Spanish education

Although the education system is still undergoing some changes, Spanish schooling has dramatically improved in recent years thanks to an increased education budget and some serious reforms.

In Spain education is compulsory for all children between the ages of 6 and 16.

Information about Spanish schools

The public school system in Spain, known as escuelas públicas, is supplemented by a host of private schools, known as escuelas privadas. The latter include foreign and international schools. Around two-thirds of Spanish children attend co educational, free public schools. The remaining third attend private schools, the majority of which are also co-educational.

In Spain children attend nursery between the ages of three and five before progressing to private or public school. In the main they will voluntarily remain in education until the age of 18. From there the options are university, work, internships and vocational courses.

Although preparatory courses are sometimes provided, foreign students must have a thorough knowledge of Spanish by the time they reach university level.

It is often considered that the older a foreign child is when they enter Spanish schooling, the more difficult they will find it to learn the language and adjust. If your child is of secondary school age you might find they respond better to an international or private school.

If you want further information about specific schools you can obtain it from Spanish embassies and consulates. Information about local schools can be obtained in Spain through word of mouth and notices posted in town halls. Autonomous regions have their own education offices in their capitals where more information can be found.

Applications and Fees

Spanish universities are often overcrowded and competition for places can be fierce. In order to be considered for a place applicants must pass the Prueba General de Bachillerato (PGB) exam. Those who score highly in this exam are generally awarded a university place in July. Those who don’t may have to wait an extra month to find out whether or not they’ve been accepted. Generally the academic year runs from October to June. Applications should be made as soon as possible, and submitted to the university’s student secretariat.

EU national and Spanish National applications for university are judged on equal terms.

Bear in mind that although Spanish universities accept British A Levels as an entrance qualification an American student must usually hold a BA, BBA or BSc degree. The Ministerio de Educación y Ciencia can provide you with information about the acceptability of EU diploma’s in Spain.


In the majority of universities fees are set by the Spanish Ministry of Education and Science.

Universities belonging to autonomous regions have their fees set annually by the university council and the local regional government whilst private universities under the patronage of the Catholic Church set their own fees. For EU nationals and residents Spanish university fees are low, and there are grants and scholarships available.

The cost of living can fluctuate massively between cities and regions, so students might need to get a part-time job to help pay living expenses. This can sometimes be difficult, so students should have funds available to fall back on.

Universities with their own student halls of residence are few and the demand for them is high so an application for a room should be submitted as early as possible! The availability and cost of privately rented accommodation is very much location dependent.

Students registered at a Spanish institute of higher education, and under the age of 28, are covered for health insurance by a students’ insurance fund. Many foreign students, including those from EU countries, are also covered.

Most Spaniards attend the university nearest to their homes, particularly in areas where accommodation is expensive. Foreign students should note that few university facilities are open during weekends, and there are limited sporting or social activities on offer.