The university system in Spain is made up of 84 universities (50 public and 34 private), as well as 480 research institutes and 67 science and technology parks. As a member country of the European Higher Education Area (EHEA), all official degrees awarded by Spanish universities are recognised for academic and professional purposes in 53 countries worldwide, 45 of which are European.
Spanish universities work with academic quality levels with international accreditations and carry out leading activities in their teaching, research and knowledge transfer fields with international projection.
24 Spanish universities are listed, for specific disciplines, in the top 200 universities worldwide in three of the most used international rankings (last edition available from 2015): the Shanghai Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU), the QS World University Rankings (QS), and the National Taiwan University Ranking (NTU). These 24 universities include 17 that appear in the top 100 worldwide in certain disciplines and 8 that are listed in the top 50. In terms of scientific production, Spain holds the tenth position worldwide according to the Scimago Journal Rank (SJR, 2014 edition), for the number of scientific documents published.
Spain, member country of the European Union (EU) since 1986, covers 504,645 km² of land and has a population of 46,464,053 people (2014), making it the second largest country in Western Europe and fifth in terms of population. The territorial organisation of the State is made up of seventeen Autonomous Communities and two Autonomous Cities (Ceuta and Melilla), resulting in the corresponding distribution of political and administrative power among the central and autonomous authorities.
The Spanish culture is extremely diversified, illustrated by the variety of languages spoken in the country. The official language is Castilian Spanish. The Spanish language has been growing since the 16th century and it has not ceased to spread over time. Toward the end of the 19th century there were around 60 million speakers. One hundred years later, Spanish is now the world's second most spoken language in terms of the number of native speakers (around 470 million people), just behind Mandarin Chinese. It is currently the official language of some twenty countries worldwide and one of the three languages that tend to be considered official and apt for working purposes in many international bodies. In some Autonomous Communities there are other languages including Catalan, Valencian, Galician or Basque, which are also official in their respective Communities.
Spain is the third country worldwide with most places of natural or cultural heritage included on the UNESCO list: it has 44 places declared as Heritage of Humanity and 14 declared as Intangible Heritage. In 2014, more than 65 million tourists visited the country. Comparatively, the cost of living in Spain is less than in its neighbouring countries in Europe.