Spain's University System

Study in Spain

There are more than 70 universities throughout Spain, more that 50 are public and the rest, more than 20, are private universities.

They are distributed throughout the country but the biggest and most important cities have the highest number of universities, in Madrid, Barcelona and Valencia.

Madrid has the highest number of private universities. All Spanish universities welcome the admission of foreign students to a wide range of undergraduate and graduate programs.

Spain in the European Higher Education space

Since 1999, Spain has been immersed in a transformation of its higher education system, along with more than 30 European countries, with the aim of creating a European Higher Education Space (EHES). This process will culminate in 2010 and its objectives are:

  1. To harmonize degree systems through an academic qualification framework, the European Credit Transfer System (ECTS), a credit system for measuring academic achievement.
  2. To guarantee the standards and recognition of qualifications, in order to increase student mobility and facilitate the integration of graduates into the single European labor market.

Spain has implemented the legal measures for the adoption of the European credit and qualifications system, as well as the European qualification supplements. This facilitates the recognition of official Spanish qualifications in over 30 countries participating in the EHES project, as well as the official recognition of Spanish qualifications in other countries outside the European framework, such as the United States, Asia and Latin America.

The Spanish University System

University studies in Spain according to EHES are divided into three different stages, Grade degrees (undergraduate studies), University Master degrees (graduate studies) and Doctoral degrees (postgraduate studies).

Undergraduate studies, leading to Grade degrees, are taught in the following fields and sub-fields:
Arts and Humanities, Sciences, Health Sciences, Social Sciences and Law, Engineering and Architecture. These studies require a total of 240 credits, to earn a Grade degree, consisting normally of three to four academic year programs.
Graduate studies, leading to University Master degree:
These studies require 60 to 120 credits, to earn a University Master degree, consisting normally of one to two academic year programs, and the public defense of a thesis is required also, that will entail 6 to 30 credits.
Postgraduate studies, leading to a Doctoral degree.
Earning a Doctoral degree requires the previous possesion of a University Master degree. The postgraduate studies are divided into two cycles, one of study that requires 60 credits, and another of research. The public defense of a doctoral thesis, an original work of research in any field, is required. There is no time limit for doctoral programs, but they typically require three to four years of study and research.

This whole scheme of Spain's university system can be summarized in the following diagram:

Diagram of the Spanish University system

In addition to their official degrees, each University in Spain offers a wide range of unofficial Master degrees (Maestrias). The unofficial degrees are typically one or two years and usually require having attained an undergraduate or graduate degree and are widely recognized for their labor market value, as these qualifications are highly practical in scope and geared to specialized sectors of the different professions.

Universities in Spain cover the whole spectrum of higher education degrees offered in Spain, with the official recognition of its Ministry of Education, as well as a wide variety of non-official degrees in a large number of professional fields.

In the area of business administration, the MBAs offered in Spain are among the most prestigious in the world.

The academic calendar in Spanish universities

The academic calendar in Spanish universities tends to be similar throughout the country: lectures begin in October and the academic year ends in June.

Examinations are held at the end of the first semester, in February, and at the end of the second semester, in June. However, there are some variations between universities.

Teaching and evaluation methods

Teaching methodology includes lectures, seminars and practical work under the supervision of a tutor. Attendance, while not always obligatory for some tuition forms, is strongly recommended, as it constitutes a fundamental part of university education. Lectures last for 50-60 minutes and professors often use audiovisual materials as teaching aids.

Students are assessed through final examinations in February, in the case of one semester courses; or in June, in the case of courses that run throughout the academic year, or one semester courses run in the second semester. Students who do not pass examinations are able to re-sit in September.

In some cases, professors may choose to set various evaluative activities (exams, projects, etc.) throughout the year which, if successfully completed, can replace the final examination.

The university of Álcala de Henares

Admission of international students

In order to gain admission to an undergraduate program in a university in Spain, international students are required to obtain official recognition of their previous studies and pass the official Spanish university entrance exams (Selectividad), which are taken twice a year in many of the countries of origin of the students.

StudyinSpain provides guidance for those students willing to take the Selectividad examinations in their own country.

Once they have passed the university entrance exams, international students are eligible to study at any public or private Spanish university.

Most Spanish universities require students intending to begin an undergraduate program to apply to their faculties directly. Each university sets its own application and admission schedule. It is important to apply well in advance.

Free medical insurance

A student health insurance plan, covering accidents on campus, family emergencies and illness, is available to all international students under 28 years of age who are enrolled in a Spanish university.

Those who are over 28 years of age are protected by the national health system, which guarantees that foreign nationals legally resident in Spain have the right to benefit from Social Security services, which in Spain are very advanced and of high quality.

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