Study in Spain

Study in Spain
Updated 2021-06-11 15:22

Opportunities to work towards your qualifications, expand your horizons, form lifelong connections and learn one of the most spoken language in the world are among the top reasons to study in Spain. The country provides high-quality education in more than 80 universities as well as technical, polytechnic, engineering and business schools.

Degrees in Spain's universities cover many subjects that can be broadly divided into the following five groups:

  • Sciences 
  • Engineering and technology
  • Health sciences
  • Social sciences and law
  • Arts and humanities

The universities offer graduate degrees, masters and doctorate courses while higher technical schools of engineering and architecture provide long-term technical courses leading to Técnico Superior qualifications.

No matter what type of higher education you are looking for, you will find it in Spain.

The Credit System

Official degrees in Spain follow the Bologna ECTS (European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System). It is designed to make degree programmes and student performance more transparent and comparable across every country that is a member of the European Higher Education Area (EHEA). This means that students from EHEA countries can study abroad, and their degrees will be accepted throughout the EHEA.

Students are rewarded credits by completing a module, seminar or course. Each credit represents the workload a student accomplished in a period of time. The credits can be accumulated and transferred. 

Examples of credits per degree type are:

  • 1 year of academic studies: 60 ECTS credits
  • 3-year bachelor's programme: 180 ECTS credits
  • 4-year bachelor programme: 240 ECTS credits
  • 2-year master's programme: 120 ECTS credits

Advantages of ECTS credits 

  • Less differentiation between local and international students
  • You can study for a bachelor's degree in one EHEA country and for a master's in another
  • Degrees have the same number of credits no matter the course
  • If you drop out of a programme, credits help to prove your academic achievements

Good to know:

You will have to apply directly to your chosen university because there is no centralised system in Spain.

University fees in Spain

The cost of university education in Spain depends on several factors such as whether you study in a public or private institution, the degree programme, location of the university and the number of credits per programme. Typically, costs are much higher in private institutions than they are in public ones.

University tuition fees in the country are calculated based on the pay-per-credit format, which makes fees variable. 

The average cost for undergraduates is:

  • €12 - €30 per credit for the first enrolment
  • €25 - €50 per credit for the second enrolment
  • €50 - €100 per credit for the third enrolment

As you can see, tuition fees increase if you withdraw from a degree programme and enrol for a second or third time. 

Sample costs for a 3-year's bachelor's degree with a cost of €20 per credit:

Each year is worth 60 credits so one year costs 60 x €20 = €1,200

Three years costs 3 x €1,200 = €3,600

The average cost for a master's degree in Spain is €16 - €45 per credit and usually has 60 ECTS credits per year. Sample costs for a two-year master's programme with a cost of €30 per credit are:

Year 1: 60 x €30 = €1,800

Year 2: 60 x €30 = €1,800

Total cost = €3,600

The average cost of a PhD credit in Spain can go up to €55 per credit. Students are required to attend lectures, courses, and other academic activities during the first year, which is worth 60 credits. Sample costs for this first year with a cost of €50 per credit is €3,000 (60 x €50). During subsequent years, students concentrate on research and thesis writing and have to pay training and research fees, which cost several hundred euros.

For private universities, fees can range from 3,000 to 4,000 euros per year up to around 20,000 euros.

Other costs of living in Spain as a student

Studying abroad in Spain comes with many other expenses. They include:

  • Visa fees
  • Rent
  • Utilities
  • Books and supplies
  • Food
  • Leisure activities
  • Transportation
  • Healthcare
  • Internet/mobile phone

Admission requirements for universities in Spain

Each university sets its entry requirements, and you may have to get your qualifications validated first. You may also have to take an entrance exam. Check with your higher education institution if specific exams are required for the programme you're applying for.

The Student Visa in Spain

Whether or not you need a student visa depends on which country you come from.

If you're from the EU/EEA/Switzerland, you don't need a visa to study at a university in Spain. However, if your stay in the country will be longer than 90 days, you will need to apply for a residence permit or a Foreigner Identity Card (TIE) within 30 days of arrival. You can do this at your nearest Foreigners' Office (Oficina de Extranjeros).

If you're from outside of the European Union, you will need to apply for a visa at the Spanish embassy or consulate that's closest to where you live in your home country. You do this only after you've been accepted onto a course.

Formalities for EU-EEA nationals

EU-EEA citizens and those coming from Liechtenstein, Norway, Iceland, and Switzerland can easily move to Spain without undergoing too many formalities. European students are exempt from university entry tests provided they comply with basic entry requirements (that is, they are holders of the European Baccalaureate Certificate or equivalent qualification). 

EU-EEA citizens can also benefit from the Erasmus programme in Spain. This is a student exchange programme 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. 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 Erasmus grants at universities in your home country or by visiting the European Commission website and the Erasmus website.

Good to know:

Following Brexit, UK citizens no longer participate in the Erasmus programme. The UK government announced it would launch a programme for student mobility in 2020, called the Turing Scheme. The Department of Education said it would start with a budget of £100 million, enough to support around 35,000 students to go on placements and exchanges overseas during 2022. Funding for future years will be subject to government spending reviews. 

Formalities for Non-EU/EEA nationals

If you are a non-EU/EEA country student, you will have to take your chosen university's entrance exam. You will also need to apply for a student visa from the Spanish embassy or consulate in your home country. There are two types: The short-term visa is for three to six months, while the long-term visa is for more than six months. 

The visa application procedures can take time, so it's recommended you book your embassy/consulate appointment at least a couple of months before you intend to come to Spain.

To make an application, you will need the following documents:

  • A passport that is valid for at least six months after your scheduled return date.
  • Two recently taken passport-sized photographs
  • Proof of enrolment in a Spanish school or university
  • Certificates of study courses you have completed
  • A medical certificate signed by a doctor (required if you intend to study in Spain for more than six months).
  • A criminal records check from the place where you have lived for the past five years. This is not a requirement for students under the age of 18
  • Proof of health insurance
  • Parental authorisation/permission for students under the age of 18

Once in Spain, you will have 90 days to apply for a student resident permit that is valid for the duration of your studies. To get one, go to the nearest police station with your student visa. This will let you apply for the TIE (Tarjeta de Identidad para Extranjeros), the foreigner identification card demonstrating your legal right to stay in the country.


Make sure you have the correct visa. Don't enter Spain on a short stay tourist visa on the assumption you can apply for a student visa at a later time. You will most likely have to return to your home country to apply from there.

Student accommodation in Spain

Universities tend to provide residence halls and student apartments. Prices vary from city to city. Other options include renting a property near your university or flat-sharing with colleagues. In general, major cities such as Madrid and Barcelona are more expensive than other locations.

There are many accommodation options, so it's a good idea to do your research as early as possible and weigh up your options before coming to a decision. Among the useful websites where you can search for student accommodation are:


Housing Anywhere


To support your lifestyle, you can work up to 20 hours per week under your student visa.

Practical tips and advice for expat students coming to Spain

Here are some valuable pieces of advice to help you make the most of your time while studying in the country:

1) Practice Spanish - do this as often as you can. Even if you're enrolled in an English-taught programme, take the opportunity to learn one of the most widely spoken languages in the world. Practice when you buy groceries and go out for meals. Watch Spanish TV, listen to Spanish music and talk to locals.

2) Enjoy a good study/life balance - find a good balance between sticking to your studies and enjoying life in your new country. Schedule time off for weekend trips and to explore your town/city and surroundings.

3) Learn how to save money - as an expat student, you will probably be on a tight budget, so you'll have to manage your finances well. Get into the habit of planning a weekly or monthly budget.

4) Finding accommodation - although nothing is stopping you from arranging your accommodation while in your home country, it's better to visit places in person. Therefore, when you arrive in Spain, check into a hostel for a few days while you look for a more permanent roof over your head.

5) Meet Spanish people - it is easy and comfortable to stay inside a bubble of people from your country, but to do so is to miss out on making a connection with Spain. Your student life will be a lot richer if you include Spanish people in your social circles. An easy way to meet locals is to live with them. Your university may have a homestay option where you can live with a Spanish family, although this may not appeal to every student.

Another way is to continue with the same interests you enjoy in your home country and find a Spanish parallel. For example, if you love to hike, join a local walking group. The same applies to other hobbies such as cooking, yoga and dancing; look for Spanish groups near you.

6) Take advantage of freebies and student discounts - Spain is a popular destination for international students, but it is not always the most budget-friendly place. Therefore, when visiting museums, galleries, or other popular attractions, check their websites to see if they have free days or days with heavily discounted rates for students. Your university may also host several free events throughout the year. Keep an eye out for them.

7) Check COVID measures - public health measures may be different from your home country. There are numerous measures mandated by the national government and local variations in the various autonomous regions in Spain. At the time of writing this article, the wearing of masks in public spaces is compulsory at all times. Basically, as soon as you leave your front door, you must put a mask on. Check the rules with official sources, including the Ministry of Health's webpage.

Useful links:

Ministry of Education and Vocational Training



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