The higher education system in Spain dates back to the Middle Ages. One of Spain's oldest and most reputable universities, The University of Salamanca, was founded in 1218 and attracts over 2,000 international students every year. But there is more to it than just pretty old buildings!
Since 1999, Spain together with other European nations has been involved in implementing the Bologna Process. This higher education strategy aims to make mobility in studying for students easier while maintaining the same level of quality across the higher education institutions in Europe.
Spain has both publicly and privately owned universities that are organized into schools (facultades). These schools are separated into different departments, each of which offers you the chance to enroll in a specific area of study (e.g. Business, Humanities, Sciences).
Currently, Spain has 45 public universities and 31 private universities, some of which are Catholic universities. The education system in Spain is regulated by the Ministerio de Educación (Ministry of Education) and Spanish universities offer both official and non-official degrees.
The official degrees are aligned with the Bologna ECTS system, which means that they are recognized across the EU and follow the standard three-cycle format drawn out by the Bologna Process. This is a great option if you’re looking to continue your studies elsewhere in Europe!
The undergraduate (grado) and postgraduate courses cover a variety of fields so you can pick the things you’d like to study! The teaching system is a balance between theory and practice so you won’t be just pouring over books the whole time. Double degrees or the option to combine two study tracks are also available. Moreover, you can always decide to be more flexible while studying. In Spain, you can combine your studies with work, enrolling as a part-time student.
In case you can’t get enough of the Iberian Air and consider making Spain your permanent home, a non-official degree can help you make it happen. It is an option available at all Spanish universities. The students are given non-official masters (Magister) and graduate (maestrias) degrees. These are specific to each university but they don’t give you access to Ph.D. courses and are usually not valid outside of Spain.
Keep in mind, non-official degrees are usually in specialized sectors, this means that they can be very useful if you wish to stay and work in Spain. Discover the types of programs offered in the Spanish higher education system to make the best choice for you!
Program Types in Spanish Higher Education
Bachelor’s – (Grado), four years, 240 ECTS
In Spain, bachelor’s studies last four years. After graduation, you will be awarded the professional title of grado. Obtaining your BA degree is the first step in your academic career and it aims to prepare you to either pursue a master’s program or look for employment. The ECTS (European Credit Transfer System) Spain uses is the standard for all universities in the European Higher Education Area (EHEA), which means after you pass a subject, in addition to the grade you get a certain amount of ECTS points.
To get your BA degree in Spain, you must earn 240 ECTS credits during your studies.
Master’s – (Posgrado), one to two years, 60–120 ECTS.
Master’s programs last 1 to 2 years in Spain. After graduation, you will gain the professional title of Master.
A master’s degree usually lets you focus on theoretical knowledge as well as the application and development of skills that will help you become a specialist in your field of study. Master's degrees in Spain tend to require a lot of research and individual work. Where better to develop your research and creativity skills than in Spain?
After getting your Master’s degree you are free to push forward and enter a doctoral program (third-cycle studies). To pursue your doctorate studies, you will often be required to provide proof of both your first and second cycle studies.
PhD – (Doctorado), three to five years, 60 ECTS.
Otherwise known as doctoral-level programs or PhDs, this degree normally lasts 3 to 5 years and it is accessible after graduating from a Master’s degree program. To get this degree you must submit and successfully defend a doctoral dissertation before a thesis committee and pass a doctoral examination. In Spain, only official courses offer access to a PhD program.
What about business studies? An MBA in Spain will provide you with all the in-demand skills of the contemporary business world and offer you unique career opportunities, as the Spanish economy is the 5th largest in Europe and among the top countries in exports and imports globally.
It is important to note that most courses at Spanish universities are held in Spanish and some can be taught in a regional language such as Catalan. That being said, in order to follow the course, most universities will require you to be able to understand, read and write Spanish at an advanced level. But no need to panic, you could take this chance to learn or brush up on your Spanish skills. Most of the language courses are offered by universities and as such, they can vary in length.
It would be good to mention that most of these courses require a fee, which varies from course to course. Since these classes prepare you for understanding your study material and the people around you, it’s money well spent!
And while there are some courses held in English, there are still only a few of them. However if you’re curious if a university offers a course in English, it’s always best to send them an email and ask, that way you’ll always have first-hand information.
A few universities such as the Marabella Academy offer courses in English as well as pathway courses designed to prepare you for studying in Spain.
The Spanish Academic Year
The academic calendar in Spanish universities is usually split in two semesters. The format tends to be similar throughout the country: you begin lectures in October and end in June. Examinations are held at the end of the first semester, in February, and at the end of the second semester, in June.
This should give you that extra boost of motivation. Because when you’re done with your exam season, you have the whole summer to bask in the sun!
Overview of Spain
Over 60,000 international students choose Spain as their study abroad destination every year. Click here to learn why.
Do you need a visa to enter Spain to study? Learn more about the student visa process, and what you need to enter the country, depending on if you're an EU national or not. Discover what you need to stay in Spain to study abroad!
Housing & Living Costs
No matter where you study abroad, it’s important to create a budget in advance so that you’re prepared. Therefore, we’ve detailed average living and housing costs so that you can get a better idea of what you would be paying as an international student in Spain.
Tuition Fees & Scholarships
Tuition fees for degree programs in Spain may vary, but are amongst the lowest in Europe. To cover the rest of the costs, there are plenty of scholarship opportunities available.
Language & Culture
Spain boasts a rich history and culture. Find out more about Spain's famous vibrancy!
All countries have specific admissions requirements for students to gain acceptance into a university. Learn more about the ins and outs of admission to programs in Spain, and what you need to apply, depending on your citizenship.