Spain has many options for international students looking to study in English. In fact, it is probably the most attractive country for British students within the EU, post-Brexit. However, the opportunities that exist are concentrated in private universities. Gaining access to public universities is complicated and usually involves taking a year out to complete some parts of the Spanish university entrance exam (EBAU). We are often asked about studying at public universities but it is rare that anyone goes through with it. Private universities are usually much easier to access.

1. Higher education in Spain

1.1 Spanish higher education system

There are around 100 universities in Spain of which about 70 are public and 30 are private institutions. Some private universities are affiliated with the Catholic Church. Large cities like Madrid, Barcelona and Valencia are home to the most universities. There are also many institutes of higher education offering more practical qualifications in art and design, for example.

The academic year is divided into semesters and tends to be similar throughout the country. It starts around the 1st October and finishes at the end of June.

1.2 Entry requirements for Spanish universities

General entrance requirements for Spanish universities can appear to be quite modest. For most subjects, three A levels are the minimum entry requirement or an IB Diploma with 24 points. BTECs are not recognised for university admission.

However, these are minimum requirements. Many degrees will require a lot more than this. At all public universities (and some private) the entry requirement will be indicated by a score out of 14. For example, at the University of Valencia the lowest entry requirement is 5.0 (this is the pass mark in the Bachillerato)and the highest is 13.435 for medicine. If the entry requirement (nota de corte) is below 10, it is possible to achieve with A' levels. If it is above this level students will have to take the Selectividad (aka EBAU). This will require sitting exams in Spanish (even for degrees taught in English) and studying some subjects that are not possible in the UK, such as Spanish history. In effect, this means that it is very difficult for British students to gain access to any degree with an entry requirement of higher than 10. Given that so few public universities in Spain teach many subjects in English, the most likely university to cause problems for British students in Universitat Pompeu Fabra in Barcelona where the Global Studies degree required 12.35 and the International Business Economics degree required 12.733 in 2023. You can check all Nota De Corte in Spain at the El Pais website. Please bear in mind that these can change from one year to the next.

Private universities do not have to use the Selectividad and are able to select students according to their own criteria. Sometimes these will be defined in terms of specific A level or IB scores but often, private universities will want to see these grades converted into a Bachillerato equivalent.

In spite of the UK's departure from the EU, A' levels are still regarded in the same way as other EU high school diplomas so there is no need to go through a complicated "homologation" process when applying to Spanish universities.

1.3 Application process for Spanish universities

If you are considering studying at a public university, keep in mind to do this well in advance as the demand is huge. Moreover every faculty sets its own set of rules; hence you have to apply directly at each faculty of your choice. Usually deadlines are the following:

  • First week of June - for studies beginning in October
  • First week of September - for late applications beginning in October
  • First week of December - for studies beginning in February

Many private universities offer rolling admissions throughout the academic year. For degrees in dentistry, most open admissions in October/November for the following September although one or two are available earlier.

As part of the application process all students educated in EU systems (including A level and IB students globally) have to obtain the Credencial from UNED. This is a statement confirming that your high school diploma gives you the right to be a student in your home country and therefore also in Spain. For British students this means that you need to have three A' levels. For the IB you need the full diploma. Scottish Highers are also well understood. You might want to consider an agent to obtain the Credencial for you, particularly if you do not speak Spanish. We have worked with Homologation Student Services in Madrid for a number of years.

1.4 Accreditation and Recognition


In Spain, the National Agency for Quality Assessment and Accreditation (Agencia Nacional de la Evaluacion de la Calidad y Acreditacion), or ANECA, is mainly responsible for the quality of the Spanish high education system. This means universities have autonomy to decide the orientation and curriculum of their degrees, but they must meet the requirements set out by the ANECA in order to be accredited and included in the Registry of Universities, Centres and Degrees (RUCT). Some of the autonomous regions have their own Quality Assurance agencies.

However, the competencies of Quality Assurance bodies largely depend on their membership in the European Quality Assurance Register (EQAR). ANECA and five of the regional agencies are members of the EQAR. These are:

  • AQU-Catalunya in Catalonia
  • ACSUG in Galicia
  • ACSUCYL in Castilla y Leon
  • ACC-DEVA in Andalusia
  • UNIBASQ for the Basque Country

These agencies have the competency to give initial accreditation for new courses as well as re-accreditation for existing courses.

Furthermore, since 2011, the Spanish Qualifications Framework for Higher Education has been introduced to set out criteria and standards for quality assurance practice. This means although Spain has a decentralised higher education system, the quality of Spanish education is assessed within rigorous procedures.


The Ministry of Education, Culture and Sport (MECD) issues all degrees in Spain.

The alignment of the Spanish Qualifications Framework for Higher Education with the Framework for Qualifications of the European Higher Education Area (FQ-EHEA) and the European Qualifications Framework means that Spanish Master’s degrees are recognised around Europe.

2. How much does it cost to study in Spain?

2.1 Tuition fees for Spanish universities

Public universities in Spain do charge registration and tuition fees. The costs are relatively low in comparison with other countries. However the prices vary according to institution and are charged per credit. A standard year at university will consist of 60 credits (ECTS) . Spanish Bachelor's degrees take a minimum of four years to complete (240 ECTS). Typically, at a public university fees for EU nationals will not be higher than €1,500 per year but for non-EU nationals they can now be somewhat higher (up to about €8,500 a year)

If you decide to study at a private university, you should expect annual tuition fees to start at around €6,000 a year with the most expensive universities charging about €25,000 a year.

2.2 Cost of living in Spain

This is an example of a student’s monthly budge in Spain:

Accommodation €360 - €500
Food €250
Electricity, Gas, Water, Internet Bills: €150
Transport: €40
Social/Other Activities: €50
Total €850 - €990 (£750-850)

(Calculated based on figures from the Numbeo crowdsourced database)

3. Student life in Spain

3.1 How do I get a visa to study in Spain?

For British nationals, this has been an incredibly frustrating process since Brexit with the official advice from the London, Manchester and Edinburgh consulates often contradicting each other. From 2024, visas will be processed by a private company, BLS Global. It is to be hoped, but yet to be seen, that this will improve the situation.

We recommend that you appoint an immigration lawyer in Spain to assist you with this process, plus other bureaucratic issues you will have to deal with once you arrive at university. Please contact us for suggestions, particularly if you are moving to Madrid or Valencia.

3.2 Accommodation

Spanish universities do not usually own accommodation although some private universities will have options available to you.

There are private student residences available and many of these are managed by international companies who provide housing in the UK and elsewhere in Europe. These include Xior and Yugo. Their offerings are usually high standard but always expensive.

If you want to gain an idea of the rental market for apartments in any Spanish university town, we recommend you have a look at Idealista's website.

3.3 Opening a Bank Account in Spain

You will be able to open a bank account once you have got a TIE number.


Can I work there as a student?

If you have an EU passport, you can automatically work in Spain next to your studies. If you don't have an EU passport, a student visa will give you the right to work up to a certain limit (usually 20 hours a week). The reality of studying in Spain is that you are unlikely to have that much time to work and also, youth unemployment is stubbornly higher than in the UK and elsewhere in Europe. This means that opportunities can be hard to find and are poorly paid when they do exist.

Universities in Spain

About A Star Future

A Star Future provides information and guidance to British students looking to pursue their undergraduate studies abroad.

Through our presentations in schools and our websites we aim to ensure that British-educated students are well informed about their choices.