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There are around 1.3 million students in higher education in Spain, according to the latest statistics available and the number of foreign students who studied in the Spanish University System (SUE) in the 2019-20 academic year amounted to 208,366.
Spanish universities generally have a good reputation and the country is even home to one of the world’s oldest universities – the University of Salamanca, which opened back in 1218.
Accessing university for foreign residents in Spain
If you are a foreigner who has residency in Spain and you are over the age of 18, you can access Spanish universities under the same conditions as Spaniards.
You are also able to apply for the same scholarships and grants as Spanish students.
If you attended high school in Spain, you will take the same test as Spaniards to enter university – the Bachillerato Assessment for University Access (EBAU or EvAU), also known as selectividad.
This is a compulsory test for Bachillerato students, which is Spain’s equivalent to A-levels after the age of 16, who want to access university.
Accessing Spanish universities for EU citizens
If you’re an EU citizen, in most cases you will have to get an accreditation issued by the UNEDassis service (University Application Service for International Students in Spain) in order to attend university here.
To do this, you must visit the website of the National Distance Education University (UNED) where you will have to submit your educational qualifications and transcripts. It opens in April each year. You will then receive your Credencial de Accesso (access credentials), which you will need to submit to your chosen university within 3 to 4 months.
Accessing Spanish universities for non-EU, non-resident citizens
Foreigners who are not from an EU country and don’t have residency in Spain are still able to go to Spanish universities, however it is a little more complicated.
Firstly, you will need to go through the homologation process in order to get your qualifications recognised in Spain. This is carried out through the Ministry of Education and Vocational Training, except if the university you want to attend is in Catalonia, Galicia or the Basque Country, because in those cases you must request homologation in the region itself. You can contact your local Spanish consulate to help you navigate the process.
Once you have your qualifications recognised in Spain, by receiving the Accreditation (Volante de convalidación), you must pass the Bachillerato Assessment for University Access (EBAU) or the Specific Competence Tests (PCE).
In addition, once you have received your place at a Spanish university, you must also apply for a student visa in order to legally be able to live in Spain during your studies.
Recently, the Spanish government announced that it is preparing legislation that will mean non-EU university students will no longer have to renew their residence permit on a yearly basis, as well as allowing them to automatically stay in Spain for one or two years after graduating.
READ ALSO: Non-EU university students in Spain will be able to stay after finishing studies
What are the tuition fees for universities in Spain?
Spain has both public and private universities and the cost greatly differs between the two.
In both public and private universities, the tuition you pay each year is obtained by multiplying the number of credits you enrol in by the cost per credit. Typically during each year of your studies, you take 60 credits.
However, to make matters more complicated, each subject within the university has a different cost, depending on what you study. Each institution is free to set any tuition fee they choose because there are no fees set by the authorities.
On top of this, each region in Spain charges different amounts and some are considerably cheaper than others.
According to data from the Ministry of Education, Culture and Sport the average price is usually between €750 per year at public universities in Andalusia, Cantabria and Galicia and approximately €2,000 per year at public universities in Madrid, Catalonia and Castilla y León.
For example, to study medicine at a public university in Andalusia costs €757 per year, while in Catalonia the cost is around three times this amount at €2,372 per year.
At private universities, the cost of enrolment for undergraduate studies is around €9,500 per academic year, depending on the degree and institution chosen, but it can be higher. Generally, though, private universities do not exceed €20,000 per academic year.
International students from the EU typically pay the same amount as national students in Spain, as do those who have prior residency in Spain.
For those from non-EU countries, it can be a little different, but because there are no set fees it will depend on lots of different factors as stated above.
According to Studyportals, an international student website, there are reports of non-EU citizens being charged the same as EU citizens, as well as of others being charged around €1,000 to €1,500 higher than those from the EU or even tuition that costs two or three times higher. Your best bet is to contact the university you’re interested in directly and ask for the price.
You should know that Spain offers many different types of grants and scholarships for students, many of which are open to international students, as well as Spaniards. Your local Spanish consulate should be able to give you information on those that may be available to you.