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What are the rules and fees for foreigners to go to Spanish universities?

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What are the rules and fees for foreigners to go to Spanish universities?
What you need to know about studying at university in Spain. Photo: Buro Millennial / Pexels

If you're thinking of going to university in Spain, it's important to know what qualifications you need to get in, how much tuition fees cost and what the differences are for international students.


There are around 1.7 million students in higher education in Spain, according to the latest statistics available and the number of foreign students who studied in the Spanish University System (SUE) in the 2021-2022 academic year amounted to 170,222.

Spanish universities generally have a good reputation and the country is even home to one of the world’s oldest universities - the University of Salamanca, which opened back in 1218. 

Accessing university for foreign residents in Spain

If you are a foreigner who has residency in Spain and you are over the age of 18, you can access Spanish universities under the same conditions as Spaniards.

This means you are also able to apply for the same scholarships and grants as Spanish students.

If you attended high school in Spain, you will also be able to take the same test as Spaniards to enter university -  the Bachillerato Assessment for University Access (EBAU or EvAU), also known as selectividad.

This is a compulsory test for Bachillerato students, which is Spain's equivalent to A-levels after the age of 16, who want to access university.

READ ALSO: What are the rules for working on a student visa in Spain? 


Accessing Spanish universities for EU citizens

If you’re an EU citizen, in most cases you will have to get an accreditation issued by the UNEDassis service (University Application Service for International Students in Spain) in order to attend university here.

To do this, you must visit the website of the National Distance Education University (UNED) where you will have to submit your educational qualifications and transcripts. It opens in April each year. You will then receive your Credencial de Accesso (access credentials), which you will need to submit to your chosen university within 3 to 4 months.

READ ALSO: How to enter Spain on a tourist visa and stay to study

Accessing Spanish universities for non-EU, non-resident citizens 

Foreigners who are not from an EU country and don’t have residency in Spain are still able to go to Spanish universities, however, it is a little more complicated.

Firstly, you will need to go through the homologation process in order to get your qualifications recognised in Spain. This is carried out through the Ministry of Education and Vocational Training, except if the university you want to attend is in Catalonia, Galicia or the Basque Country, because in those cases you must request homologation in the region itself. You can contact your local Spanish consulate to help you navigate the process.  

Once you have your qualifications recognised in Spain, by receiving the Accreditation (Volante de convalidación), you must pass the Bachillerato Assessment for University Access (EBAU) or the Specific Competence Tests (PCE). 

In addition, once you have received your place at a Spanish university, you must also apply for a student visa in order to legally be able to live in Spain during your studies.  

READ ALSO: Non-EU university students in Spain will be able to stay after finishing studies


What are the tuition fees for universities in Spain? 

Spain has both public and private universities and the cost greatly differs between the two.

In both public and private universities, the tuition you pay each year is obtained by multiplying the number of credits you enrol in by the cost per credit. Typically during each year of your studies, you take 60 credits.  

However, to make matters more complicated, each subject within the university has a different cost, depending on what you study. Each institution is free to set any tuition fee they choose because there are no fees set by the authorities.

On top of this, each region in Spain charges different amounts and some are considerably cheaper than others.  

According to data from the association Escuela PCE in 2024, Asturias, the Canary Islands, Cantabria and Galicia are the cheapest regions to study at a public university. Here, the minimum prices for one year range from €516 to €612 and the maximum prices are from €834 to €936. 

On the other hand, Madrid, Catalonia and Navarra are the most expensive, where minimum prices range from €906 to €1,062 per year and maximum fees range from €1,110 to €1,284. 


For example, to study medicine at a public university in Andalusia costs €757 per year, while in Catalonia the cost is much more at €1,660 per year.  

At private universities, the cost of enrolment for undergraduate studies ranges from €5,500 to €18,000 per academic year with the average around €9,500. The cost again depends on the degree and institution chosen, but it can be higher. Generally, though, private universities do not exceed €20,000 per academic year. 

Tuition fees for international vs. national students

International students from the EU typically pay the same amount as national students in Spain, as do those who have prior residency in Spain. You'll need to prove this by showing your TIE card. 

For those from non-EU countries, it can be a little different, but because there are no set fees it will depend on lots of different factors as stated above.

According to Studyportals, an international student website, there are reports of non-EU citizens being charged the same as EU citizens, as well as of others being charged around €1,000 to €1,500 higher than those from the EU or even tuition that costs two or three times higher. Your best bet is to contact the university you’re interested in directly and ask for the price.

You should know that Spain offers many different types of grants and scholarships for students, many of which are open to international students, as well as Spaniards. Your local Spanish consulate should be able to give you information on those that may be available to you. 

READ ALSO: Can I study English-language degrees at universities in Spain?


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