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General structure

The Spanish educational system is undergoing a process of general reform of all its stages and levels, as a consequence of the progressive implementation of the new teaching system established in the LOGSE law in 1990, which affects the system structure, the curriculum and the organization of teachers, centres and other aspects.

The LOGSE structures the educational system into general and specific studies. Included within the general studies are early childhood, primary and secondary school education (which comprises compulsory secondary education, upper secondary education and intermediate level specific vocational training), specific higher level vocational training and University education.

Arts and language studies are included under the special studies framework. Adult education and special needs education are also regulated, as well as those educational programmes whose main educational purpose is to compensate for inequalities. University Education is regulated in the LRU.

Pre-school education

Catering for children up to six years of age. It is not compulsory; however, the Government must guarantee that there are sufficient places to be able to cater for all children who wish to attend classes. The educational nature of this period is recognised with its main objective being to contribute to the physical and personal development of the child.

Primary Education

It is compulsory and free for children between six and twelve years of age. It is divided into three cycles of two years each. It is a compulsory and free educational stage. The main objective is to promote socialization of boys and girls, to foster understanding of their culture and contribute to their actively progressive independence in their environment. The teaching methodology has a personalized nature and is adapted to the different learning abilities of each student through continuous and overall assessment. 

Secondary Education

Free compulsory educational stage for students of school age which extends for a four-year period after the primary education stage. The student normally starts this stage at 12 years of age and ends it at 16. It provides the necessary training to continue to both Intermediate grade Vocational studies and Higher Secondary School studies. After that, students can, on the one hand access a vocational training course for one or two years or on the other hand, do the two-year course for Higher Secondary School studies as preparation for University. 

Higher Secondary School Studies

Last stage of Secondary Education, it is voluntary and it lasts two academic years, normally between 16 and 18 years of age. These studies provide general training, favouring a higher intellectual maturity as well as a higher capacity to acquire a wide range of knowledge and skills, it aims to strengthen the foundations for further studies, either university or vocational, and finally, it enables the students to be directed towards their preferences and interests.

Vocational Studies

Vocational studies provide the teaching and training to qualify students for employment different professions. It includes those programmes which, geared towards continuous in-company training, employment and reemployment are developed as part of vocational training studies, which are regulated by different rules. 

Basic vocational training is integrated into the general teaching system, both in compulsory and higher secondary level studies aiming to facilitate a general vocational training but without being confined to a specific profession.

Specific vocational studies strictly refer to professional training. It is envisaged as a final stage and divided into two levels: Intermediate level vocational studies and higher level vocational studies.

El primero de ellos se inserta inmediatamente después de la educación secundaria obligatoria y para acceder a él es necesario hallarse en posesión del título de Graduado en Educación Secundaria.

Para cursar la formación profesional de grado superior se requiere el título de Bachiller, pudiéndose además exigir haber cursado determinadas materias del bachillerato en concordancia con los estudios profesionales a los que se quiere acceder.


Student visa

Any foreign student who wishes to study in Spain should apply for the corresponding visa before arrival at the Diplomatic missions or Spanish consular offices in her or her country. For this purpose academic reports should be provided which certify the student’s previous studies. Nationals from those countries where a stay of less than 90 days does not require a visa will not need a student visa to do courses of duration of less than the said 90 days. To obtain more details about this visa, visit the visa section at aemigrar.com

Applying for student stays

After arrival in Spain the foreign student has to apply for a short stay permit at the Foreigners’ Office or at the Police Station of the locality which covers the period established.

Can the student bring their relatives to Spain while studying?

Foreigners who have obtained a student visa for studies which lead to obtaining a valid qualification or to do research, or who find themselves Spain as students will be able to apply for the corresponding short stay permits for their family members to come and stay in Spain legally for the duration of the aforementioned studies or research, without any need for the foreign student to have previously stayed. These visas can be requested at any moment from the time application of the student visa has been made by the student/researcher.

Looking for a school

Schools: As regards schools, they can be:

Public: Those that are publicly-owned and depend on the different Autonomous Communities and offer free education.

State- funded: These private schools should meet a series of requirements and are funded by the Public Administration. They are free of charge, although some centres charge a small fee to cover uniform, school material etc, which can vary from centre to centre and these amounts are always small. 

Private: Privately -owned centres. The costs depend on many factors such as the enrolment fee, monthly fees and whether or not services such as transport, dining-room, extra lessons, sports, facilities etc. are included in the fees.

Enrolment period: In general applications are made in the month of April, but there is an extraordinary period in September for the vocational intermediate and higher level courses. Later on, in the months of June and July the enrolment is done according to level, in the cases where applications have been made in September the enrolment should also be done in this month.

School calendar: There may be variations between the different Autonomous Communities. However, the academic year starts in mid September and ends in the month of June, with holiday periods at Christmas, Easter and summer.

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Universities are self-governing entities with the capacity to establish their own courses offered. Students are given the possibility of attending third level courses at the Public University of their choice, regardless of their place of origin.
Finally, it is worth mentioning that in Spain there are public and private universities and most private centres are funded by the State.

The university system is generally made up of three cycles: The first cycle, which leads to a diploma, is divided into three academic years; the second cycle is divided into two or three academic years on completion of which the person obtains a University degree; students who wish to carry out a PhD must complete the third cycle, made up of two years and then write their thesis, which they should also defend in public. There are also a number of university options adapted to the European Union regulations (EU, formerly European Community), which are made up of four academic years.

In summary, for undergraduates:


Qualification granted

Years of study

First cycle

Technical engineer
Technical architect
Primary school teacher

Three years taught in a single cycle

Second cycle


5 years taught in two cycles



6 years taught in two cycles

And for postgraduate courses:


Qualification granted

Years of study



Postgraduate studies





Postgraduate studies taught at Universities

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Specific studies

Specific studies are defined in the LOGSE law and they comprise of arts (music, dance, drama, visual arts and design) and languages, but the government may establish new specific studies if the evolution of the educational needs demands it.

In addition, studies on conservation and restoration of cultural heritage are considered higher level studies. The qualification obtained is equivalent to a university diploma.

Special needs education

The LOGSE also includes the necessary structures to cater for students with special needs. The concept of special education needs relates to the idea of diversity among students. All students need some individual pedagogic help during their schooling, technical or material, which aims to ensure that the general educational objectives are attained. The attention to special education needs is also directed towards those students who, in a complementary and more specialised way, may need other less common types of support

Adult education

The LOGSE also regulates adult education, establishing that continuous education is the basic principle of the entire educational system The aim is to overcome the historical concept of adult education as compensatory and along the lines of literacy and back to education. Within this framework of continuous education, adult education aims to prepare students to learn by themselves and to facilitate their incorporation into different studies, guaranteeing that they can acquire, update, complete or extend their knowledge and aptitudes for their personal and professional development. These courses can be studied by two modes: “On-site” and distance learning.

Looking for a University

After the UK and Ireland, Spain has become the third most popular destination in Europe for foreign university students. At present, 36% of the foreign students come from the American continent and, within this, 31% are Latin American. 29% is made up of European students, of which 22% are from the European Union. The Arabic world provides 14% of foreign students, the African continent 12% and Asia 9%.

The following links will give you access to the websites of most of the Spanish Universities:



The basic admission criteria vary from University to University, but there is a series of basic requirements which should be met:

  • An acceptance letter from the Spanish educational institution.
  • Valid passport.
  • Visa application form.
  • Validation of Academic credentials.
  • Photocopies of present and previous studies.
  • Official validation of the academic documents by your country’s authorities.
  • Birth certificate.
  • Curriculum.
  • Proof of financial resources (grant or sponsor)
  • Reference letters and recommendation.
  • Passport photograph.
  • Proof of motives to return.
  • Medical examination.
  • Payment of administration fees.

If you wish to obtain more information about these documents visit the following section related to the student application process at aemigrar.com


The University Entrance exams

The University Entrance exams or “Selectividad” aim to evaluate the academic maturity of students and check their level of knowledge acquired during the last years of secondary school or "Bachillerato". In this way, it is ensured that the future students have got a certain academic level. The marks obtained in the university entrance exams and in Bachillerato put in order the applications from the students to carry out university studies where the demand exceeds the number of places offered. Once the exams have been passed, the student can resit them as many times as necessary; the highest mark of which be counted. The marks obtained at the University Entrance exams remain valid with time.

Can I apply for a grant as a foreign student?

As a foreign student you will have access to the public grant system under the same conditions as Spanish students.

Here are some links where you can apply for grants:

Spanish Agency for International Cooperation- AECI  

It provides information from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation and the AECI for foreign and Spanish citizens who wish to study in Spain and abroad. A yearly grant programme which can be applied for on the internet at the following address:   



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Requirements for the validation of foreign qualifications in Spain

The validation of University qualifications from abroad implies recognition of the equivalent foreign qualification with respect to a specific official Spanish qualification valid throughout the Spanish territory. It implies the recognition of the academic level and it also recognizes the professional technical abilities related to the Spanish qualification in question.

Both the official approval and the validation can be requested by those Spanish or foreign citizens who have attended studies and obtained an official or officially recognised qualification from a foreign educational system as well as those who have studied in centres authorised to teach studies in Spain in accordance with the educational systems of other countries.

Students who come from a foreign educational system and wish to incorporate to any of the six academic years of Primary Education or up to the third year of Secondary education, do not have to undergo any validation process for their studies. The incorporation into the corresponding studies is carried out at the centre where the student wishes to continue studies, according to age and other requirements for that academic year. This implies that the foreign courses, equivalent to the six years of Primary education and to 1st and 2nd year of Compulsory Secondary Education do not need to be validated.

The qualifications must meet the following requirements in order to be validated/officially approved:

  • The studies done and the qualifications obtained should have official validity in the educational system of the corresponding country. If the foreign centre is located in Spain, this centre should be duly authorised to teach those studies by the competent Spanish Educational Administration.
  • The qualification should guarantee that the studies were effectively passed according to the educational system of the country where it was issued. A foreign qualification obtained through validation or official approval of another qualification when obtained in a third country shall not be accepted, nor should those qualifications obtained through level tests, without attending courses, except in cases where a rule expressly says so.
  • There should be sufficient similarity with the Spanish studies or Spanish qualification of reference, in terms of the academic level and the duration and contents of the respective studies.
  • The studies leading to the Spanish qualification of reference should be fully established in the Spanish educational system.
  • The course or courses to be validated should have been completely and successfully passed in the educational system of the other country (no validation of separate subjects can be granted). In addition, the completion of all the courses prior to that to be validated or officially approved is required.
  • The student cannot have previously obtained the same qualification or studies from the Spanish educational system that he wishes to validate.
  • The studies carried out in foreign educational systems by students coming from the Spanish educational system will be validated with the Spanish Compulsory Secondary Education or Bachillerato qualification, as long as the student has passed all the correlative courses to be completed in order to finish Compulsory Secondary Education or Bachillerato, respectively.

More information:

http://www.mae.es/es/MenuPpal/Consulares/Servicios Consulares/
Españoles en el extranjero/Notariales y legalizaciones/





Validation of University Qualifications

The granting or denial of the validation of foreign third level qualifications is carried out by the Department of Education, Culture and Sports. In order to validate the qualification you must present the following documents along with the application form:

  • The applicant’s certificate of nationality. This certificate must be issued by the competent authorities from your country. You can also present a certified photocopy of the national identity card, in the case of Spanish nationals.
  • Original qualification to be validated or original certificate certifying the issuing of the qualification.
  • Academic report of the studies carried out by the applicant for the qualification to be validated, stating the duration in academic years and the subjects passed.
  • In order to validate the qualification of Doctor, you should also present the following documents:
    • Descriptive report of the thesis presented, written in Spanish as well as a copy of this report, indicating the members who made up the Thesis Board and the qualification obtained.
    • Certified photocopy of the Degree, if it was obtained from a Spanish University or a certified validation if it was obtained from a foreign University.

What are the requirements for documents issued abroad?

All documents issued abroad should be official, issued by the competent authorities and made official by diplomatic means. They should be accompanied, if necessary, by the corresponding sworn translation into Spanish.

When are the original qualifications given back?

All the original documents if they have been presented along with a photocopy are given back once the verification has been carried out, that is, once the photocopy has been compared with the original, except for the original qualification to be validated and the original certificate certifying the issuing of the qualification.

If the photocopies have already been verified (if they have been compared to the original) and made legal before a Notary or at the diplomatic missions or Consular offices in the country the document comes from, it will not be necessary to present the original.

What does the validation process entail?

Once the application form has been submitted and all the required documents have been presented, the Department of Education, Culture and Sports has to send the file to the Academic Commission of the Universities Committee, which should issue a report in a maximum period of three months except in cases where there is a treaty or international agreement of which Spain is a part stating that a report is not mandatory. Once the report has been received, the Department of Education, Culture and Sports will make a decision on the validation requested. The decision should be made known within 3 months.

Legalization of documents in Spain


The documents to be presented must be made legal. The legalization procedure is different according to the country where the qualification is issued.

If the country has signed the Andrés Bello Agreement:

The documents should bear the Apostille. The Apostille is the certificate of authenticity. In each country the competent authority is different, but it is usually the Department of Foreign Relations.

Which countries have signed the aforementioned agreement?

Germany, Andorra, Antigua y Barbuda, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Bahamas, Barbados, Belgium, Belize, Byelorussia, Bosnia- Herzegovina, Botswana, Brunei - Darussalam, Croatia, Cyprus, Colombia, El Salvador, Slovenia, Spain, USA, Russian Federation, Fiji, Finland, France, Greece, Hungary, Marshall Isles, Israel, Italia, Japan, Lesotho, Leetonia, Liberia, Liechtenstein, Luxemburg, Macedonia, Former Yugoslavian Republic, Malawi, Malta, Mauritius Islands, México, Norway, The Netherlands, Panama, Portugal, United Kingdom and Northern Ireland, San Cristobel and Nieves, San Marino, Seychelles, Switzerland, South Africa, Suriname, Swaziland, Tonga, Turkey and Venezuela.

If the country has signed the Andrés Bello Agreement:

The documents have to be made official by diplomatic means: The documents must be presented in:

  • The Department of Education of the country of origin for qualifications and academic extracts and in the corresponding Ministry for birth certificates and nationality certificates.
  • The Department of Foreign Affairs of the country where the documents were issued. The Spanish diplomatic or consular representation in that country.


Which countries have signed the Andrés Bello Agreement?

Bolivia, Colombia, Chile, Ecuador, Spain, Panama, Peru and Venezuela.

If the country has not signed the Hague Agreement nor the Andrés Bello Agreement:

Documents are legalised in diplomatic terms. They must be handed in:

  • The Department of Education of the country of origin for qualifications and academic extracts and in the corresponding Ministry for birth certificates and nationality certificates.
  • Department of Foreign Affairs of the country where the documents were issued.
  • The Spanish diplomatic or consular representation in that country.
  • The Legalisation Section within the Spanish Department of Foreign Affairs.

If the qualifications were issued in one of the following countries they do not need to be legalised.

France, Germany, Italy, Belgium, The Netherlands, Luxemburg, United Kingdom, Ireland, Denmark, Greece, Spain, Portugal, Austria, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Iceland and Liechtenstein

Procedures to continue University studies in Spain

One of the options to come to Spain is that of continuing university studies (you need a special visa). Here we provide the requirements and procedures to be done at the University of Zaragoza, which are very similar to other universities in this country.

Required documentation

  • Official academic report of the studies carried out and officially approved abroad.
  • Contents included in the studies programme of the subjects to be validated. All the documents to be presented should be made official and certified by diplomatic means and, where necessary, translated into Spanish by the competent authority.

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