- Spain is the most popular destination for students on Erasmus+ exchange programs, according to data collected by the European Commission
- A large number of courses are taught in English, both at an undergraduate and postgraduate level, so you don't have to be completely fluent in Spanish to study in Spain.
- The universities in Spain are world-renowned and have a long history - the oldest university having been founded in 1218!
Spain's education system
Like the UK, Spain's academic year begins in October, ends in June and is split into three terms - divided by holidays over Christmas and at the end of March. Exams usually take place in February and June . The types of degrees you can study are also reminiscent of the UK:
Undergraduate studies: Bachelors degree
- Lasts three or fours years
- Can be in any area including: Arts & humanities, science, health sciences, social sciences, law, engineering and architecture
Graduate studies: Masters degree
- Usually takes one or two years
- Involves the public defence of a thesis
Postgraduate studies: Doctoral degree
- Takes three or four years
- Requires you to previously have gained a Masters degree
- Is split into two cycles:
- Study requiring 60 credits of work
- Original research and defence of a doctoral thesis
For each degree you need to gain a number of credits, which you earn by taking modules or classes - however there are different types:
- Major Classes: Relate directly to the content of the degree and are common to that degree in any university
- Compulsory Classes: Classes which the university requires you to take as part of that degree, they are not necessarily taught in other universities
- Elective Classes: Classes that students can choose which ones they want to take so they can specialise in a specific field
- Free Configuration Credits: Make up about 10% of the degree, consists of classes of interest and academic activities that might not be related to the student's degree
Teaching methods in Spanish universities consist mainly of lectures (around 50 - 60 minutes in length) audiovisual materials and seminars. Depending on the course, some may even offer practical work under the supervision of a tutor. While lecture attendance in Spain isn't compulsory, it's strongly recommended.
Classes are assessed through exams in February and June, and any necessary resits are available to take in September. However not all modules are marked through written exams - some will set projects or other evaluative activities throughout the year which contribute to the final mark.
How much will it cost?
In Spain, most public universities are a lot cheaper than the UK, however, the difference in fees by public and private universities is huge.
An undergraduate degree at a public university will cost between €680 and €1,280 (£508- £956) per year.
Whereas, an undergraduate degree at a private university will cost you between €5,335 - €18,000 (£4,109- £13,447) per year.
How much you have to spend each month on food, accommodation, and all your other living expenses is going to depend greatly on where you live. While a lot of Spain is fairly cheap, you'll find the major cities like Madrid and Barcelona can be quite expensive. Here's an idea of what you might expect to be spending every month:
- Accommodation: €300- €850 (£224- £635)
- Food: €200 - €350 (£149- £261)
- Electricity, Gas, Water, Internet Bills: €100- €160 (£75 - £120)
- Transport: €30- €60 (£22- £45)
- Social/Other Activities: €100 (£75)
The currency in Spain is the Euro, depicted by €. The current exchange rate is €1 : £0.74
Exchange rates can change quickly and, while this value is correct at the time of writing, it's worth checking again before you travel.
While grants and scholarships are available in Spain for both home and international students, they are very difficult to get. Only 1 in 7 students receive a grant as there are very few available.
If you're enrolled in a Spanish university, you are able to apply for either a general grant or a mobility grant - which is offered by the Ministry for Education. There may also be grants or other financial support available for international students from your own country. Alternatively, some universities may offer enrollment grants for students studying certain subjects, particularly for postgraduate students wanting to conduct original research.
Working while you study
Getting a job while you work can be great way to help fund your studies, however getting a job in Spain as a student can be really difficult and so shouldn't be relied upon to help finance your degree. It will, of course, be easier for you if you can speak Spanish - or Catalan in Barcelona - but this still doesn't mean you'll be guaranteed to find a job.
Living in Spain
Spanish culture can be very different to living in the UK, but the universities try to make things as easy as possible for their international students. One way by which they do this is to offer certain courses where the first few terms are taught in English and then the rest in Spanish; this allows you time to adjust to being in Spain and develop your language skills before being thrown into 100% Spanish lectures.
You'll also find that knowing Spanish is useful for every day life, however if you're living in Catalonia - for example in Barcelona - it'll be beneficial to speak Catalan as well. Often if you take the time to learn to speak Catalan, you'll find local people become even more friendly and welcoming.
Spanish universities themselves are rarely open at weekends and don't often offer many extra-curricular, sports or social activities. So if you want to get to know people and make friends your best bet is to just jump right in there and get to know the people on your course or those you might be living with.
A big part of socialising is associated with Spain's vibrant night life. The legal drinking age is 18 so going out to clubs and bars with groups of friends is common among university students.
However, even going out in Spain will be a very different experience to the UK - going out at 1:30am and not coming home until 5 or 6 in the morning is not uncommon.
It's not just going out in the evening that happens at different times to the UK, having different meal times might take some getting used to too. You'll still have breakfast in the morning but lunch will be later, around 2 - 3pm, and is normally the biggest meal of the day. Expect around 2 courses, maybe even a dessert! Due to this, lunch normally lasts around 1.5 to 2 hours.
Dinner is a lot later in the evening as well; it'll be a much smaller meal but you can expect to be eating around 9pm or 10pm - why people often don't go out until after midnight.
This new routine might take a while to get used to, and you might find yourself very tired at first, but you're sure to find yourself appreciating a quick afternoon nap.
Where to study?
Spain had 75 universities you can choose to study at; 50 are public and 25 are private. The largest are Complutense in Madrid with 83,000 students and the University of Barcelona, with 63,000, which, at 166th place, is also one of the two Spanish universities to be featured in the top 200 of the QS World University Rankings 2014. The other is Universitat Autónoma de Barcelona at 173rd. A complete list of Spanish universities is featured below with their world rankings, where appropriate, in brackets:
- Alfonso X University
- Antonio de Nebija University
- Camilo Jose University
- Catholic University of Avila
- CEU Aba Oliva University
- CEU San Pablo University
- Comillas Pontifical University
- ESADE Business School
- European University of Madrid
- Francisco de Vitoria University
- IE University
- International Universty of Catalonia
- International University of Andalusia
- International University of La Rioja
- Isabella I of Castile International University
- James I University
- Loyola University Andalusia
- Menedez Pelavo International University
- Miguel de Cervantes European University
- Miguel Hernandes University of Elche
- National University of Distance Education
- Open University of Catalonia
- Pablo de Olavide University
- Politecnica de Madrid (385)
- Polytechnic University of Catalonia
- Pontifical University of Salamanca
- Ramon Llull University
- Rey Juan Carlos University
- Rovira Virgili University
- Saint Damasus Ecclesiastical University
- San Jorge University
- Technical University of Madrid
- Universidad Autónoma de Madrid (178)
- Universidad Carlos Ill de Madrid (355)
- Universidad Catolica San Antonio de Murcia
- Universidad CEU Cardenal Herrera
- Universidad de Alcala
- Universidad de Alicante
- Universidad de Sevilla
- Universidad de Zaragoza
- Universidad Politecnica de Cartagene
- Universitat de Valencia
- Universitat Politecnica de Catalunya (337)
- Universitat Pompeu Fabra (298)
- Universits Politecnicade Valencia
- University Complutense Madrid (212)
- University of A Coruna
- University of Almeria
- University of Balearic Islands
- University of Barcelona (166)
- University of Burgos
- University of Cadiz
- University of Cantabria
- University of Castill-La Mancha
- University of Cordoba
- University of Extremadura
- University of Girona
- University of Granada
- University of Huelva
- University of Jaen
- University of La Laguna
- University of La Roija
- University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria
- University of Leon
- University of Lleida
- University of Malaga
- University of Mondragon
- University of Murcia
- University of Navarra (254)
- University of Oviedo
- University of Salamanca
- University of Santiago de Compostela
- University of Seville
- University of the Basque Country
- University of the Deusto
- University of the Valladolid
- University of Vic
- University of Vigo
- Valencian International University
- Valencia Catholic University Saint Vincent Martyr
- Universitat Autónoma de Barcelona (173)
More from TSR
General external links
Tuition fees and funding
- International study forums
- How to apply to university in Spain
- Student Visas and what you need
- Accommodation for students in Spain