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Instituto Valenciano de Investigaciones Económicas


Catalonia tops the 10th edition of U-Ranking and the new ranking for postgraduate courses, although Madrid concentrates 26% of master's degree students in Spain

Seven of the eleven universities that take the lead in U-Ranking 2022 also are at the top positions of the new ranking on postgraduate education, included in this year's report

The number one place in the 2022 edition of U-Ranking is shared by Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya, Universitat Pompeu Fabra and Universidad Carlos III de Madrid. These are followed in second place by Universitat Politècnica de València and Autònoma de Barcelona. University of Navarra is the first private university that appears in the ranking and is found among the third group of top universities, which are public: Autonomous University of Madrid, University of Barcelona, Rovira i Virgili University, Polytechnic University of Madrid and University of Cantabria.

The U-Ranking Project, developed by the BBVA Foundation and the Ivie, has just released the results of its 10th edition. U-Ranking classifies Spanish universities according to their teaching performance and innovative and research activity. According to the results, public universities occupy 10 of the top 11 positions in the overall ranking. However, the results change when teaching and research and innovation performance are considered separately. In which case, public universities take the lead in research and innovation, and private universities stand out in terms of teaching results.

Among the seven top universities in the teaching ranking, three are public (Polytechnic Universities of València and Catalonia and Carlos III University of Madrid), along with four private ones: European University of Madrid, University of Navarra, Ramon Llull University and International University of La Rioja. And among the top 16, only five are public. The overall performance of private universities in the area of teaching is ten points higher than the average of public universities.

On the other hand, the performance of public universities in research and innovation is on average 48 points above that of private ones. The research and innovation performance ranking is led by Universitat Pompeu Fabra, followed in second place by Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona and Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya. The first private university in the list appears after 18 public universities.

The differences in university results can also be seen at regional level. The Catalan university system, with eleven universities, leads the Spanish University System with above average performance levels. In addition, it is 38 points above the regional system with the lowest results. The university systems of Cantabria, Navarra, Valencian Community, Madrid, La Rioja and Galicia also have above average results.

Analysis of postgraduate courses

As a novelty, the 10th edition of U-Ranking analyzes the evolution over the last decade of postgraduate education courses: master’s and doctoral degrees. While in the 2010-2011 academic year, the weight of master’s degrees over total student enrollment in the Spanish University System was less than 7%, during 2020-2021 it doubled to 15.6%. Nevertheless, this increase has not been equal for public and private universities. For example, in the former, the percentage of master’s degree students has grown by 5 points, making up 11% of the total student body. On the other hand, private universities have opted for master’s degrees to grow, multiplying by 5 the number of students enrolled in these degrees, representing almost a third of their total students. Currently, 44% of master’s degree students in Spain are enrolled in private universities, which already attract 17% of all bachelor’s degree students.

This phenomenon is due, in part, to their firm commitment to online learning, with the creation of universities that only offer this type of learning, allowing access to students from all regions. Of the master’s degree offerings at private universities, 57% are online.

However, postgraduate studies not only include master’s degrees, but also doctoral studies, in which public universities have a larger offer. In fact, 94% of doctoral program students attend public universities. While in private universities doctoral students account for barely 1.5% of the student body, they account for 6.4% of total enrollment in public universities.

From a regional perspective, Madrid has consolidated its position as the largest educational training center for postgraduate students, with 26% of the total number of students enrolled in these degrees. It is also the main attractor of students from other regions or abroad. With the highest qualified labor supply in Spain, over 45% of job positions in Madrid are highly qualified, a factor that may explain the greater weight of its master’s degree students, as these students consider it will help them get a job in the future.

The U-Ranking 2022 report offers a ranking of postgraduate education based on 12 indicators that evaluate the performance of universities in the areas of education, quality, internationalization and job placement. The universities that excel in master’s and doctor’s degree education stand out in the 10th edition of U-Ranking. Two public and two private universities take the lead: Universitat Pompeu Fabra, followed by University of Navarra, Autònoma de Barcelona and Ramon Llull. The third place is made up of six universities: Universitat Rovira i Virgili, Universidad Carlos III de Madrid, Universidad de Salamanca, Universitat de Barcelona, Pontificia de Comillas and Politècnica de Catalunya.

If we take into account the top positions in the ranking for postgraduate courses, once again it is the Catalan university system that obtains the best results, since of the 10 universities at the top of the overall ranking, 6 are in Catalonia, 2 in Madrid, 1 in Navarra and 1 in Salamanca.

In addition, the report offers this ranking for each of the five areas of education. Universitat Rovira i Virgili occupies first place in Arts and Humanities, while Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya takes the lead in Sciences in postgraduate education. Three private and three public universities (Universitat Ramon Llull, Universitat Rovira i Virgili, Universidad Carlos III de Madrid, Universidad de Navarra, Universidad de Girona and Universidad Pontificia de Comillas) share the first position in Engineering and Architecture. In the Health branch, the most highly valued postgraduate training courses are given at Universitat Pompeu Fabra and Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona. Finally, in the branch of Social and Legal Sciences, Universitat Pompeu Fabra is in first position.

The 10th edition of this joint project between BBVA Foundation and the Ivie has recently updated its website to further assist students and counselors when choosing what to study. This task has become more difficult as the range of degrees offered has grown considerably, and one way to make it easier is by offering updated information on the quality of education and job placement. The U-Ranking website offers data on job placement of 1,900 degree programs and has improved the ‘Choose a University’ tool, which allows students to create personalized rankings of degree programs and universities from among the more than 3,500 official bachelor’s degree.


22 June 2022