1. Higher education in Spain

1.1 Spanish higher education system

There are just over 70 universities in Spain of which around 50 are public and  20 are private institutions. Some private universities are affiliated with the Catholic Church. Large cities like Madrid, Barcelona and Valencia are home to the most universities. There are also many institutes of higher education offering more practical qualifications in art and design, for example.

The academic year is divided into semesters and tends to be similar throughout the country. It starts around the 1st October and finishes at the end of June.

1.2 Entry requirements for Spanish universities

General entrance requirements for Spanish universities can appear to be quite modest. For most subjects, two A levels are the minimum entry requirement or an IB Diploma with 24 points. Since 2018, BTECs are also recognised for some degrees.

However, these are minimum requirements. Many degrees will require a lot more than this. At all public universities (and some private) the entry requirement will be indicated by a score out of 14. For example, at the University of Valencia the lowest entry requirement is 5.0 (this is the pass mark in the Bachillerato)and the highest is 13.04 for medicine. If the entry requirement (nota de corte) is below 10, it is possible to achieve with A' levels. If it is above this level students will have to take the Selectividad (aka PAU). This will require sitting exams in Spanish (even for degrees taught in English) and studying some subjects that are not possible in the UK, such as Spanish history. In effect, this means that it is very difficult for British students to gain access to any degree with an entry requirement of higher than 10. Given that so few public universities in Spain teach many subjects in English, the most likely university to cause problems for British students in Universitat Pompeu Fabra in Barcelona where the Global Studies degree required 12.35 and the International Business Economics degree required 12.46 in 2018. You can check all Nota De Corte in Spain at the El Pais website. Please bear in mind that these can change from one year to the next.

Private universities do not have to use the Selectividad and are able to select students according to their own criteria. These will vary tremendously from subject to subject and sometimes between universities as well.

1.3 Application process for Spanish universities

If you are considering studying at a public university, keep in mind to do this well in advance as the demand is huge. Moreover every faculty sets its own set of rules; hence you have to apply directly at each faculty of your choice. Usually deadlines are the following:

  • First week of June - for studies beginning in October
  • First week of September - for late applications beginning in October
  • First week of December - for studies beginning in February

Many private universities offer rolling admissions throughout the academic year. For degrees in dentistry, most open admissions in January for the following September although one or two are available earlier.

As part of the application process all students educated in EU systems (including A level and IB students globally) have to obtain the Credencial from UNED. This is a statement confirming that your high school diploma gives you the right to be a student in your home country and therefore also in Spain. For British students this means that you need to have three A' levels. For the IB you need the full diploma. Scottish Highers are also well understood. You might want to consider an agent to obtain the Credencial for you, particularly if you do not speak Spanish. We have worked with Homologation Student Services in Madrid for a number of years. Alternatively, this guide from UCAM is quite helpful when it comes to understanding the process. We cannot guarantee its accuracy for students at other universities.

1.4 Accreditation and Recognition


In Spain, the National Agency for Quality Assessment and Accreditation (Agencia Nacional de la Evaluacion de la Calidad y Acreditacion), or ANECA, is mainly responsible for the quality of the Spanish high education system. This means universities have autonomy to decide the orientation and curriculum of their degrees, but they must meet the requirements set out by the ANECA in order to be accredited and included in the Registry of Universities, Centres and Degrees (RUCT). Some of the autonomous regions have their own Quality Assurance agencies.

However, the competencies of Quality Assurance bodies largely depend on their membership in the European Quality Assurance Register (EQAR). ANECA and five of the regional agencies are members of the EQAR. These are:

  • AQU-Catalunya in Catalonia
  • ACSUG in Galicia
  • ACSUCYL in Castilla y Leon
  • ACC-DEVA in Andalusia
  • UNIBASQ for the Basque Country

These agencies have the competency to give initial accreditation for new courses as well as re-accreditation for existing courses.

Furthermore, since 2011, the Spanish Qualifications Framework for Higher Education has been introduced to set out criteria and standards for quality assurance practice. This means although Spain has a decentralised higher education system, the quality of Spanish education is assessed within rigorous procedures.


The Ministry of Education, Culture and Sport (MECD) issues all degrees in Spain.

The alignment of the Spanish Qualifications Framework for Higher Education with the Framework for Qualifications of the European Higher Education Area (FQ-EHEA) and the European Qualifications Framework means that Spanish Master’s degrees are recognised around Europe.

2. How much does it cost to study in Spain?

2.1 Tuition fees for Spanish universities

Public universities in Spain do charge registration and tuition fees. The costs are relatively low in comparison with other countries. However the prices vary according to institution and are charged per credit. The fee can be €9.50 - €16.00 per credit. Summed up this can be around €1,000 per year.

If you decide to study at a private university, you should expect annual prices of around €6,000 but some are much more expensive. You can study dentistry in Spain for around €17,600 in Madrid.

2.2 Cost of living in Spain

This is an example of a student’s monthly budge in Spain:

Accommodation €360 - €500
Food €250
Electricity, Gas, Water, Internet Bills: €150
Transport: €40
Social/Other Activities: €50
Total €850 - €990 (£750-850)

(Calculated based on figures from the Numbeo crowdsourced database)

3. Student life in Spain

3.1 How do I get a visa to study in Spain?

As Spain is part of the EU, no visa is necessary for UK and EU passport-holders. However, all EU citizens residing in Spain for a period exceeding three months must apply for registration in the Central Registry of Foreigners. This registration leads to a “Certificado de Registro de Ciudadano de la Union” with a NIE number (Foreign Identity Number). You will need this number for:

  • Opening a bank account
  • Paying taxes
  • Being paid for employment
  • Applying for a business permit and starting a business
  • Registering with social services and arranging receipt of social security benefits
  • Applying for a driver's licence

3.2 Accommodation offers single or double rooms in shared apartments exclusively for students in Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia, Granada and Seville.

DFLAT Housing & Accommodation Services for students in Madrid.

There are a growing number of private halls of residence in Spain and while these can be expensive, they do also relieve the pressure on finding a room in the major student cities.

3.3 Opening a Bank Account in Spain

You will be able to open a bank account once you have got a NIE number.


Can I work there as a student?

If you have an EU passport, you can work in Spain next to your studies.

Universities in Spain

About A Star Future

A Star Future provides information and guidance to British students looking to pursue their undergraduate studies abroad.

Through our presentations in schools and our websites we aim to ensure that British-educated students are well informed about their choices.