Studying in Spain is a great opportunity to learn the third most spoken language in the world, and enjoy a vibrant student life in a Mediterranean atmosphere. The country provides a quality education within over 80 universities, as well as technical, polytechnic and engineering schools. Did you know that Spain’s best known business schools IE, IESE and ESADE rank year after year among the world’s top 20 for their MBA’s?
Note that the growing number of universities are compliant with European standards, offering degree, master and doctorate courses since 2008-2009. Besides these courses, the Spanish higher education system also provides senior technician certificates such as the “Técnico Superior” involving two years of vocational training. After two more years, the student is entitled to a “Grado”.
There are currently 83 universities (2016) across 243 campuses of which 50 are public universities and 33 are private institutions. The number of private universities has been rising in recent years, with an average of one new university each year. There is an increasing interest in attracting foreign students, especially at the private universities, where you can meet students from all over the world such as the Americas, UK, Germany, France etc.
Good to know:
The Spanish teaching style tends to be very practical, and project work plays an important role. Many tasks are to be worked on and presented as a team.
University fees in Spain
Public university fees in Spain are quite low compared to other European countries, that is often less than €1,000 per year. To enrol in a Spanish university, you must be the holder of a diploma and pass proficiency tests for foreigners as well as Spanish language tests. Note that you may have to register for regional language courses in the province where you will be studying.
Private universities are much more expensive and master degrees can range between €7,000 to €14,000 a year or up to €60,000 for an MBA. Language requirements may be more relaxed since classes may also be taught in English.
The student visa
To enrol in a Spanish university, you must apply for a student visa. In general, application has to be made in your home country well in advance with the help of your school administration. Upon your arrival in Spain, you have to request a student visa at the Oficina de Extranjeros or the nearest police station to your place of residence within a month. However, this does not apply for students coming from the European Union.
Formalities for nationals of the EU-EEA
Citizens of the EU-EEA, as well as those coming from Liechtenstein, Norway, Iceland and Switzerland can freely move to Spain to study with very few formalities to undertake. European students are exempted from university entry tests provided that they comply with basic entry requirements (that is, they are holders of the European Baccalaureate Certificate or an equivalent qualification). Since 2014, each university is allowed to hold internal examinations, if necessary.
In order to attend a public university, European candidates must then obtain authorisation from the UNED (Universidad Nacional a Distancia) which will check students' eligibility. You can find out more information on the UNED website. The next step is then pre-registration with a Spanish school or university.
Citizens of the EU-EEA can also benefit from the ERASMUS programme in Spain. The ERASMUS programme is designed for students of the EEA-EU (plus Turkey) wishing to study in another EU-EEA country. Diplomas and degrees obtained abroad in the framework of the ERASMUS programme are valid in your home country via the European Credit Transfer and accumulation System (ECTS). ERASMUS grants are also available to students who carry out studies in another European state via the programme.
You can find more information about the ERASMUS programme and the ERASMUS grants available directly through your home university or by visiting the European Commission website.
Formalities for citizens from outside the EU-EEA
Before applying for a sudent's visa, it is necessary to have your diplomas recognized by the Spanish Ministry of Education, and register online to take the Spanish university entry test (the "P.A.U") with the UNED. You will then be able to proceed with pre-registration with the chosen Spanish university.
Citizens from outside the EU-EEA must apply for a "D" visa "Visado Estudiante - Abierto" in order to attend a course of more than 90 days in Spain. Visa applications should be made at the nearest Spanish embassy or consulate to your place of residence. The visa application documents' checklist includes:
- passport valid six months after your scheduled return date,
- 3 duly completed Schengen visa application forms,
- 3 passport-sized photos,
- proof of enrolment in a Spanish school or university;
- medical certificate (required if you intend to study in Spain for more than six months),
- attestation of health insurance,
- financial statements and
- proof of payment of tuition fees.
Once in Spain, you will have 90 days to apply for your student resident permit that is valid for the duration of your studies. To get your resident permit, go to the nearest police station with your student visa. The visa D abierto will allow you to apply for the TIE (Tarjeta de Identidad para Extranjeros), the foreigner identification card and document that demonstrates your legal right to stay in the country.
Make sure you don’t enter Spain on a short stay tourist visa to later apply for a student visa. You would have to return to your home country to apply from there.
When staying longer than six months in Spain, you must apply for a student residence permit within 30 days of entry.
Student accommodation in Spain
Student accommodation is not so common in Spain as many students tend to live independently or stay with their family. In fact, students are more likely to rent a room in a shared flat. In major cities, Spanish students live with their parents for financial reasons, or even choose the nearest university to their place of residence and commute due to high rents.University campuses are rarely open on weekends.
Students generally work part time to make ends meet such as giving language courses or working in bars. There are not many job opportunities for students in Spain, but you can check out or even publish ads in local newspapers or on the university job board.
As a student, you are allowed to work up to 20 hours a week while studying. If you are doing an internship as part of your course for which the residence permit was granted, you won’t need a work permit.