same time.

Learning Spanish in Spain is a wise move if you’re looking to improve your curriculum because it is the second most widely spoken language in the world, and the third most used on the Internet. So, the chance to get a degree, while getting to travel and explore a new city sounds like a great plan, doesn’t it?

How to choose the perfect city for you
Why Madrid

The top public universities in Madrid
1. The Autonomous University of Madrid – Universidad Autónoma de Madrid (UAM)
2. Charles III University of Madrid – Universidad Carlos III de Madrid (UC3M)a>
Complutense University of Madrid – Universidad Complutense de Madrid (UCM)
4. Polytechnic University of Madrid – Universidad Politécnica de Madrid (UPM)
5. University of Alcalá – Universidad de Alcalá (UAH)
The top private universities in Madrid
1. CEU San Pablo University – Universidad CEU San Pablo (CEU)
2. Comillas Pontifical University – Comillas Universidad Pontifica
3. Nebrija University – Universidad Nebrija
4. Francisco Vitoria University – Universidad Francisco Vitoria (UFV)
Frequently asked questions

How to choose the perfect city for you

Spain is a big country and has a lot of different cities to choose from. But the most important thing to consider when making the big decision is what you expect to find in the destination. Are you a big city fan? Then, Madrid could be your place. It is one of Europe’s most beautiful cities, is home to several high-quality institutions, and offers a vibrant local lifestyle that suits people from all backgrounds!

If you’re still not 100% sure about Madrid, you can find our other guides:

The Best Universities in Barcelona for International students
The Best Business Schools in Barcelona

The 9 best Universities in Valencia for International students

–> Do you think the university application procedure is complicated? No worries, if you are a student of one of our University Pathway courses, we help you along the way.

Now, let’s talk about Madrid!

Why Madrid?

Madrid is undoubtedly one of Europe’s most beautiful cities, it is also one of the major financial, administrative, and cultural centers, as well as a tourist magnet with legendary nightlife. The city has great weather all year round, outstanding architecture, and delicious local cuisine, blending classic Spanish dishes with contemporary food trends. It also can be very affordable if you choose to share flat expenses with other students.

The city also offers some of the world’s most important art galleries as well as a chic fashion scene. Are you interested in the lifestyle? Madrid is famous for the lengthy siestas, and the leisurely evenings socializing at the city’s innumerable tapas bars!

Cost of living

Madrid is a city with a high standard of living and a fairly high level of spending by locals and tourists. However, and comparing it with the other big city in Spain, Madrid is still cheaper than Barcelona.

  • The cost of study programs is lower than in Barcelona and other European capital cities.
  • Costs for undergraduate programs at state universities range from 850 euros per year.
  • Education at private universities in Madrid ranges from 10,000€ – 20,000€ per year.
  • The costs during the educational period depend on where the students live, whether they have to use transportation to reach the campus, and which meal plan they choose.

According to recent studies, a single person estimated monthly costs amount to 750 EUR (US$810), with an extra 950 EUR (US$1,040) to be added for rent.

Now, let’s talk about the best universities in Madrid for international students but before, learn about the Spanish university access exam (EBAU/Selectividad) and how to apply to a university in Spain.

The 5 best public Universities in Madrid

1. The Autonomous University of Madrid
Universidad Autónoma de Madrid (UAM)

Universidad Autónoma de Madrid (UAM)

Founded in 1968, UAM is widely respected as one of the most prestigious universities in Europe, and it is ranked as the top university in Spain.

The university has two campuses: the prestigious Faculty of Medicine, close to Madrid’s La Paz Hospital, and its main campus, Cantoblanco, which is located near the cities of Alcobendas, San Sebastián de Los Reyes, and Tres Cantos. The Cantoblanco campus holds most of the UAM’s facilities, it’s 15 km from the city of Madrid and has lots of green areas.

UAM offers 94 doctorate programs in all of the university’s studies. It also offers 88 master’s degrees and, according to a study carried out by the newspaper El Mundo, in 2013, the Autonomous University of Madrid was the best in the country to go study Biology, Nursing, Medicine, Physics, and Law, within the 50 careers with the highest demand.

2. Charles III University of Madrid
Universidad Carlos III de Madrid (UC3M)


UC3M is a non-profit public higher education institution, founded in 1989 under an Act of the Spanish Parliament on 5 May 1989. It has a strong reputation in business subjects and it is often ranked amongst the top 50 institutions in the world.

It has a very selective admission policy based on the entrance examination, and it is known to hold the highest admission grade requirement in Madrid for several degree programs such as Business, Law, Political Science, Economics, International Studies, Accounting, Journalism, or Biomedical Engineering.

UC3M has four campuses; Getafe Campus, the School of Law and Social Sciences, and the School of Humanities, Communication, and Documentation. Leganés Campus, School of Engineering. Colmenarejo Campus, which offers Degree programs from various Schools, and Madrid-Puerta de Toledo Campus, Center for Graduate Studies.

3. Complutense University of Madrid
Universidad Complutense de Madrid (UCM)


Founded in 1499, the Complutense University of Madrid is a non-profit public research higher education institution that started its operations in 1508. It is one of the oldest universities in the world and the largest in Spain, and it became one of the first universities in the world to grant a Doctorate to a female student: Maria Isidra de Guzmán y de la Cerda.

UCM now offers nearly 80 majors, 230 individual degrees, and 221 doctorate programs. Courses in the university focus on the Science faculties, including Media and Communication Science, Teaching and Learning Science, and Computer Science. It also offers summer courses in the world heritage site of San Lorenzo del Escorial.

As a very important plus, UCM is the first Spanish university with the best measures implemented to manage and improve its sustainability. According to the UI Green Metric ranking, the university also ranks 38th among the more than 912 universities from 84 countries that participate, which makes it one of the main green universities in the world!

4. Polytechnic University of Madrid
Universidad Politécnica de Madrid (UPM)


The Polytechnic University of Madrid is a non-profit public higher education institution founded in 1971. Since it was formed by the merger of different schools located in various regions, UPM’s Schools are spread all over Madrid. University City or Moncloa Campus, Montegancedo Campus, South Campus (Vallecas’s Politechnical Complex), and Downtown Campus (Schools inside Madrid’s historical center).

Due to its double seal of Campus of International Excellence, UPM is recognized for its outstanding research activity and its training of highly qualified professionals. Also, the majority of UPM’s Engineering Schools are constantly ranked as leading academic institutions in Spain in their fields, and amongst the very best in Europe.

5. University of Alcalá
Universidad de Alcalá (UAH)

UAH Madrid

The UAH is one of Europe’s most venerable universities and can trace its origins as far back as 1293 and the medieval Studia generalia. In 1499, Cardinal Cisneros founded the College of St Hildephonse with a view to creating a prototype university city that would act as a model for others in Ibero-America.

Among its most illustrious students, we can mention figures such as Lope de Vega, Calderón de la Barca, Francisco de Quevedo, and María Isidra de Guzmán -the first woman in Spain to obtain a doctoral degree.

The University offers a wide range of undergraduate and postgraduate qualifications adapted to the European Higher Education Area, in areas such as Humanities, Engineering, Social Sciences, Education, and Experimental and Biomedical Sciences, among others.

It is located in the historic city of Alcalá de Henares, 30 kilometers from Madrid. The University has 28,000 students, 2,000 teaching staff, and 800 services and administration staff. Its three campuses –the Historic, the Science and Technology, and the Guadalajara Campuses— play home to 40 undergraduate degree programs, 78 official postgraduate programs, and a broad offer of lifelong training courses in all fields of knowledge.

The Best Private Universities in Madrid

1. CEU San Pablo University
Universidad CEU San Pablo (CEU)

Universidad CEU San Pablo, Madrid.

CEU San Pablo University was founded in 1933 by the Catholic Association of Propagandists (ACdP) and it is a private higher education institution.

It offers courses in lots of areas, such as Economics and Business, Communication and Humanities, Architecture, Engineering, and Health Science both in English and Spanish.

The CEU has a very strong presence internationally; its students come from all over the world to study here.

2. Comillas Pontifical University
Comillas Universidad Pontífica

Comillas Pontifical University, Madrid.

This is a Catholic Pontifical University, entrusted to the Society of Jesus, known as the Jesuits, and was founded more than 100 years ago. It is “the Jesuit University of Madrid” and belongs to a network of more than 200 Jesuit universities from around the world.

Tradition and innovation are terms that are cherished by Jesuit universities, and by this one, as well. The value of tradition is reflected at Comillas in several aspects: the Learning Model, placing students at the center of the learning process, where the relationship between professors and students is especially individualized; the Research and Transfer of Knowledge, more specifically, how it carries this out and what they research; the international dimension of the Teaching and Research; in Comillas, they are always “working for and at the service of society”.

The professors at this University have acquired the necessary skills to foment the value of innovation successfully. They have implemented new learning methodologies in the degrees and offer learning spaces that encourage and favor such innovation.

Comillas is a sustainable and ecological institution, as well, as recognized by the prestigious Times Higher Education Ranking.

3. Nebrija University
Universidad Nebrija

Universidad Nebrija

Nebrija University is a top-ten Spanish university located in Madrid; it has one campus in town and one in a natural park, on the outskirts of the city. It is a small city that contains around 5000 students, receiving each year about 500 international new ones.

Nebrija’s philosophy is to learn by doing, which becomes a unique university experience. It offers a vital experience in the transformation of the student towards global knowledge, in order to start and lead the changes in which they are immersed.

Nebrija has a firm commitment between the University and companies for the development of training in professional skills, which guarantees their students quality internships in order to achieve their ambition to grow in life and intellectually during the university phase.

4. Francisco Vitoria University
Universidad Francisco Vitoria (UFV)

Francisco de Vitoria University, Madrid.

Francisco de Vitoria University was founded in 1993 with 378 students and four degrees. From the beginning, the UFV wanted to put the person at the center and wanted to train professionals who seek to transform their own lives and the society in which they live, work and serve others.

Almost 30 years later, the UFV has two university campuses in Madrid: the campus and the headquarters of the School of Engineering at the MSI. It now offers more than 50 degrees and double degrees, higher education training cycles, postgraduate school, doctorates, and various research centers. In addition, it is part of an international network of educational centers in Europe, the United States, Mexico, and South America.

Now that you know the 9 Best Universities in Madrid for International students, do you have a favorite?

Frequently asked questions

How can I apply to a university in Madrid?

Since every university has its own rules and there’s no centralized system in Spain, you will have to look for the special requirements of the university of your interest and send them the documents. Be aware of the deadlines!

Have in mind that, usually, universities save about 5% of their vacancies for international students, so the competition for entering can get hard. Read closely every step of the procedure your chosen institution asks for on their websites, and don’t miss the chance! If you have doubts, try to contact the student secretary’s office.

Do I need a student visa or NIE?

Please, take into consideration that if you live in the Schengen area (EU, EEA, and Swiss nationals) you do not need a visa to study in Madrid, but you need to register for the NIE.

Non-EU citizens must apply for a Spanish student visa at the nearest Spanish Embassy or Consulate (or from Spain if you’re already there). Please mind that you already can get the visa before starting your studies at the university. For example, when you start a full-time Spanish course of 20 lessons per week or more, or one of the Spanish University Pathway courses. If you study Spanish for 6 months or 1 year you can renew your Spanish student visa in Spain to continue with your studies at the University.

How much does it cost to study in Madrid?

It is true that the cost of living in Madrid is higher compared to other places in Spain, but it is still cheaper in contrast to several other European capital cities like London, Paris, or even Berlin.

As expected, tuition fees vary in Madrid and the amount you’ll pay will depend on the university and course you choose. Generally speaking, you will have to consider these fees per year:

Public Universities

  • €700 – €3,500 for Bachelor’s programs
  • €1,000 – €3,500 for Master’s programs
  • €960 – €1,800 for an MBA program

Private Universities

  • €4,000 – €20,000 for bachelor’s and master’s programs
  • €10,000 – €30,000 for an MBA degree

Please, have in mind that tuition fees usually don’t cover study materials like books and extra study materials, which can cost around €100 per semester or even more. BUT! You can find second-hand books on social media groups or purchase a digital copy instead of a physical book to save costs!

Do you still have doubts? Please contact us and we’ll help you throughout this amazing journey!

Other relevant articles

Study visa for Spain

Study at a Spanish University

Other interesting information

Anything to add? Share your own experience in the comments below!

DISCLAIMER: We have gathered information to our best knowledge, from our experience, using many different (official) sources. Regulations change and interpretations may vary per country or region, but also between public office or staff. No rights can be derived from any of our articles. The content is merely a guide and we recommend you to check information with official sources before and during the process.

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