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Universities for Expats in Spain

Submitted: July 2013

Firstly, the title of this section is somewhat of a misnomer as there are not any specific universities in Spain specially set up for expats only. Universities in Spain provide top tier teaching, research, knowledge transfer and international outlooks and have established their presence in a variety of world university rankings, with a number of them being ranked in the top 500 universities in the world. Most of Spanish universities are in Madrid and Barcelona, with the latter boasting ‘Universitat Autónoma de Barcelona’ and ‘Universitat de Barcelona’ which enjoy an excellent reputation.

Although government subsidised, Spain universities are fee-paying. For most regions, university fees (tasas) are set by the Spanish Ministry of Education and Science. For private universities, fees are regulated by the university council and local regional government. Spanish students (“home students”) and EU students pay a lower fee (“home fees”) whereas students from outside of the EU may pay higher international student fees. Annual tuition fees range vastly and are dependent on several factors. For a Bachelor’s degree, it may cost up to 33,00€ (£ 28.34) per credit depending on the number of times the student has been enrolled for the particular course. Master’s programs may range from 21,00€ (£ 18.03) - 30,00€ (£ 25.76) per credit. While PhD degrees may be as much as 53,00€ (£ 45.51) per credit. The typical Bachelor’s program is worth 180 credits over a three years period, while a Master of Science program is worth 240 credits over a four years period. As a rule of thumb, specialized fields such as medicine tend to be more expensive and last a longer duration.

Additionally, Spain universities along with the government offer a number of scholarships and bursaries to both EU and international students. Details of some of the more common financial aids made available to international students may be found on the following link: https://www.scholars4dev.com/category/country/europe-scholarships/spain-scholarships/

Notably, if you are not a national of Spain but have been living there for five years or more, you are entitled to a maintenance grant and the same conditions of nationals.

Admission into Spanish universities are often competitive, however a percentage of places at most universities is made available to foreign (non-EU) students. For undergraduate courses in Spain universities, admission is facilitated via the Spanish National University for Distance Education (Universidad Nacional de Educación a Distancia - UNED). For information about the application process please refer to the following link:


Application is done online and usually commences in April of each year.

Furthermore, various qualifications are recognised; hence your child may not be at disadvantage if he took exams in your home country. Note that American High School Diplomas are not usually accepted as American students are required to spend at least two years at college or hold a BA, BBA, or BSc degree. Students with foreign qualifications must have them approved by the Spanish Department of Education and Culture in Spain. As a foreign student, it is required of you to pass the Spanish university entry exam called ‘selectividad’, there after you can take on various preparatory courses.

The admission procedure is not as uniform for postgraduate studies. You should visit the website of each university in order to determine whether the desired course is offered, its costs, funding opportunities and application information.
In determining which university would best suit your child, you may want to consult the university guides. These provide an in-depth analysis of various criteria such as student satisfaction, tutor-to-student ratio, investment on facilities, ease in finding employment opportunities upon graduation and graduate pay. Some of these guides include:

The complete university guide - https://www.thecompleteuniversityguide.co.uk/international/studying-overseas/international-study-in-europe/study-in-spain/

Good university ranking guide - https://whichuniversitybest.blogspot.com/2010/05/best-universities-in-spain.html

In addition to Spanish higher education establishments, numerous American universities have facilities in Spain which utilize English as the main medium of instruction. A comprehensive list of these universities is provided by the following link:


Notably, some European universities have branches at various locations across Spain which enables many students to study under EU exchange programs. One should always verify that the courses are conducted in Spanish (Castilian) and not Catalan.

A list of universities in Spain is provided by the following link:




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