Universities in Spain

Spain has 75 universities (universidades), of which 50 are established on a public basis and 25 on a private basis. Of the 50 public universities, 48 fall under the authority of Autonomous Communities while 2 fall under the Ministry of Education and Science. Of the 25 private universities, 7 belong to the Catholic Church.


Spain also has a number of non-university higher education institutes for physical education, civil marine, tourism, dramatic art and dance, song and music, as well as a number of highly rated business schools (usually
American). Although few Spanish universities are world-renowned, Spain has a long history of university education, with the university system dating back to the middle ages and the oldest university (Salamanca) founded in 1218 (prior to which, the Moors had ‘universities’ in Spain long before anyone else had even thought of them).

The largest and most highly regarded Spanish universities are Complutense in Madrid and the University of Barcelona, with student bodies of around 76,000 and 90,000 respectively, although both Granada and Seville universities each have over 60,000 students. (2009-2010 academic year)

The number of university students in Spain exploded in the 1960s and 1970s and today numbers over 1.5 million, a figure generally considered to be too high for a country with a population of 45 million. Overcrowding is a huge problem, particularly in first year classes (you usually need to arrive early just to get a seat at a lecture). However, many students drop out after the tough exams set at the end of the first year. The number of female students has increased by around 40 per cent in the last decade and they now outnumber male students (more women
also complete their courses and obtain degrees than men). Foreign students comprise just 3 percent of students at Spanish universities, with a third coming from European Union countries. In general, the academic year runs from October to June. top

Types of universities
There are four different types of university establishments in Spain: university schools (escuelas universitarias), where ‘short-term’ three-year courses are offered; university colleges (colegios universitarios) where the first three years of study leading to a licenciado is completed; faculties (facultades) where long-term courses are offered in all academic disciplines (except technical courses) and higher technical schools of engineering and architecture (escuela superior de ingeniería y arquitectura) where long-term technical courses are completed.

The Spanish university system is rigidly structured and students must choose a fixed curriculum and aren’t permitted to change universities during their studies (except for family or health reasons). Studies at Spanish universities are divided into three cycles and have undergone some changes since 2010. In line with the European Higher Education Area, programs are situated in one of the following three cycles:

• Bachelor’s programs – basic degree programs and/or general education-oriented;
• Master’s programs – specialized or multidisciplinary advanced training, academic or professional oriented;
• Doctorate programs – advanced training in research techniques.

American and European universities
In addition to Spanish higher education establishments, there are also a number of US universities with faculties in Spain including the Schiller International University, the St. Louis University and Suffolk University (all in Madrid). All classes at American universities are taught in English. The European University has branches in Barcelona and the University of Surrey (Britain) also has a branch in Madrid. Many foreign university students (and Spanish students abroad) can study in Spain under European Union exchange programs for periods ranging from a few weeks to several months. If you’re heading for Barcelona (or anywhere in Catalonia),
ensure that a course is conducted in Spanish (Castilian) and not Catalan.

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