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Spain might bring to mind sunny skies and sandy beaches, but did you know that it’s also home to number of well-respected higher education institutions and some of the lowest tuition fees in Europe?

Thousands of foreign students study in Spain every year and it’s not hard to see why.

Its Mediterranean climate is just one benefit to studying in the country. Others include its long history of educational excellence – Spain’s oldest university, Universidad de Salamanca dates back to 1218.

When it comes to the study location, you’ll have plenty of choice as the country boasts a variety of universities. Popular student cities include Barcelona, Granada, Madrid, Seville and Valencia. While Spain has a rich history and culture of its own for you to explore, you’ll also be well connected to other favoured destinations such as London and Paris.

While studying in Spain, you’ll be able to brush up on the world’s second most spoken language, as well as make lots of international connections.

Use your study-free hours to explore some of Spain’s most famous attractions such as the Alhambra in Granada, the Basilica de la Sagrada Familia and La Rambla in Barcelona, the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, the Plaza Mayor in Madrid, and Seville Cathedral and the Real Alcazar de Seville. You’ll be able to enjoy siestas and tapas and plan getaways to wonderful mountain ranges, beaches and quaint villages that really epitomise old Spain.

Spanish universities

In 2007, Spain overhauled its higher education system to comply with the Bologna Process, ensuring its qualifications are directly comparable with those gained in other European Higher Education Area (EHEA) countries.

There are two types of higher education institution (or universidades) in Spain: public and private.

Of the 75 Spanish universities, 50 are state-funded, with 25 privately owned or run by the Catholic Church.

A total of 27 Spanish universities feature in the QS World University Rankings 2020. The top ten include:

  • Universitat de Barcelona (165)
  • Universitat Autónona de Barcelona (188)
  • Universidad Autónoma de Madrid (192)
  • Complutense University of Madrid (212)
  • University of Navarra (245)
  • Universitat Pompeu Fabra (285)
  • Universidad Carlos III de Madrid (298)
  • Uiversitat Politècnica de Catalunya (300)
  • IE University (335)
  • Universitat Politècnica de Valencia (336).

The largest proportion of leading Spanish institutions can be found in the capital city Madrid, followed by popular tourist spot Barcelona.

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Degree courses in Spain

Undergraduate courses, otherwise known as Bachelors degrees or ‘grado’ in Spanish, are available in a range of subjects and are provided by most institutions.

Popular courses in Spain include:

  • arts and humanities subjects
  • finance
  • hospitality management
  • law
  • marketing
  • science.

For entry onto a course you’ll usually need a secondary education leaving certificate. Some universities may also require you to sit and pass an entrance exam. The majority of courses are taught in Spanish so you’ll need to prove your proficiency. Basic English proficiency is also required by the majority of institutions, so if English is not your first language you may need to prove your ability.

To successfully complete a Bachelors degree, students must earn a total of 240 ECTS credits over four years of study. This consists of basic training, obligatory and optional subjects, external and cultural placements and activities, and a final course dissertation.

Competition for undergraduate places is high, as more students wish to study in Spain than there are places available. European Union (EU) nationals are entitled to compete for places at Spanish universities on equal terms.

Masters degrees

A Masters prepares students for academic, research or professional work. These qualifications are usually spread across one or two years. Postgraduate courses are available in a range of subjects and you must hold a Bachelors degree or equivalent for entry.

An increasing number of postgraduate programmes are taught in English. If English isn’t your first language, but you’d like to study one of these courses, you’ll need to prove your ability.

Academic years are split into two semesters. Lectures for Masters courses usually begin in early October, with classes often continuing during the undergraduate exam period in January. The second semester typically starts in early February and concludes in June.


The duration of a full-time Spanish Doctoral degree is three years (maximum), with part-time study taking five years. Most PhDs are split into two stages: advanced research training and a thesis.

As with Doctoral degrees in other European countries, your research will be supervised by at least one tutor who will provide mentoring and support.

For admission onto PhD courses, you’ll need to hold both a Bachelors and Masters degree in a relevant subject.

Student exchanges

Students attending UK universities can take part in the European Union’s (EU) study, work, volunteer, train and teach abroad programme Erasmus+ (confirmed for the 2020/21 academic year). The scheme provides students with opportunities to study in Spain for between three months and one academic year, as part of their degree – although this will depend on your university having formal arrangements with a Spanish counterpart.

Financial support is available through Erasmus+ grants, which are provided by the European Commission (EC). These are designed to cover the additional costs that you may incur from studying abroad. Tuition fee contributions are also available to students studying abroad for a full academic year.

Course fees

Spanish course fees are among the lowest in Europe, with costs the same for EU students as they are for Spanish students. If you come from a non-EU country, your course fees will likely be marginally higher.

Fees are charged per credit, rather than per semester or academic year. The amount that you pay depends on where and what you study.

At public universities, fees for a Bachelors course are set by the government and can vary from €680 (£610) to €1,280 (£1,150) per academic year. Annual course costs at private universities are typically more expensive. For exact fees contact your chosen institution.

Similarly, fees for postgraduate degrees at both public and private universities are regulated by the government. The amount of credits you undertake is based on what course you study and which university you attend. For example, a Masters course will be worth 60 to 120 credits per year, with each credit costing between €22 (£19) and €36 (£32) each, meaning that the cost of a Spanish Masters averages between €1,320 (£1,185) and €4,320 (£3,881).

Students should expect to pay €900 (£808) to €1,100 (£988) a month for living expenses, depending on location and accommodation type. Madrid and Barcelona are the most expensive cities.

Funding to study in Spain

Student loans are not available to international students in Spain, but grants and scholarships are awarded by the government, charitable organisations and individual institutions.

The amount of financial assistance you’re entitled to will depend on your circumstances, but bear in mind that competition for funding is intense.

Student visas

If you’re an EU or Swiss student you do not need a visa to study in Spain. However, you will need to register with local Spanish authorities and obtain a residence certificate.

Those students coming to study in Spain from outside the EU must obtain a visa if they wish to stay longer than three months. You can apply for a visa at the Spanish consulate in your country of origin.

Exact visa requirements will vary but on the whole you’ll need to have been accepted on to a course at a Spanish university, hold valid health insurance and have sufficient funds to support yourself. You may also need to provide a medical certificate.

How to apply

If you’re an EU student looking to study a Bachelors degree, you’ll need to apply for the ‘Credencial de Acceso’, which is issued by Spain’s official body Universidad Nacional de Educación a Distancia (UNED). Non-EU students without a European Baccalaureate (EB) or International Baccalaureate (IB) will need to register with UNED to take the entrance exam (‘Prueba de Acceso a la Universidad’ or PAU).

Students wanting to study for a postgraduate degree in Spain should apply directly to the institution they wish to attend. Applications are typically made online and you will need:

  • a copy of your passport or ID
  • passport-sized photographs
  • a Statement of Purpose (roughly 500 words on why you want to study at a particular university)
  • Bachelors certificate
  • Bachelors transcripts
  • proof of English proficiency.

Your application documents may need to be submitted in Spanish, so check with your chosen university if you’re unsure.

Language requirements

The country’s main language, Spanish, is the second most common language in the world. While some Bachelors and Masters courses are taught in English, the majority of study programmes are taught in Spanish.

Even if you get onto an English taught course it’ll still be incredibly useful to be able to read, write and speak the country’s language.

You can either learn before you go or take lessons on arrival. Most universities provide language tuition, either through short courses or year-long programmes.

Every year thousands of students from across the world make their way to Spain to attend one of the 74 universities located in the country. They come to the country for many reasons, all understanding that studying in the country is a truly enlightening experience that leaves you filled with new attitudes and concepts about life. Spain is rich in history and culture, and provides the total package for anyone coming to the area from international lands. Here we will examine some of the many reasons that people choose Spain as their education destination. Perhaps you share a few of these common desires.

A Great Educational System

Spain has a great opportunity to learn no matter what your major might be and no matter which college you have selected for your studies. The educational system is well organized and properly executed, designed to provide students of all levels with the utmost of learning opportunities. Spain is the third most popular country for international studies with around 36% of those people from the USA.  When you study in Spain you can be confident that you will be provided with the best possible education for your time.

Experience the Country

When you think of Spain you probably think of Madrid and Barcelona. While these two cities are beautiful and certainly hot tourist attractions, Spain has so much more to offer the visitor that these two cities. The beautiful countryside of Spain is marvelous and you are certain to enjoy being able to see miles and miles of lush trees and greeneries. Travel to another area of the country and you’ll find yourself amidst the most beautiful coastline you will ever see. Spain has it all, and as a student there will be plenty of time for you to travel and explore and see all of these amazing things.

Have Fun

No matter where you are at in Spain there is always plenty for you to see and do. And, with Paris and London nearby, a great day trip is always something that can easily be planned. Art galleries, museums, clubs, bars and pubs, parks and nature –you name it, you can find it available to entertain your time in Spain. When you’re not busy in class or completing homework you can get out and enjoy so much of the adventure that Spain has to offer. It is then that your time in Spain can be considered time well spent.

Learn a New Language

It may not be your intended reason for coming to Spain, however there isn’t a question that you will learn a great deal of the Spanish language while you are studying, and a beautiful language it is! Spanish is the second most commonly spoken language in the world, just behind English. Imagine how fun it will be to learn a new language…and there is no better way to learn that language than while you are among those who speak it frequently. As you attend university in Spain you will be around those speaking the language so before you know it you will also be speaking it naturally.

Affordable Costs of Living

The costs of living in Spain are very affordable when compared to other countries in Europe. This is always important, especially to a college student already strapped for cash. No matter where you live in Spain you can make it an affordable venture but when you are careful in your selections you can ensure this even more so.

Wonderful Climate

Spain has four seasons, with each of those seasons providing delightful weather. The average temperature in the winter is 59 degrees, a most comfortable and enjoyable temperature. In the summer the average temperature is 70 degrees, also pleasant. The climate in which you will be treated to while in Spain will slightly differ depending upon your location in the country.

Affordable Tuition Rates

In addition to affordable costs of living, attending school in Spain enables you to attain an affordable tuition rate at any of the wonderful higher learning institutes in the country. Tuition at some colleges cost as little as 5,500 Euros per semester while others cost upwards of 12,000 Euros per semester, still far less than colleges and universities in other European countries, as well as the U.S.

Laid Back Atmosphere

Of course Madrid and Barcelona are thriving, busy and popular tourists spots, but even still these cities, as well as most others in Spain, enjoy a  comfortable, laid back atmosphere.  The country is peaceful and friendly, and you are likely to make new friends with most everyone that you meet.

These are certainly great reasons that you should study in Spain, but please know these are just the beginning of the many great things that you will love about studying in the country.

Spain is a popular choice for foreign students seeking high quality university education at a very reasonable price. The Western European country offers many study options for Bachelors, Masters and Doctorates.

Introduction to Spain

Spain is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Europe, and for good reason. Located on the Iberian peninsula and bordered by France and Portugal, Spain is a beautiful country with a long history and rich culture, known for its architecture, food and wonderful climate.
The country is composed of a number of semi-autonomous regions each with a distinct culture and sometimes even local language. In Spain, you can find any landscape from beaches to high mountains – with climates to match. There are historic and modern universities to choose from in large and small cities in every part of the country.

Universities in Spain

There are a large number of universities of Spain, many of which hold a great reputation internationally and get ranked high in international rankings. Although most universities in Spain focus on teaching in Spanish, the trend points toward more degree programmes offered in English.

Some of the most notable Spanish public universities include the University of Barcelona, the Complutense University of Madrid, and Universidad Autónoma de Madrid.

If you are thinking about getting an MBA, Spain might be the place for you. Three of Europe’s top 10 business schools are located in Spain: IESE Business School, IE Business School, and Esade Business School. These highly respected institutions have spawned many international top managers.

Cost of living and tuition fees in Spain

Good news for students: Tuition fees in Spain are among the lowest in Europe. The tuition fees for Bachelor programmes range from 750 EUR to 2,500 EUR per year, and tuition fees for Master programmes are around 1,000 to 3,500 EUR per year – making Spain a cheap destination for international students. Private universities set their own fees, which can be as high as 20,000 EUR per year.

The cost of living in Spain varies by location, but in general it is easy to live well in Spain on a student budget. Food is cheap and high quality and there are many inexpensive fashionable clothing shops. However, it can be expensive to find accommodation in large cities like Madrid and Barcelona. If you are on a very tight budget you could consider cheaper cities such as Valencia or Seville. And remember, public transport in Spain is efficient and cheap, so you will be able to experience everything the country has to offer no matter where you choose to base your studies.

Student life in Spain

While you can choose from a large number of programmes to study in Spain in English, you may want to brush up your language skills before and while you are there. That will make it much easier to interact with locals, and also equip you with the fourth-most spoken language in the world! For certain regions, such as Catalonia (and its capital Barcelona), it doesn’t hurt to learn at least a few phrases in the regional lingo (Catalonian in this case).

That said, life as a student in Spain is an experience like no other. You will find many friends in the country’s vibrant, diverse student community. Spanish students work hard, but they find plenty of time for fun. If you plan to go out at night, be sure to take an afternoon nap – most clubs don’t even open until after midnight and your friends will want to party until dawn!

10 Of the Top Reasons You Should Choose to Live and Study in Spain

1. Climate

Stunning blue skies, a burning bright sun, dry, dusty days or balmy summery nights can cause you to need an ice-cool sangria or sparkling mineral water to quench your thirst. Spain equals one word – sunshine – to most sun-worshipping or sun-deprived visitors. The magnificent light and the natural heat are two of the main reasons why international students choose to study in Spain. In recent decades the mercury has been hitting the high 40s (degrees centigrade) in summer but outside of those months the country still has a good year-round climate especially in the south that sees retired people warm their bones in the starry winter months. A land of spectacular sunrises and sunsets is to be found in Iberia and it’s all down to its sunshine. One popular destination, Marbella in Andalucia, has a microclimate that sees it receive only about 30 days or rainfall a year!

2. Active outdoor lifestyle

Variety in outdoor pursuits is a key reason why such a broad range of students choose to study in Spain every year. Where else in any one European country can you find all sorts of imaginable healthy outdoor activities – beachside from paddle-boarding, scuba diving, volleyball, body surfing, water-skiing and wake-boarding to banana boating, swimming and sailing. Inland the hills offer hiking, walking or biking, swimming in turquoise lakes or skiing and snowboarding opportunities on snow-capped mountains. The country also boasts a long tradition of horses and equestrian activities. Add to that the country’s successes in international soccer, golf and tennis tournaments of late and you are definitely in a place that is positively in love with all that an active, outdoor lifestyle can offer the young and young at heart who choose to study in Spain.

3. Party time!

If the day-time life is filled with health and fitness oxygen highs and kicks then the nightlife is also intoxicating in its hot and hip offerings. Spain is the country of choice for party-goers – from its traditional festivals and fairs to its trendiest cool clubs – the country is the capital of dusk-til-dawn dance culture. Ibiza, Barcelona, Madrid, Seville and Marbella are just five of the must-visit, chic places in Iberia that offer options from beachside beats to groovy tunes in air-conditioned, city dance clubs. From tapas bars to cocktail bars, pubs to clubs there is a wide range of Spanish socialising and partying to be experienced in a place that is a party paradise here on earth for those who select to study in Spain.

4. The Mediterranean lifestyle

For years health gurus promoted the benefits of the Mediterranean diet. A diet full of olives and olive oil, lemons and citrus fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes, fish and seafood and less dollops of dairy, meat and processed foods along with a glass or two of red wine were in vogue. For that alone who wouldn’t want to study in Spain? But qualitative research into the longevity that people experience in Mediterranean countries showed that it wasn’t their diet alone but also the lifestyle that goes with it that accounts for example for why Spanish people live longer than their EU counterparts, according to a 2015 Eurostat study. Included in the lifestyle are sharing meals with family or friends, walking in the outdoors, shopping for smaller quantities of fresh food daily, laughter, sunlight and sunshine.

5. Cuisine

Spain was for years identified with tapas and paella and has up until now played a cinderella role to its world-famous gourmet neighbour to the north. But the trend for television foodie programmes, books and websites opened up its world of foods. A slew of award-winning restaurants have put Iberian gastronomy firmly on the world map with visitors flying in to celebrate its food and to mark those special events in life in this culinary paradise. Its food culture also makes for a great experience for gourmand students who choose to study in Spain. In the most recent Opinionated About Dining awards for Europe four of ten top spots were garnered by Spanish chefs. (2) Azurmendi east of Bilbao and (7) Etxebarri both in the Basque country, (8) Diverxo in Madrid and (10) Restaurant Quique Dacosta in Dénia, Alicante garnered the prestigious places with the latter featuring “culinary expressionism and modernist Paella” on its menu.

6. Shopping

Fashionistas flock to Spain for the rag trade’s luxury end Madrid Fashion Week. But whether it is for designer brands, high-street retail therapy or ethnic and alternative chic the canny shopper wants it is all to be found – from the upmarket boutiques to the bohemian shops that dot the major towns or cities or in the market stalls that proliferate around the country. Deluxe brand names such as Manolo Blahnik, Paco Rabanne and Adolfo Dominguez are all Spanish-born designers. Students who come to study in Spain may know popular high-street brand Zara but how many know that Desigual, Massimo Dutti, Stradivarius, Pull & Bear, Mango and Springfield – chains that dress many of us in the latest trends – are also Spanish? And the long opening times of city stores plus the abundance of markets on Sundays and other days means students can indulge their love of shopping while studying in Spain!

7. Excursions

Spain makes up 85% of the Iberian Peninsula which it shares with Portugal, Gibraltar and the principality of Andorra in southwest Europe. It is bounded by the Atlantic Ocean on its west and the Mediterranean on its east coast. North Africa is less than 16 km south of the Straits of Gibraltar where its southernmost territories of Ceuta and Melilla are. The Balearic Islands and the Canary Islands, part of its 17 autonomous regions, are also a short flight away while France lies to its northeast and links it to the rest of continental Europe by road, rail and air. Spain’s geography alone makes it an ideal location to go on short-hop trips north, south, east or west while its own vast size and distinctive regional differences makes it more than an ideal place for short trips within the country for students who opt to study in Spain.

8. Security

Spain’s reputation as a safe and secure country for holidays was initially popularised by the glitterati but has been celebrated by millions of holidaymakers ever since. Its tourism product was developed in the 1960s and 70s and has gone from strength to strength despite blips caused by either economic upswings or downturns. Spain’s extensive anti-terrorism provisions – which evolved in response to internal violence – saw it well placed to deal with international anti-terrorism efforts in the wake of the September 11 attacks in 2001 and others since. The counter-terrorism measures of the UN Security Council’s Resolution 1373 which created the Counter Terrorism Committee to monitor states’ compliance, has seen active participation and expertise from Spain. All governments since have carved out a two-pronged role at combining anti-terrorism efforts with respect for human rights provisions. The rising threat of terrorist attacks in Europe and other Mediterranean resorts saw it and Portugal deemed safer destinations by global security experts in 2016. The Spanish government’s rigorous approach to security is another reason why students prefer to study in Spain.

9. Employability

Going to university at undergraduate or post-graduate level boosts job prospects, a 2014 EU study showed. Apart from the educational, cultural, social and other soft skill benefits of studying abroad a foreign university stay not only opens minds to all kinds of new experiences away from the student’s home but it utterly promotes labour market mobility. The research found that the risk of long-term unemployment halved for mobile students – those who moved to study or learn in other countries – compared to those who had stayed at home for third-level studies!

10. Romance

The country of lyrical love poet Lorca has long been the destination of choice for students to study in Spain. All the elements that make people fall head over heels with Spain itself also contribute to some of the most amazing young people’s romantic outcomes ever! European data shows that one third of all intercultural exchange students meet their lifelong partners while studying at university level away from home. As Spain itself has the largest student body in the whole European Union today and is also the most popular destination for students from other countries…well then how can anyone not expect love in the Iberian air!












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