Schools and Higher Education in Spain

The list of international education programs continues to grow as Spain and the rest of the EU make efforts to implement the Lisbon Strategy..."

Posted by The Expatriator

Information about the Spanish and International school systems for children of expatriates living in Spain. Also provides information on higher education exchange programs with the EU (Spain) and the USA and Canada.

Schools in Spain are free from age 4 on. Enrollment for September generally begins around March. If it’s too late and the school you want your child to get into is full, the authorities are always required to find an opening at a public school for your child. There are three types of schools, public, private, and mixed (“concertada”), meaning the schools receives some government funding, and you pay less than you would at a private school. Note that for public and concertada schools, the government has a say in the education. For example, in Barcelona in 2005, a private school might cost you 500 euros/month with classes taught in Castellano and English instead of Catalán, a concertada might cost 250 euros/month with 70% of the classes in Catalan, a public school is free with 100% of the classes in Catalán.

Nurseries: The childcare workers are required to have a degree. I’ve found the quality of care to be quite good. For costs, see Cost of Living.

School Directories:

Higher Education

As an important part of the greater EU, Spain continues to provide international educational opportunities to university students around the world. There are a number of exchange programs between the USA and Spain, mostly for undergraduate students, and of course there’s the infamous Erasmus program for the EU member states. The list of international education programs continues to grow as Spain and the rest of the EU make efforts to implement the “Lisbon Strategy,” a set of collective goals to ensure the EU member states produce the most internationally competitive graduates in the world by 2010.

See the Relevant External links on the right for links to information about EU (Erasmus, etc) programs and programs between the EU and the USA and Canada.

The Spanish University System

The Spanish university system dates back to the Middle Ages. The oldest among Spanish Universities is Salamanca, founded in 1218. The present system, however, is actually descendant of the 19th century liberal university, inspired by the centralized French model. In the last years, it has experienced its greatest growth in history, while at the same time advancing towards a self-governing and descentralized system.

Higher education is provided by both public and private institutions. Universities are divided into departamentos, facultades universitarias, escuelas tecnicas superiores, escuelas universitarias, institutos universitarios, and other centres, notably the colegios universitarios.

The curriculum is the group of subjects organized by the university. If completed, the student has the right to a degree. The credit [crédito] is the assessment unit. It corresponds to ten hours of theoretical or practical teaching. Credits are obtained by the appropriate verification of acquired knowledge. This assessment is generally in the form of written or occasionally oral examinations, established by each university. Subjects [Asignaturas] included in the curriculum may be: -Majors [Asignaturas troncales]: Compulsory material in all curricula leading to an official degree. They represent 30% of the subject load during the first cycle and 25% in the second cycle. -Compulsory Subjects [Asignaturas obligatorias]: These are designated by the university as compulsory for the student within the corresponding curriculum. -Optional Subjects [Asignaturas optativas]: The University establishes these subjects for students to choose from. -Free-choice Subjects [Materias de libre elección]: All curricula must devote at least 10% of all credits to this type of material, which the student will apply to subjects, seminars or other activities he/she can choose freely from given by the university or another university, if permitted by the corresponding joint agreement.

The grading system: Marks given to students at Spanish universities are shown below. They correspond to the numerical score shown in brackets: -Excellent - Matrícula de honor - [10] - The highest rating is only awarded to a small number of students who have shown an exceptional performance. In the next course, the student has the right to choose a free subject. -Above Average - Sobresaliente - [9] - Given to students who have performed very well. -Average - Notable - [7-8] - Awarded to students with a medium/high level of performance. -Pass - Aprobado - [5-6] - This rating indicates that the student performed well enough to complete the subject. -Fail - Suspenso - [0-4] - The student did not pass the subject and must take another examination, though the number of possible repetitions is restricted.

The following official degrees can be obtained at Spanish universities: -Bachelor’s Degrees, 3-year Engineering Degrees, and 3-year Architecture Degrees [Diplomado, Ingeniero técnico or Arquitecto técnico]: These are described as “first cycle” courses and they usually have a duration of three years. -Bachelor’s Degreees with Honours, Engineering Degrees and Architecture Degrees [Licenciado, Ingeniero or Arquitecto Superior]: In these courses, after completing the first cycle, students undertake a second, in-depth cycle for specialization in their respective fields and preparation for their professional area. The total duration of these courses is usually four or five years. -Doctor: Admission to doctoral studies is only possible for graduates with a Licenciado, Ingeniero or Arquitecto Superior degree. Doctoral students must complete a series of courses for two academic years with a minimum of 32 credits [320 hours] and present a doctoral thesis, which must be approved. The thesis must be original research into material related to the scientific, technical or artistic field of the doctoral program undertaken by the student. The autonomy of the Spanish universities enables them to organize postgraduate and specialized professional courses, which are extremely important for the completion of a student’s academic curriculum and the attainment of a professional specialization. Students who complete these courses obtain the corresponding diploma or university degree. Source

Last updated 29 05 2006

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Huiboine said:


I am a spanish girl. I only want to tell you that I found a mistake in the text. In Spain schools are free from the 2 age, and in the nexts years will maybe free from 0. I work as a teacher in a 0-3 school.
Sorry, my english is very bad!!!!

bianca said:

I am looking for a High School (Public or private) in Spain where my son's additional needs can be met. We have both US and EU passport and live in Italy at the moment, but we will be moving to Spain soon. Boarding school is also an option. Thank you for any help in this search!


Obst Gesicht said:

I'm a US citizen. I have taught 2nd to 6th grade English in a small town in Spain for the guest native speaker program. I liked it so much that now I want to get a permanent job teaching English anywhere from 4th-6th grade. I have a PhD in English. Does this help to qualify me for the Spanish education system or do I still need licenciatura?

newadv said:


We are thinking of moving to the Barcelona/Girona region on next spring. But I have no experience of Spanish schooling. Can anyone advise on how to research a good schooling? At the moment we have not yet decided on an exact location, but a good school (and airport commute time) will be a major factor. My son will be 5 when we move.

Thank you.

Huiboine said:


Obst Gesicht: I think you need Grado en filolog?a inglesa or something similar.

Newadv: In Spain, public schools are good and very similar so people choose the one which is nearest from home.


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Schools in Spain - An excellent resource for any expat with kids who need to go to school. Exhaustive, searchable database of schools in every region, plus great advice from an expat who’s been around the system.