Types of higher education

The system of Spanish higher education is very similar to that of Dutch higher education. Higher education in Spain is also either research-oriented ( ) or focused on professional practice ( ). The difference is that a study programme at a Spanish university can sometimes be focused on professional practice as well. The content of a study programme can tell you whether it is WO or HBO. We check this for each diploma.

Higher education in Spain consists of:

The Ministerio de Educación y Formación Profesional (Ministry of Education and Vocational Training) is responsible, among other things, for non-university education. University education has its own ministry, the Ministerio de Universidades (Ministry of Universities).

The language of instruction in higher education is Spanish, Catalan, Galician or Basque. This depends on the region or school.

University education

Students go to universities (universidades) for university education. In university education, students can get the following degrees:

Please note: students can take study programmes at Spanish universities that they finish with a título propio. The título propio is not a nationally recognised diploma, not an official diploma (título oficial). Only the Graduado, Máster Universitario and Doctor are official diplomas. See also Educational institutions and study programmes.

Graduado (bachelor's degree)

During the bachelor’s programme (estudios de grado), students receive research-oriented education or education focused on professional practice.

  • : 3 or 4 years (180 or 240 ECTS).
  • Content: research-oriented subjects ( ) or profession-oriented subjects ( ). The study programme sometimes includes an internship and always includes a graduation assignment (trabajo de fin de Grado, TFG). The TFG can be a thesis or a graduation project.
  • Admission requirements: a Título de Técnico Superior or Título de Bachiller and passing the entrance exam (EBAU/EVAU).
  • Function of the diploma: access to a master’s programme Máster Universitario.
  • Diploma: Graduado + field of study. Please note: for women it is Graduada instead of Graduado.

We compare a Graduado to an HBO bachelor’s degree or a WO bachelor’s degree. This depends on the content and the goal of the study programme.

Medical Graduado programmes

  • :
    • 5 years (300 ECTS) for dentistry, pharmacy and veterinary medicine;
    • 6 years (360 ECTS) for medicine.
  • Content: research-oriented education, training to become a doctor, dentist, pharmacist or veterinary surgeon.
  • Admission requirements: a Título de Técnico Superior or Título de Bachiller and passing the entrance exam (EBAU/EVAU).
  • Function of the diploma: access to work and to a master’s programme, Máster Universitario.
  • Diploma:
    • Graduado en Farmacia (pharmacy);
    • Graduado en Medicina (medicine);
    • Graduado en Odontología (dentistry);
    • Graduado en Veterinaria (veterinary medicine).
    • Please note: for women it is Graduada instead of Graduado.

We compare a Graduado en Farmacia/Medicina/Odontología/Veterinaria to at least a WO bachelor’s degree.

We compare a Graduado en Farmacia/Medicina/Odontología/Veterinaria to at least a bachelor’s degree, because the Spanish Ministry of Education can, under certain conditions, compare these programmes with the level of a WO master’s degree. In that case, we also compare the diploma to a WO master's degree.

Máster Universitario (master's degree)

There are research-oriented master's programmes and master's programmes focused on professional practice.

  • : 1 to 2 years (60 to 120 ECTS).
  • Content: research-oriented or profession-oriented subjects. Students increase their knowledge of the subjects they took during their bachelor's programme. Sometimes they do research or an internship and they always make a graduation assignment (trabajo de fin de Máster, TFM). The TFM can be a thesis or a graduation project.
  • Admission requirements: a Graduado and sometimes an entrance exam.
  • Function of the diploma: access to work and to PhD programmes.
  • Diploma: Máster Universitario + field of study.

We compare a Máster Universitario to an HBO or WO master’s degree. This depends on the content and the goal of the study programme.

Doctor (doctor’s degree)

Students can get the title Doctor after completing a doctoral degree (PhD). They usually continue their studies in the direction of their master's degree.

  • : 3 to 5 years.
  • Content: research and writing and defending a dissertation.
  • Admission requirements: a Máster Universitario or at least 300 ECTS, of which the student must have got 60 ECTS during a master's programme.
  • Diploma: Doctor + the field of study. Please note: for women it is Doctora instead of Doctor .

Non-university education

Students can get non-university education at non-university educational institutions (centros docentes no universitarios).

In non-university education, students can get the following diplomas:

Students in non-university education can also choose a doctoral degree programme (doctorado). In that case, non-university educational institutions offer this programme in cooperation with a Spanish university.

Título de Técnico Superior

The Técnico Superior programme falls under the advanced vocational education of non-university education. The official name for these advanced vocational programmes is: Ciclo Formativo de Grado Superior (CFGS).This is not to be confused with the Spanish vocational secondary education: Ciclo Formativo de Grado Médio (CFGM).

  • Duration: 2 years (2,000 hours).
  • Content: students take advanced vocational subjects and always do an internship.
  • Admission requirements: a Título de Técnico and an entrance exam or a Título de Bachiller.
  • Function of the diploma: access to work and access to higher education.
  • Diploma: Título de Técnico Superior + field of study.

We compare a Título de Técnico Superior to at least an MBO diploma level 4.

We compare a Título de Técnico Superior to a minimum of an level 4 diploma, because since 2010 Spanish universities have been directly accepting students with a Técnico Superior. Sometimes students also get exemptions.

Título Superior in art education

The Título Superior programme is part of Spanish higher art education (enseñanzas artísticas superiores). It is a bachelor's programme focused on professional practice ( ).

  • : 4 years (240 ECTS).
  • Content: profession-oriented subjects in the fields of music, dance, theatre, visual arts and design. There are many practical subjects and students often conclude the programme with a performance.
  • Admission requirements: a Título de Bachiller and an entrance exam.
  • Function of the diploma: access to work and access to Máster en Enseñanzas Artísticas programmes.
  • Diploma: Título Superior + field of study in art education. Examples of diploma names are:
    • Título Superior de Arte Dramático (drama);
    • Título Superior de Artes Plásticas (fine arts);
    • Título Superior de Conservación y Restauración de Bienes Culturales (conservation and restoration of cultural heritage);
    • Título Superior de Danza (dance)
    • Título Superior de Diseño (design);
    • Título Superior de Música (music).

We compare a Título Superior in art education to an HBO bachelor’s degree.

Máster en Enseñanzas Artísticas (art education)

The Máster en Enseñanzas Artísticas programme is part of Spanish higher art education (enseñanzas artísticas superiores). It is a master's programme focused on professional practice ( ).

  • : usually 1 year (60 ECTS).
  • Content: students increase their knowledge of the subjects they took during their previous education. They sometimes also do research.
  • Admission requirements: a Título Superior in art education or a Graduado and an entrance exam.
  • Function of the diploma: access to work and access to PhD programmes.
  • Diploma: Máster en Enseñanzas Artísticas + specialisation.

We compare a Máster en Enseñanzas Artísticas to an HBO master’s degree.

Higher education | old system

Higher education in Spain now consists of bachelor’s, master’s and PhD (Graduado, Máster Universitario, Doctor) degrees. Before 2010, higher education also consisted of 3 levels, but awarded different diplomas than now. Below we describe the diplomas for the 3 levels in the old system:

1st level: primer ciclo

Students took programmes focused on professional practice at the 1st level (primer ciclo/ciclo corto). They could get several diplomas.

  • : 3 years.
  • Content: profession-oriented subjects ( ), sometimes an internship.
  • Admission requirements: a Título de Técnico Especialista or Título de Bachiller and passing the entrance exam (Prueba de Acceso a la Universidad - PAU).
  • Function of the diploma: access to 2nd level higher education programmes (Licenciado, Ingeniero, Arquitecto) and access to work.
  • Diploma:
    • Arquitecto Técnico
    • Diplomado
    • Ingeniero Técnico
    • Maestro

We compare a Título de Arquitecto Técnico, Diplomado, Ingeniero Técnico or Maestroto an HBO bachelor’s degree.

2nd level: segundo ciclo

Students followed research-oriented or profession-oriented programmes on the 2nd level (segundo ciclo/ciclo largo). They could obtain several diplomas.

  • : 4 to 6 years, or 2 years (after completing a 1st level programme).
  • Content: usually research-oriented subjects ( ), sometimes profession-oriented subjects ( ). Sometimes students did an internship, usually they did not write a thesis.
  • Admission requirements: a Título de Bachiller and passing the entrance exam (Prueba de Acceso a la Universidad - PAU).
  • Function of the diploma: access to PhD programmes, to master’s programmes and to work.
  • Diploma:
    • Arquitecto
    • Ingeniero
    • Licenciado

We compare a Arquitecto, Ingeniero or Licenciado to a WO or HBO master’s degree. This depends on the content and the goal of the study programme.

3rd level: tercer ciclo

Students took research-oriented programmes (WO) at the 3rd level (tercer ciclo).

  • : 2 years.
  • Content: more in-depth subjects, research techniques and scientific research.
  • Admission requirements: Arquitecto, Ingeniero or Licenciado.
  • Diploma:
    • Diploma de Suficiencia Investigadora
    • Diploma de Estudios Avanzado

After completing one of these research-oriented programmes students started with their research for the Título de Doctor:

  • Duration: usually 3 years.
  • Content: research, writing and defending a dissertation.
  • Admission requirements: Diploma de Suficiencia Investigadora or Diploma de Estudios Avanzado.
  • Diploma: Doctor.

University entrance exam

To be admitted to a Spanish university, students must have the secondary school diploma, the Título de Bachiller (bachillerato). In addition, they have to pass the entrance exam (selectividad) in June.

Spanish universities use a set grade to decide which students to admit. This grade is a combination of the average final mark of the bachillerato (60%) and the result of the entrance exam (40%). Prospective students can get between 0 and 14 points (notas de corte).

The official name of the entrance exam is:

  • Evaluación de Bachillerato para el Acceso a la Universidad (EBAU); or
  • Evaluación para el Acceso a la Universidad (EVAU).

Please note: before 2018 it was called Prueba de Acceso a la Universidad (PAU).

The EBAU/EVAU consists of 2 parts:

  • a compulsory part (fase obligatoria);
  • a non-compulsory part (fase voluntaria).

Compulsory part of the entrance exam

Spanish universities only admit students who have passed the compulsory part of the entrance exam (EBAU/EVAU). This compulsory part consists of an exam in 4 or 5 subjects.

In any case, all students have to take exams in 3 subjects from the common part of the bachillerato and in 1 subject from the chosen subject combination.

Common part:

  • lengua castellana y literatura (Spanish language and literature);
  • historia de España (history of Spain);
  • lengua extranjera (foreign language: English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese).

Chosen subject combination:

  • 1 subject from one of these subject combinations:
    • ciencias (science subjects, including mathematics);
    • humanidades y ciencias sociales (classical languages, literature and, among others, geography, psychology and business economics);
    • artes (art).

In some regions, students may also take an exam in lengua cooficial y literatura (semi-official language and literature).

Non-compulsory part of the entrance exam

With the non-compulsory part of the exam, students can improve their grades. This increases their chances of being admitted to university.

Students with a Título de Técnico Superior, Técnico Superior de Artes Plásticas y Diseño or a Título Deportivo Superior have not had to take the entrance exam since 2010.

More information about subjects

You can find more information about the subjects of the entrance exam under 'Estructura EBAU' (EBAU structure) at the bottom of the page Evaluación de bachillerato on the UNEDasiss website (Universidad Nacional de Educación a Distancia - UNED).

Entrance exam for foreign students

Spanish universities also admit foreign students, usually through an entrance exam. At some Spanish universities, students from EU member countries do not have to sit an entrance exam. This is only the case if these students have a diploma that allows them to go to university in their own country. Students with the European Baccalaureate or International Baccalaureate may also not need to take an entrance exam.

Requirements per country

On the UNEDasiss website, you will find an overview of the requirements per country:

  • Click under ‘selección de país del sistema educativo’ (select education system country) on the country where you got the diploma.
  • Under ‘Tipo de estudios’ (type of studies), select ‘Estudios secundarios que permiten obtener la homologación al Bachillerato español’ (secondary school diploma that is equivalent to the Spanish secondary school diploma).
  • Click on ‘criterios de admisión en la universidades españoles’ for the table of the admission requirements of Spanish public universities.

Please note: check with the university whether the admission requirements are still correct.