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Higher education in Spain

  • Number of higher education institutions: 84
  • Number of students in higher education: 1,548,369 (2015-2016, Ministry of Education, Culture and Sport)
  • Number of international students in higher education: 94,962 (2015-2016, Ministry of Education, Culture and Sport)
  • Language of instruction: Most higher education programmes in Spain are taught in Spanish, but you will find many taught in English, too. You will find a list of all English-taught programmes on the SEPIE website.
  • Other languages: Spanish is the official language of Spain, but it is not the only language spoken here. The other official languages spoken in Spain are Catalan (in Catalonia and the Balearic Islands), Valencian (in the Community of Valencia), Galician (in Galicia), and Euskera/Basque (in the Basque Country).
    In these communities, classes are taught both in Spanish and in the co-official language – plus in English too in many universities. Nearly all universities in these regions offer a wide range of courses for international students wishing to learn the language and to become more familiar with the local culture and history. Many of the courses in Catalan, Galician and Euskera are taught free-of-charge at the universities.
  • Typical tuition fees: Autonomous Communities are free to set fees for international students that could range from 25% of the real cost (the other 75% is subsidized) to 100% of the real cost of tuition.
  • Average length of a full-time higher education programme in Spain:
    • Bachelor’s degree programme: 4 years
    • Master’s degree programme: 1-2 years
    • Doctorate/PhD: 3-4 years

Quick facts

  • Population: 46,549,045 (2017)
  • Capital: Madrid
  • Geographical size: 505,970 km2
  • GDP: € 1.114 trillion (2016)
  • Official EU language(s): Spanish
  • Currency: Euro


The Spanish university system is made up of 84 universities, alongside 322 research institutes and 78 science and technology parks. As part of the European Higher Education Area, degrees issued by Spanish universities are recognized and valued academically and professionally around the world.

World class-education

Spain is a world leader in academic excellence, innovation, technology and knowledge transfer:

  • Spain has 34 universities in 55 subjects in the Top 100 of world subject rankings and even 4 in the Top 10 (QS and Shanghai ARWU) in disciplines such as: Civil Engineering, Marine and Ocean Engineering, Veterinary Sciences, Food Science and Technology, Business and Management, Remote Sensing and others.
  • Spain ranks 11 in the QS 2017 Ranking of Higher Education Systems Strength.
  • Spain is a world leader in renewable energy (second nation in the world with the most renewable energy patents per inhabitant,) and in management infrastructures. For airports and motorways, 7 of the 10 largest companies in the world in this area are Spanish.

Spain is the

  • 1st country in Europe and 3rd in the world for agricultural biotechnology;
  • 5th for biochemistry and molecular biology;
  • 2nd European country and 9th in the world for automobile production.

Spain is also a world leader in the development and implementation of electronic signature and electronic document-identification systems, and a pioneer in the development of the world’s most advanced antivirus software.

Spanish – A global language

With over 500 million native speakers Spanish is the second most spoken language in the world today, after Chinese.

In fact, Spanish is the official language of 20 countries in the world.

Studying in Spain is a great opportunity to learn and improve your Spanish.

Culture and costs

Spain offers an outstanding cultural experience that is affordable! The cost of living in Spain is lower than in many other countries in the European Union.

Spain has the third-largest number of cultural sites included in UNESCO’s list of 42 World Heritage Cultural Sites and 11 Intangible Cultural Heritage Properties: In 2017 Spain received more than 80 million tourists.