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Overseas university spotlight: IE University - Madrid (Spain)

IE University in Spain is one of the most unique universities I've ever visited.


This is not only for the fact that it offers the possibility of studying at two campuses with very contrasting experiences -- one in the bustling city of Madrid and the other in the small, historic town of Segovia -- but also because of its diverse student population, with 80 percent international students.


In fact, there are more than 45 languages spoken on campus and no single nationality that represents more than 25 percent of the student body.


Thirty-nine percent of students from from Europe (excluding Spain), 20 percent are Latin American, 19 percent are Spanish, nine percent are American and five percent are from the Asia-Pacific region.


In this post, we'll take a look at the Madrid campus (the Tower), which is a brand new, tech-based urban campus located in the heart of the city’s financial district.


With 35 floors, it's the fifth tallest tower in Madrid and the seventh in Spain -- fully carbon neutral, because sustainability is a university objective, not a value.


Here are some of the highlights from my visit in February 2024!


The Tower at IE

City of Madrid


Nestled in the heart of Spain, Madrid welcomes visitors with its vibrant streets, rich history and dynamic cultural scene.


As the capital city, Madrid is a melting pot of tradition and modernity, where centuries-old landmarks stand tall alongside contemporary art galleries and trendy cafes.


Aerial view of sprawling Madrid
Aerial view of sprawling Madrid

It's also where many demonstrations take place, such as farmers protesting EU policies below.


Protesters claim that policies dictated by the European Union aimed at protecting the environment make their produce uncompetitive in comparison to imports outside of the EU.
They claim that EU policies aimed at protecting the environment make their produce uncompetitive in comparison to imports outside of the EU

With 3.4 million people, Madrid is one of Europe's most populous cities.


It's full of galleries, museums, cultural performances and more.


Plaza de Colón
Plaza de Colón
Fernán Gómez Centro Cultural de la Villa
Fernán Gómez Centro Cultural de la Villa

It's also considered Europe's sunniest capital city, despite my photos during winter!


Plaza de Colón

Yes, it's true that Spaniards don't eat dinner until 9 or 10 p.m., but with the longest life expectancy in Europe, perhaps there's something to the Spanish way of life.


Street art

As the centre of international business for Spain, Madrid does have a faster pace to it than its rival, Barcelona.


Plaza del Callao
Plaza del Callao

But because it's located physically in the centre of Spain, it makes it super easy to visit all the other amazing destinations in the country for weekend trips or longer stays.


Green space
Green space

Campus and academics


The 180-meter tower provides more than 50,000 square meters of dynamic, multi-use space.


Thus, the 6,000 IE students studying here also share some of the facilities with international companies, making for some excellent networking opportunities.


Exterior of IE
The Tower at IE

The first thing you'll notice when you walk into the reception area is a buzzing atmosphere with students who are excited to come to campus, and they were noticeably dressed to impress -- or as the saying goes, dressed for the job they want, not the job they have.


The Tower reception
The Tower reception

After scanning in through its high-tech security system, multiple elevators then take you to the relevant floor.


Security entrance
Security entrance
View from the Tower

The building, which was opened in 2021 by the King of Spain, has 64 versatile classrooms all featuring natural light, intelligent climate and lighting control and state-of-the-art technology.


Natural light outside the classrooms
Natural light outside the classrooms

The max class size at IE is 65 students, which helps facilitate the learning methodology of discussions, debates, skills, group projects, case studies, challenges, practicums and partnerships.


Taster storytelling session with IE academic
Taster storytelling session with IE academic

Throughout the building, there are tons of options for places to eat or get a coffee.


Student cafeteria
Student cafeteria
Student cafeteria
Microwaves
Food options

But don't expect to be studying in a concrete jungle; the Tower also uniquely comes with 7,000 square meters of green space.


Green space

In terms of academics, IE has to be one of the first universities you'd consider if wanting to study business in Spain -- and especially in Madrid, where 43 percent of Spanish startups are founded.


In fact, approximately five percent of all IE students graduate with their own company.


This number is quite high, given business is not the only discipline.


Common area
Common area

With the launch of the School of Humanities recently, there are now six schools at IE, offering a total of 22 bachelor programs (4 or 5 years) and 66 master's.


In the new humanities degree, there is a huge emphasis on ethics and how to implement technology into the corporate world with an ethical and human being approach.


Students can also study degrees in applied mathematics (new in 2023), architecture, communications, computer science, data analytics, design, economics, environmental sciences, international relations, law and PPLE (philosophy, politics, law and economics).


The new fashion design degree launching in 2024 is focused on manufacturing, producing, operations and sustainability.


IE also offers 5-year double degrees for students wanting an even stronger employability profile.


Student gallery
Student gallery
Lounge area
Lounge area

Nevertheless, although each degree has its own floor, students don't study in a vacuum; on the contrary, they are required to work with and connect with those from other disciplines.


For example, all IE students take participate in the IE Impact program, which equips them with skills to address some of the world’s most complex challenges.


View from top floor

IE is ranked #1 for net zero teaching (Financial Times MBA Ranking, 2023), and within the IE Impact program, students take courses in the Humanities, Technology and Entrepreneurship, centering on Diversity and Sustainability.


The program culminates with the IE Challenge, where they will work in teams as Innovation Consultants for participating enterprises.


In this challenge, they consult with and brief their clients, receive ongoing mentoring and support and pitch them proposals to amplify or scale their sustainability-driven missions.


Outside the Tower

Although every degree is taught completely in English, students do have to graduate with a B1 level of Spanish.


And it's worth knowing that some programs can be studied fully in Madrid, some fully in Segovia and some with two years at each campus -- which is an incredibly unique opportunity.


View from the Tower
View from the Tower

At IE, the faculty are all working professionals, and this means they share what happened in their workplaces with the class, for example, often asking advice from students as to how they would handle certain situations.


Like the diverse student population, the professors are also international: 44 nationalities from 88 women, 123 men and 1,700 adjunct members.


IE Marketing Day
Event space for guest speakers
Event space for guest speakers

Worldwide, IE has 75,000 alumni, and career preparation is embedded in IE university degrees, which are practical and focused.


All students have to participate in an exchange program or internship in their third year, and students are also required to have contact with a career advisor from as early as Year 1.


Rooftop terrace for professors
Rooftop terrace for professors

There are also IE Labs, which are mini 3-month internships available in the first two years of the degree.


In addition, the outside activities on offer are outstanding, such as the amazing guest speakers of Colombia's ex-President, the CEO of Netflix and Sam Alman (the CEO of OpenAI).


Design space and student hang-out
Design space and student hang-out

Like the career services, IE's general student services is robust; students are super well looked after.


Prior to the pandemic in 2019, IE actually started requiring students to have contact with the well-being center and take well-being courses as part of their degrees.


Recurring optional events include Happiness Week, monthly well-being themes, volunteer activities, healthy habits challenges and weekly mindfulness practice with a Peace Coach.


IE Athletic Center

Recognizing that student life isn't just about academics, there is a huge athletic center on the lower level with a pool and lots of courts, too.


Athletic courts
IE pool at the Tower
IE is inclusive and welcoming
IE is inclusive and welcoming

IE University Admissions


IE's student body is split equally across men and women, and in terms of total numbers, IE welcomed 2,200 new students in 2023 after receiving 30,000 applications.


It takes a holistic approach to reviewing applications and has rolling admissions, so students are best to apply early.


Outside the Tower

The process is more involved than at other universities, and some sort of admissions test is required -- either the SAT or ACT, or IE's own admissions test.


The next step is the Kira online assessment, which analyzes the student's reasoning aptitude.


From there, the last piece is an online interview.


Once the student has completed all these steps, the turnaround time is quick; students can expect an answer within 15 working days.


They then have a couple weeks to pay their deposit and reserve their place, otherwise it may be given to those on a waiting list.


Side view of the Tower
Side view of the Tower

As a testament to IE's global focus, it has four hubs in North America to help students with any questions or issues during the application process.


But a great way to see if IE is right for you -- apart from visiting campus (or reading this blog!) -- is participating in the 2-week summer program it hosts for high school students in June and July in Madrid and Segovia.


Summary: IE University - Madrid


IE University Madrid is one of those places you just have to see for yourself, particularly if you enjoy sustainable architecture.


If I were a student here, I would be excited by the fact that walking into the Tower almost feels like going to work every day -- and that there is always the possibility of bumping into the CEO of your future employer in its elevators.


The option of spending two years in the gorgeous town of Segovia as part of the degree is incredible, too.


IE is the real deal in terms of preparing graduates equipped to meet the world's latest challenges.


Students are not only highly employable in the Spanish job market -- but they are also a dominant force around the world.


The Tower at IE

 

Interested in applying for college or grad school in Spain?


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G'day! My name is Sara, and I'm the founder of College Apps Abroad and a Certified Educational Planner (CEP), one of only 40 CEP's in California and 300 worldwide. I have more than 10 years of experience working in international recruitment and admissions, and I've studied and lived overseas myself in the UK, Ireland, Australia and Brazil for almost a decade. I've also worked for some of the world's top institutions, including The University of Edinburgh, the University of New South Wales (UNSW) and The University of Western Australia (UWA)!

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