Higher education in Spain

In Spain, higher education consists of:

  • university education (enseñanza universitaria) offered by universities (universidades) and universty centres (centros universitarios). These educational institutions offer vocational and research-oriented study programmes.
  • non-university education (enseñanza no universitaria) offered by non-university educational institutions (centros docentes no universitarios), such as conservatories (conservatorios) and art schools (escuelas de arte). These educational institutions only offer vocational study programmes.

he 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.

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).

  • : 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 programmes.
  • Diploma: Título de Técnico Superior + field of study.

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

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

Título Superior (higher art education)

Within Spanish higher art education (enseñanzas artísticas superiores), students can follow study programmes for a Título Superior. Higher art education is part of non-university education.

  • Duration: 4 years.
  • Study load: 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. 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 (higher art education) to an bachelor’s degree.

Graduado (bachelor's degree)

In university education, students get a graduado after completing a bachelor’s programme (estudios de grado). These study programmes can be either vocational or research-oriented.

  • Duration: 3 or 4 years. Medical study programmes take longer to complete, see Graduado en Farmacia/Medicina/Odontología/Veterinaria.
  • Study load: 180 or 240 ECTS.
  • Content: research-oriented subjects (WO) or vocational subjects (HBO). 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 Máster Universitario programme .
  • 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 bachelor’s degree. This depends on the content and the goal of the study programme.

Graduado en Farmacia/Medicina/Odontología/Veterinaria

Medical study programmes in university education take longer than graduado programmes in other fields of study.

  • Duration: 5 years for dentistry, pharmacy and veterinary medicine, 6 years for medicine.
  • Study load: 300 ECTS or 360 ECTS.
  • 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 WO 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 en Enseñanzas Artísticas

Within Spanish higher art education (enseñanzas artísticas superiores), students can follow study programmes for a Máster en Enseñanzas Artísticas. Higher art education is part of non-university education.

  • Duration: usually 1 year.
  • Study load: 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 (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.

Máster Universitario

In university education, students get a Máster universitario after completing a master's programme (estudios de master). These study programmes can be either vocational or research-oriented.

  • Duration: 1 to 2 years.
  • Study load: 60 to 120 ECTS.
  • Content: research-oriented or vocational 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 PhD programme (doctorado). They usually continue their studies in the direction of their master's degree. Students in both university education and non-university education can choose a PhD programme. In case of non-university education, the educational institutions offer this programme in cooperation with a Spanish university.

  • Duration: 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 .

Diplomas | old system

Higher education in Spain now consists of bachelor’s degrees, master’s degrees and PhD's. 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.

  • Duration: 3 years.
  • Content: profession-oriented subjects (HBO), sometimes an internship.
  • Admission requirements: a Título de Técnico Especialista or a 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 (Arquitecto, Ingeniero, Licenciado) 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 vocational programmes on the 2nd level (segundo ciclo/ciclo largo). They could obtain several diplomas.

  • Duration: 4 to 6 years, or 2 years (after completing a 1st level programme).
    • Content: usually research-oriented subjects, sometimes vocational 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).

  • Duration: 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.