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Masters Study in Spain - A Guide for 2018

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A Masters in Spain can be an excellent opportunity to study within a prestigious higher education tradition while developing skills in one of the world's most popular international languages.

This guide covers everything you'll need to know about postgraduate study abroad in Spain, with information on universities and courses and advice on fees, funding and applications.

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Postgraduate opportunities in Spain – what’s on offer for 2018?

Though not always as visible as other European countries in world university rankings, Spanish higher education is still renowned for its quality, with an extensive network of institutions (some of which date back to the 13th century). Today, Spanish Masters degrees draw upon the country's expertise in several cutting-edge fields.

From renewable energy to new organ transplant procedures, Spanish universities and their research are having an impact around the world, so it’s no wonder that more than 50,000 international students go looking for a Masters in Spain each year.

Here are some of the best reasons to consider a Masters in Spain:

  • English-taught Masters – Lots of Spanish programmes are now taught in English (en inglés) so you won't have to learn Spanish unless you want to.
  • Language skills – If you decide to learn the local tongue, you’ll benefit from knowing a language that is spoken by around 500 million people. As well as being the first language of several Latin American nations, Spanish also the second most common language spoken in the USA.
  • International opportunities - Spain maintains a range of global business, heritage, scientific and cultural partnerships, which you could take advantage of during your time there. Also, Spain is a key member of the European Higher Education Area.
  • Affordability – Tuition fees in Spain are relatively low for both EU and non-EU nationals.

Masters Study in Spain - Key Details
Universities 85
Oldest University University of Salamanca (1218)
International Students 56,361
Course Length 1-2 years
Typical Fees (Domestic / EU) €1,894 (average)
Academic Year September to June

What's it like to study abroad in Spain?

Want to know more about life for international students in Spain? Our detailed guide covers everything from accommodation and living costs to culture and entertainment.

Spanish universities

There are currently 85 universities in Spain: 50 of these are public institutions supported by state funding. The remaining 35 are private, having been established by independent groups or foundations rather than through government legislation. All can offer postgraduate programmes at Masters level.

Spanish research and education covers a range of subjects, with disciplines arranged into the broad fields of Arts and Humanities; Sciences; Health Sciences; Social and Legal Sciences; and Engineering and Architecture. Most institutions will offer Masters programmes in all of these areas, but some universities are more specialised.

Masters training also takes place at external university research centres (affiliated with one or more university and focussing primarily on PhD-level research) and a number of Spanish universities specialise solely in postgraduate programmes or distance learning options.

University rankings

Spain holds its own in the three main university rankings tables, with a handful of institutions appearing in the top 200 and several more in the top 500.

Top 10 Spanish Universities in 2018
University THE 2018 QS 2018 ARWU 2017
Pompeu Fabra University 140 =296 201-300
Autonomous University of Barcelona =147 =195 301-400
University of Barcelona 201-250 156 201-300
University of Navarra 301-350 =270 -
Autonomous University of Madrid 351-400 187 301-400
Polytechnic University of Catalonia 401-500 275 -
University of Rovira i Virgili 401-500 - -
Computense University of Madrid 501-600 233 301-400
University of Granada 501-600 501-550 201-300
Polytechnic University of Valencia 501-600 =373 401-500
Information in this table is based on the latest Times Higher Education World University Rankings, QS World University Rankings and Academic Ranking of World Universities. Visit their websites for more information.

Do university rankings matter for postgraduates?

University league tables can help you in your search for a Masters degree, but you need to know what to look for. Our guide to university rankings for Masters study can help.

Spanish university cities

When it comes to student cities in Spain, you’re a little spoilt for choice. From major European commercial bases like Madrid to smaller cities like Bilbao and everything in between, there’s a great variety of places to study in Spain.

These are just a few of the major higher education centres in Spain:

Course types

Like most European countries, Spain is a signatory of the Bologna Process. This means that its university degrees are organised according to the ‘three cycle’ system: undergraduate programmes are ‘first cycle’, Masters degrees are ‘second cycle’ and PhDs are ‘third cycle’.

The Spanish academic year generally runs between September and the end of June. At most institutions this year is divided into two main teaching semesters, separated by examination and holiday periods.

The first semester generally runs in the winter, between September or October and December. The second runs in the Spring, between January or February and May. The main examination period is held in June, with a holiday between July and the beginning of the next academic year. Depending on the length of your Masters programme, you may find that this holiday period is designated for the completion of your dissertation.

Organisation of a Spanish Masters degree

A Masters in Spain can take 10 to 24 months and will represent between 60 and 120 ECTS (European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System) credits.

Spanish Masters programmes may include modules (or asignaturas) which can be core (asignaturas troncas), compulsory (asignaturas obligatorias), or optional (asignaturas optativas or de libre elección). Most will comprise a mixture of modules or be exclusively based on core units, depending on the level of flexibility built in. At the end of your programme you will be required to complete a Masters dissertation, the credit weighting of which can range between six and 30 ECTS credits, but will generally account for around a quarter of the total value of your course.

Masters courses offered through the Erasmus programme are very common in Spain. They are always two years in duration and include periods of study abroad, placements and/or internships. These Erasmus Masters are not to be confused with 'Inter-University' Masters which are delivered collaboratively by groups of Spanish institutions.

Official and non-official degrees

One peculiarity of the Spanish education system is the presence of two different categories of university degree at both undergraduate and Masters level.

Official degrees are fully recognised academic qualifications, established in accordance with government regulations. They are valid throughout Spain and recognised within the European Higher Education Area (EHEA) as well as most international university systems.

Non-official degrees (also referred to as university-specific degrees) are created by universities without government input or accreditation and are not recognised within the EHEA system. A selection of Masters qualifications fall into this category, with titles such as 'Non-official Masters', 'Specialist Masters' and 'Expert Masters' as well as various other diplomas or certificates. As a rule these qualifications do not carry an ECTS credit value and do not require independent research and dissertation tasks, as they’re instead focused on professional skills.

The existence of such qualifications may seem strange, but they can serve a range of purposes. The majority are professional qualifications designed to train graduates with key skills in vocational fields. In some cases universities may even design and run very specific training programmes in collaboration with external, non-academic partners and aimed exclusively at students seeking to work for those partners.

Search for a Masters in Spain

Ready to start looking for your ideal study abroad opportunity? Browse and compare Masters degrees in Spain on FindAMasters.com

Masters fees and funding in Spain

Tuition fees in Spain are usually charged per credit, rather than per semester or per academic year. Charging per credit helps make sense of the varying rates for programmes in different subject areas. Because each credit reflects around ten hours of supervised teaching (in addition to your own independent study and preparation), the cost of providing and resourcing that time can be easily reflected. In some science subjects, where expensive facilities and equipment are required, costs will be higher than in other areas.

Fees per credit for Masters programmes are regulated by the government and this applies to both public and private universities. Fees per credit are generally between €25 and €60, but there are exceptions.

This means the cost of a Spanish Masters programme averages between €1,500 and €3,600 for a 60 ECTS credit course and between €3,000 and €7,200 for a 120 ECTS credit course.

Subject areas requiring particularly expensive facilities or resources may be more expensive and costs for non-EU students may also be slightly higher.

Some Spanish Masters programmes may incur small additional charges, including application and administration fees as well as supplementary costs for any extra-curricular activities and insurance.

Funding for Spanish Masters programmes

A range of scholarships and funding packages (or becas as they are known in Spanish) are available to support Masters programmes. Funding providers include the Spanish government and regional authorities as well as independent charitable organisations. Some individual universities also offer funding to help students access postgraduate studies.

Lists of other scholarship and funding opportunities for students studying in Spain are maintained on the websites of large charitable foundations and research bodies, such as AECID (the Spanish Agency for International Cooperation and Development), Fundacion Carolina as well as Spain's Ministry of Education, Culture and Sports.

Applying for a Masters in Spain

In accordance with the Bologna process, admission to most Spanish Masters programmes will require you to hold a Bachelors degree in a relevant field. Further criteria will be set by individual universities and will vary between institutions and courses. You may be expected to provide the following documents:

  • An academic transcript of your previous studies
  • A CV indicating any professional and / or research experience relevant to your course
  • References (it may be advisable to include an undergraduate tutor amongst your referees)
  • Documents proving English and / or Spanish proficiency as required by your course
  • A personal statement outlining your interest in the course and subject area as well as its suitability to your aims and career goals

Recognition and accreditation of foreign qualifications

If your undergraduate qualification was achieved within the EHEA, it will usually be recognised automatically. In other cases, your university should be able to review and confirm your qualifications.

Further official accreditation of foreign qualifications is not typically required for Masters programmes, but will be a fairly simple process if it’s necessary. Accreditation takes place through an official body within the Spanish Ministry of Education and applications are usually commenced at Spanish Embassies or Consulates. You will usually need to provide the following documents:

  • Copies of documents proving your identity and nationality
  • A certified copy of the qualification you wish to have recognised and accredited in Spain
  • A document detailing the programme of studies carried out to receive this qualification, including information on course duration, course content and hours of study
  • Payment of a corresponding application fee (around €90-150)

Criteria for the submission of official documents

Spain operates fairly strict guidelines with respect to the documents submitted for official purposes (such as a university application or for the accreditation of existing qualifications). In particular, you should be aware that documents issued abroad will usually need to be accompanied by a 'sworn translation' into Spanish. This can be conducted by certain diplomatic and consular representatives (at Spanish embassies abroad, or foreign embassies within Spain). Independent sworn translators also provide this service within Spain.

Application deadlines

Spanish universities set several application deadlines. Courses at particularly popular and competitive institutions may begin taking applications as early as January, whilst others may open their application window from May.

Universities begin selecting students from the first 'batch' of applicants and may continue to accept further applications until all places have been allocated. Each university will have its own application procedure, but you can use the FindAMasters course search to view information on applications procedures as well as contact details for a range of Spanish Masters programmes.

Language requirements

The large number of postgraduate courses taught in English means that you won't usually be required to learn Spanish to study for a Masters in Spain.

However, with a year or two to spend studying in the country, you might like to take advantage of the opportunity to acquire some new language skills. Learning another language is always an excellent way to gain additional value from international study and this is especially true with respect to Spanish. As one of the most widely spoken languages in the world, Spanish will equip you well for work in academic, professional and business fields and will enhance your CV for a wide range of employers.

Even though their programmes are often taught in English, most universities in Spain will offer Spanish language courses to foreign students. With regular opportunities to practise your skills whilst living in Spain as a Masters student this can be a convenient (and surprisingly fast!) means of acquiring some fluency.

You can learn more about Spanish language training and academic tests of Spanish proficiency using our guide to Spanish language tests.

Masters student visas in Spain

If you are an EU student, you won't need a formal visa to enter Spain: a valid identity card or passport will be sufficient. However, EU students (as well as those from Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein or Switzerland) will still have to register with the Central Registry for Foreign Citizens and acquire a Foreign National Identity Number (Número de Identificación de Extranjeros). This will allow you to open a bank account and receive discounted fares on public transport as well as entitling you to use Spanish health services.

If you are a non-EU student, you will have to apply for a type-D visa at the Spanish embassy in your home country. The visa is initially valid for three months, after which you will need to have it extended. Make sure you are granted a type 'D' visa with multiple entries. You will then be permitted to re-enter Spain freely during your stay if you travel outside of the Schengen area or return home for holidays. Non-EU student visa holders are normally not allowed to undertake paid work with their type-D visa, unless they obtain a work permit.

Visa application requirements (non-EU students)

In addition to a completed application form, two to four passport photos and the payment of any associated fees, the following documents are usually required as part of a Spanish student visa application:

  • A passport, valid for the duration of your intended stay in Spain
  • Proof of university admission (for example, an offer letter from your institution) and details of the contents of your Masters (including the duration)
  • Proof of healthcare cover (some embassies/consulates may have a minimum level of insurance)
  • Proof that you have the means to support yourself financially whilst living in Spain

In some cases you may also require:

  • Proof of address in Spain
  • A medical certificate
  • A police background check from your country of residence

Some consulates will wish to conduct a face to face interview with prospective candidates, but this should be made clear early in the application process. In most cases, the initial processing period for a Spanish student visa application is seven days. If you don't hear back from the consulate during this time, you can assume that your paperwork is in order and that your visa will be delivered. It will usually take a further two months for the visa to be produced. In most cases you will need to collect your visa from the consulate upon being notified that it has been issued.

Within a month of arrival you will have to apply for a non-community student card from the regional government. This allows you to get a longer-term student visa and also to enrol fully at your university. To do this, you must go to your local Foreign Nationals Office to make an appointment for fingerprinting to process the foreign national ID card. The fee for this is usually €15.

Where to go for additional advice

Exact immigration criteria can vary for students from different countries. If you think that any exceptions or particular requirements may apply to your application you should be able to get information and guidance by contacting a Spanish consulate. Your university may also be able to help, either through a dedicated international office, or through its student recruitment and admissions department. You can also access detailed information and advice at the website of the Spanish Ministry for Foreign Affairs.

Next steps

Spanish universities put skills development at the heart of the curriculum. Some institutions even guarantee exposure to relevant employers or offer integrated placements in industry as part of their Masters programmes. This means that, whatever you choose to study as a Masters student in Spain, you'll come away with a high quality degree that will position you well for further academic study or employment. Your time studying abroad in Spain will also demonstrate your adaptability to employers and, if you've taken the opportunity to learn some Spanish, provided you with valuable communication skills in a world language.

Of course, a Spanish Masters degree is also an excellent preparation for a PhD in Spain. Visit FindAPhD.com to learn more about PhD study in Spain.

Search for a Masters in Spain

Ready to start looking for your ideal study abroad opportunity? Browse and compare Masters degrees in Spain on FindAMasters.com

Last updated - 07/02/2018

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