Higher education system in Spain

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Spain is characterised by a model of educational administration that is decentralised and distributes competences between the National Government, the Autonomous Communities and the universities. State laws set out the competence framework of these three actors and allows the Autonomous Communities to develop their own regulations on education.

The Spanish university system is regulated by the Organic Law 4/2007, amending the Organic Law 6/2001, on Universities (LOMLOU) and the Royal Decrees that develop the said law aspects regarding the competences of the National Administration.

The National Government exercises the competences that ensure the consistency and uniformity of the education system. On the other hand, the Autonomous Communities have competencies for the creation, modification and elimination of programmes, in both the public and private universities, and also for the core funding of public universities.

Key facts and figures on the system

In the academic year 2010/2011, almost one and a half million (1,445,392) students were registered at Spanish universities (87.8% of them at public universities and the rest at private universities). The number of academic staff in the year 2009/2010 totalled 110,287 members

Table. Academic staff and administrative and service staff (P.A.S.) at universities. Academic year 2009/2010.

University type Academic Staff P.A.S.

Public universities

Civil servants
Non-civil servants



Private universities


The number of degrees included in the RUCT in March 2012 totalled 9,415. This includes the pre-2007 degrees and new bachelor, master degrees and doctoral degrees (PhD programmes). Between 2008 and 2012, an overall of 4,798 renovated university programmes have been implemented.

Table. Number of renovated programmes implemented in 2008-2012 (data from April 2012).

2008-2012 Bachelor degrees Master degrees Doctoral degrees
Implemented programmes 2,065 2,554 1,731

Types of institutions

Currently there are 79 universities in Spain, 50 public universities (48 depending on the Autonomous Communities and other 2 directly dependent on the Ministry of Education, Culture and Sport) and 29 private universities.

Table. Evolution in the number of universities

University type 1985 2005 2012
Public universities 30 50 50
Private universities 4 23 29
Total 34 73 79

Types of programmes and degrees

University programmes are now structured into three cycles leading to Bachelor, Master and Doctoral degrees (Figure 1.1.). The Ministry of Education, Culture and Sport sets out their general specifications and the evaluation processes required to implement them. The universities design the study programmes whereas ANECA and the agencies from the Autonomous Communities develop and perform the assessment processes.

Spain types of programmes.JPG

Overview degree structure

Degree structure-ES.gif

Links to relevant national pages