Study in Spain. Everything you need to know
The Spanish higher education system is well positioned internationally and generally ranks high in the world education ranking.
Top Universities in Spain
The Spanish tradition of university education dates back to the Middle Ages - the University of Salamanca, founded in 1218, is one of the oldest universities in the world, but it also has some of the fastest-growing universities in the world. The University of Pompeu-Fabra in Barcelona is the highest-ranked university in Spain in the 2018 Higher Education list, at number 140. It is also at number 12 on the Times World University List, less than 50 years old. Overall, there are five top 400 universities in Spain: University of Pompeu Fabra (Barcelona), Autonomous University of Barcelona, University of Barcelona, University of Navarra, and the Autonomous University of Madrid.
Higher education in Spain
There are about 1.6 million university students in Spain and just over 3% of those studying in Spain are international students. According to the Ministry of Education, in 2016/17, the overwhelming majority of students from abroad were from Latin and South America (59.6%), followed by students from the EU (19.2%), Asia / Oceania (11, 7%) and other countries. Non-EU Europe (3.7%), North America (3%), and Africa (2.8%).
Most of the courses at Spanish universities are taught in Spanish, and some courses are taught in a regional language such as Catalan. But more and more undergraduate and postgraduate courses are taught in English. You can find detailed information on the English-speaking majors that you can study in Spain on the online study portal.
Most Spanish universities divide the academic year into two semesters: the first usually runs from mid-September / early October to the end of December; the second runs from late January / early February to late May. Some universities have trimesters.
Types of universities in Spain
There are 76 Spanish universities: most of the top universities are located in Madrid and Barcelona. There are also prestigious business schools and other specialized institutions.
The largest university in Spain is the National University of Distance Education (UNED), a distance learning and research university with over 260,000 students run by the central government. UNED brings together traditional onsite and distance learning programs.
The types of university institutions in Spain can be grouped into four types:
- university schools offering shorter courses, such as undergraduate preparation;
- university colleges;
- faculties offering longer courses in all academic disciplines (excluding technical courses);
- higher technical schools of engineering and architecture;
The Spanish university system is rigidly structured and in some cases, students have to choose a fixed curriculum and may not be allowed to change universities during their studies (except in exceptional situations).
International universities in Spain
There are several international universities and institutions - usually business schools - that offer higher education in Spain, usually in English or bilingual education.
International Education offers a degree and credit structure that is widely accepted in higher education institutions around the world. These institutions offer a wide variety of faculties, admit students from all over the world, and are generally accredited by international organizations.
Besides Spanish universities, there are several American and European universities in Spain.
Qualification in Spain
Spanish universities offer both formal and informal degrees. Official degrees correspond to the Bologna ECTS (European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System) and are recognized in all countries within the European Higher Education Area (EHEA). There is such a thing as the European accumulation of points, 1 year of study is estimated at 60 ECTS-points, which is about 1500-1800 academic hours.
- Bachelor, four years, 240 ECTS.
- Master, from one to two years, 60-120 ECTS.
- Doctorate - Doctor of Philosophy, three to five years, 60 ECTS.
According to ECTS, one credit corresponds to the student workload required to successfully complete course modules, and these credits can be accumulated and transferred.
All Spanish universities also award unofficial Master's degrees specific to each university. They are awarded by individual universities, do not give access to Ph.D. courses, and are generally not recognized outside of Spain. However, they are often associated with specialized sectors and therefore can be very useful for getting a job in Spain.
Exchange programs, grants, and scholarships in Spain
Spain has fewer scholarship opportunities than other European countries. It's subscribed to the Erasmus + program, an EU initiative that allows students from the EU and around the world to study in other countries. American students can study in Spain on a grant under the Fulbright US Student program. You can find information on scholarships to study in Spain on the website of the Spanish Ministry of Education, as well as in the section on scholarships and funding on the websites of individual universities.
Admission to a Spanish university
You must apply directly to each university because there is no centralized system in Spain and each university sets its own admission requirements and application deadlines. However, you may need to prove your qualifications first. The competition can be fierce, as the number of available seats is limited and there are a lot of applications. Most universities reserve about 5% of places for international students. Please visit each university's website for the application procedures or try to contact the student secretariat.
Foreign qualifications and accreditation to study in Spain
To pursue higher education in Spain, local Spanish students must achieve a certain high school performance level and pass an entrance exam.
If you are from the EU / EEA / Switzerland or another country that has an agreement with Spain, then you are usually eligible to enroll in a Spanish university if you have an equivalent valid school-leaving certificate/university entrance qualification from your home country. You may be asked to prove your qualifications with the National University of Distance Education (UNED).
If you are located outside the EU / EEA / Switzerland and wish to study in Spain, you may be asked to apply for official accreditation (homologación) or partial recognition (convalidación) of your qualifications. To prove your qualifications, you will need to be certified and translated copies of your qualifications, course details, and proof of identity. For more information on the official recognition of foreign qualifications, see the Ministry of Education.
Until 2014, many international undergraduates had to take an entrance exam known as Selectividad, which is a pre-university access test, but it has now been canceled for non-Hispanic students.
Tuition fees in Spain
EU students pay the same fees as Spanish students. Currently, the cost of studying for a bachelor's degree at a public university in Spain ranges from 450-2000 euros per year. Tuition fees for master's and doctoral studies are calculated for each loan (one loan = 25-30 hours of student work), and costs range from 900 to 3000 euros per year. If you come from outside the EU, you will of course pay more. Public universities set their own fees for informal degrees.
Private universities set their own fees. The cost of enrolling in an undergraduate, graduate, or doctoral program can range from 5,000 to 18,000 euros, depending on the course and institution.
Contact individual universities for specific fees.
You can get acquainted with all universities in Spain and choose the one that suits you here.
Language skills for studying in Spain
You need to have a good knowledge of Spanish in an undergraduate course or a regional language (eg Catalan, Regional language of Catalonia).
Most universities offer preparatory summer, intensive or extensive Spanish courses alongside your course - or you can take classes at a private school. Diplomas in both Spanish and a foreign language are official, internationally recognized qualifications. See the list of language schools in Spain.
Student accommodation in Spain
Some universities have their own dorms and student apartments, but space is limited. On the university website, you can find information on residencies at and outside universities, as well as a residence with Spanish families.
Rentals for private residences vary from city to city. For example, for a shared room in an apartment, you need to pay about 350-600 euros per month in Madrid or about 300 euros per month in Seville or Valencia. Nuroa is a search engine for housing throughout Spain, you can use this service.
The cost of living in Spain also varies between cities and regions, with Madrid and Barcelona being the most expensive. A budget of 350 to 1000 euros per month for all expenses will be sufficient.
Visas for university studies in Spain
If you are coming from the EU / EEA / Switzerland to study in Spain, you do not need a visa to study at a Spanish university, but you do need to register with the Central Office for Foreigners. Please bring your passport / ID and proof of university enrollment in order to receive a certificate confirming that you are eligible to study in Spain. Read more in the Expatica Guide for EU / EEA / Switzerland Citizens Moving to Spain.
If you are outside the EU / EEA / Switzerland, you need to apply for a student visa at the Spanish embassy or consulate in your country, but only after you have been accepted for a course at a Spanish university. You will also need proof of health insurance and sufficient funds to support yourself while studying in Spain. You will need to apply for the Autorización de Estancia por Estudios within 30 days of your arrival in Spain. This gives you the right to temporary residence. It can be updated every year if you are doing well with your course. For more information see Expatica's Guide to Spanish Student Visas and Permits.
Working while studying in Spain
Students can work either for hire or independently, as long as the work does not interfere with their studies. In practice, this means that the job can be part-time during the semester and up to three months of full-time employment on holidays. If you are outside the EU / EEA / Switzerland, you will need a work permit in Spanish to do this (unless the work is an internship in your course).
Prepared by: Alina Shvetsova shvetsova_alina@tempting.