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Adult education and training funding


3.Funding in education

3.3Adult education and training funding

Last update: 10 April 2024

Main funding principles

The aim of adult education is to offer citizens over the age of 18, or those reaching that age in the year in which the course begins, the possibility to acquire, update, complete and expand their knowledge and skills for their personal and professional development. The training provision includes different types of training and programmes offered by the education, employment and local authorities.

In addition to adults, exceptionally, students over the age of sixteen, who request it and have an employment contract that does not allow them to attend ordinary educational institutions or who are high-performance athletes, may also enrol in these programmes. Likewise, the educational administrations may exceptionally authorise access to these courses for those over the age of sixteen who are in circumstances that prevent them from attending ordinary educational institutions and which are duly accredited and regulated, and for those who have not been enrolled in the Spanish educational system.

The General State Budget of 2023, extended in 2024 until the approval of the new ones, establishes the following objectives of the Ministry of Education and Vocational Training (MEFP), currently the Ministry of Education, Vocational Training and Sports (MEFD), regarding adult education:

  • Recognise and disseminate the work carried out by those public institutions, private non-profit organisations and public adult education centres throughout Spain that stand out for their effective contribution to adult learning.
  • Respond in a satisfactory and sufficient manner to the education and training needs of the social sectors at greatest risk of social exclusion or with the most pressing education and training needs for access to employment or promotion in employment, through different initiatives within the framework of adult education and lifelong learning.
  • Promote adult learning as a key component of lifelong learning, helping to support and design training itineraries that contribute to greater employability, mobility in the labour market and social inclusion.
  • Ensure the quality of the training provision (in its different modalities) and establish a monitoring system for the adult learning sector.
  • Respond to the needs for information, training and exchange of experiences and resources that may be experienced by two types of professionals: guidance and adult education professionals.
  • Design a single, integrated and flexible provision that facilitates vocational training for people at any time of their lives and easily identifies the professional competences acquired in the workplace.
  • Improve the level of qualification and accreditation of workers, promoting and simplifying the procedures for the accreditation of professional competences acquired through work experience and non-formal training, among those people who work and do not have a qualification.
  • Adding a procedure that does not yet exist in Spain for the recognition of basic competences among workers who do not have them accredited by any qualification.
  • Carry out specific vocational training programmes tailored to adults' needs.
  • Continue with the implementation of the Plan for vocational training, which is articulated in four financial years, the priority areas of the plan being, among others, the following:
    • acknowledgement of basic and professional skills;
    • digital provision in modules within companies for employed people;
    • Aula Mentor actions;
    • training in digitalisation applied to productive sectors for vocational training teachers;
    • innovation and knowledge transfer projects in vocational training;
    • FP Conecta platform;
    • entrepreneurship and vocational training: entrepreneurship spaces;
    • renewal of the catalogue of qualifications for strategic sectors;
    • resizing of vocational training: expansion by 200,000 places;
    • transformation of classrooms into applied technology spaces;
    • reskilling and upskilling initiatives for employed workers;
    • creation of a network of 50 excellence institutions in vocational training.

Funding for the actions and measures developed to achieve these objectives comes from various sources. On one hand, the General State Budget (PGE) foresees income from various chapters:

  •    State revenue
    •  direct taxes and social security contributions;
    •  indirect taxes;
    •  public prices, fees and other revenues;
    • current transfers, including transfers under the NextGenerationEU Recovery Plan for Europe (EU-Reaction and Resilience Facility and React-UE) and other EU transfers;
    •  Property income;
    •  disposal of actual investments;
    •  capital transfers;
    •  financial assets.
  • Revenue from autonomous bodies attached to the various ministries.
  • Revenues from other entities attached to the various ministries.
  • Social security revenue
    • direct taxes and social security contributions, including the vocational training contribution paid by companies on one hand, and by the worker on the other;
    • public prices, fees and other revenues;
    • current transfers, including those from the European Social Fund (FSE);
    • poperty income;
    • disposal of actual investments;
    • capital transfers;
    • financial assets;
    • financial liabilities.

On the other hand, the autonomous communities' own funds are also used.

Bodies responsible for public funding

Public funds for adult education and training are mainly provided by the MEFP, the Ministry of Employment and Social Economy (MTES) and the regional administrations, both education administrations and employment administrations.

The following aspects are financed by the education administrations:

  • formal adult education, leading to the award of official certificates;
  • a small part of occupational vocational training, which is the training to encourage the professional reintegration of the unemployed through qualification or the updating of their professional competences;
  • training leading to certificates of professional experience.

In 2021, EUR 407.8 million were invested in adult education and EUR 1051.1 million in occupational training (Source: Public expenditure statistics on education. 2021. Total public expenditure on Education by type of educational activity and economic nature. General Subdirectorate of Statistics and Studies of the MEFD).

Administrative autonomy and the mechanisms for control have the same characteristics as funding in public institutions offering other types of provision.

Since 2020, education administrations are responsible for vocational training for employment. In the General State Budget for 2023, it is the second  most funded programme within the MEFP, with 1 178.4 million euros.

Employment administrations currently finance a part of vocational training for employment for both employed and unemployed people. In 2021, 2 236.4 million euros in resources for VET were earmarked for their training, both at state and regional level.

Vocational training for people in employment is managed by the State Public Employment Service (SEPE), the Autonomous Communities, the National Institute for Public Administration (INAP) and the  State Foundation for Training in Employment (FUNDAE). Vocational training for the unemployed comes mainly from the State Public Employment Service and is managed by the regional employment authorities. Regional governments and local corporations also make contributions from their budgets. These resources were distributed as follows according to the target groups: 1 309.8 million for the training of employed workers, 430.9 million for the training of unemployed workers and 495.7 million in flexibility for training and employment.

Fees paid by learners

As in the case of students in compulsory education, basic education for adults  is also free of charge.

Each Autonomous Community decides on the cost of public fees for each post-compulsory service and/or educational activity, specifically the following aspects:

  • entrance examinations to intermediate or advanced vocational training cycles ;
  • examinations leading to Technician and Advanced Technician  certificates;
  • registration in language courses in Official Language Schools;
  • student benefits and fee waivers. 

The following groups are usually exempt from the payment of fees:

  • students who are members of families with five or more children;
  • beneficiaries of grants and financial support;
  • victims of terrorism;
  • other groups depending on regional regulations, such as victims of gender violence, unemployed people registered as job seekers within a certain period of time, people with a recognised degree of disability equal to or greater than 33 per cent, etc.

Students under 28 must pay an annual fee for school insurance, which includes health care, as well as benefits in case of illness, accident at school or family hardship.

Students enrolled in a course of the Aula Mentor project, the online non-formal training system of the Ministry of Education, Vocational Training and Sports, must pay a monthly fee of EUR 24 and register for at least two months. In the case of 30 hour courses, they have to register for at least a month.

In vocational training for employment, as one of the principles governing the system, all training activities are free of charge.

Financial support for adult learners

General grants and financial support in post-compulsory education and non-university higher education

Adults who are enrolled in non-university post-compulsory education programmes are eligible for these grants and general financial support when they are studying bachillerato, intermediate and higher vocational training (FP), professional artistic education or sports education, either in the ordinary modality or in specific modalities for adults, in which the provision allows for partial enrolment. This procedure is the same as the one indicated for the rest of the students in secondary education funding. These grants are also aimed at people who enrol in access and preparation courses for vocational training entrance exams and in specific training courses for access to intermediate and higher training cycles, taught in public and publicly funded private institutions.

This grant may include the following elements for students in all post-compulsory education:

  • fixed amount
    • basic grant: 300 euros;
    • fixed amount linked to the student's income: 1700 euros;
    • fixed amount linked to the student's residence during the school year: 2 500 euros. However, in no case may this amount exceed the actual cost of the grant.
    • Fixed amount linked to excellence in academic performance: between 50 and 125 euros;
  • variable amount: minimum 60 euros. Once the fixed amounts have been allocated to all those who have applied for a grant and who meet the requirements, the remaining balance from the total budget is distributed. This is done by means of a distribution mathematical formula that weights, i.e. measures, the average grade of the student's academic record and the per capita family income.

In turn, in accordance with the mandate contained in Article 138.1 of the Constitution, grant beneficiaries with a personal or family address on the islands of Spain or in Ceuta or Melilla who need to use sea or air transport to reach the educational institution where they are studying, or the place where they are completing their internships as part of the corresponding training cycle, will receive an additional amount that is fixed annually in addition to the amount of the grant to which they have been entitled.

To be eligible for this grant, applicants must meet a series of conditions established in Article 4 of Royal Decree 1721/2007, of 21 December 2007, and its subsequent amendments, as well as certain economic and academic requirements. The income and wealth thresholds determining eligibility for the scholarship or grant, and the amount of the different elements and amounts of the scholarships and study grants, are established on an annual basis. The ones corresponding to the academic year 2023-2024 have been established in Royal Decree 117/2023, of 21 February.

Grants or aids may only be awarded for the number of years of the corresponding curriculum. However, students enrolled in distance learning studies or those benefiting from partial or specific enrolment offers for adults will be eligible for grants and aid schemes for a further year.

Grants for students attending language courses in Official Language Schools

Students attending language courses in Official Language Schools can be awarded financial help provided they are registered in a full course.
For these studies, students may be awarded the basic grant and the minimum variable amount for the duration of the programme of studies and for a maximum of two languages.
These grants are included in the call for general grants for students in post-compulsory studies. 

Grants for university education

The allocation of MEFD scholarships for university students varies according to the situation of each student, without a standard amount. These scholarships consist of a fixed amount and a variable amount:

  • fixed amount:
    • tuition grant: This includes the amount corresponding to the credits in which the applicant is enrolled for the first time;
    • fixed amount linked to the student's income: 1700 euros;
    • fixed amount linked to the student's residence during the school year: 2 500 euros. However, in no case may this amount exceed the actual cost of the grant.
    • Fixed amount linked to excellence in academic performance: between 50 and 125 euros;
  • variable amount: minimum 60 euros. Once the fixed amounts have been allocated to all those who have applied for a grant and who meet the requirements, the remaining balance from the total budget is distributed. This is done by means of a distribution mathematical formula that weights, i.e. measures, the average grade of the student's academic record and the per capita family income.

This procedure is the same as the one indicated for the rest of the students in higher education funding.

Adults can apply for general grants and financial support to pursue university studies in the Spanish university system at Spanish institutions, which are recognised throughout the country. Specifically, the courses included are the following:

  • Bachelor's and Master's degrees, including Bachelor's and Master's studies in the university centres of both Defence Ministry and the Spanish Civil Guard (Guardia Civil);
  • preparatory course for university access for people over 25 years of age offered in public universities;
  • training complements for accessing or obtaining a Master's degree and complementary credits for obtaining a Bachelor's degree. Grants for third cycle programmes or doctorate studies, specialisation studies or university qualifications are not included in this call. 

Vocational training for employment 

The education and employment administrations offer grants to students engaged in vocational training for employment, who are unemployed and meet the established requirements.

They may cover the following items:

  • transport;
  • meals;
  • accommodation;
  • attention to children under 6 or dependent family members.

In addition to this financial support, the Ministry of Employment and Social Economy (MTES) also offers grants to:

  • people with disabilities;
  • people with special needs;
  • people facing difficulties to integrate into the labour market or to improve their professional qualifications;
  • people participating in specific programmes established by the State Public Employment Service (SEPE)  or by regional public employment services.

Subsidies for private providers

Private adult education and training, both in-class and distance provision, is organised by a variety of institutions. They may be classified, according to whether it is organised by education or employment administrations or whether it leads to the award of an official certificate or not. In this respect, we find:

  • mainstream institutions;
  • specific institutions for adult education;
  • associations;
  • foundations;
  • companies;
  • business organisations and trade unions, etc. 

Education leading to an official qualification in the education system must be provided in mainstream institutions or in specific institutions for adult education.

In the academic year 2021/22 there were a total of 68 private adult education institutions as opposed to 2 194 public institutions. Source: Non-university education. Schools and education services. 2021-2022 school year. Adult education. Number of schools and actions by institution ownership, autonomous community/province and type of school. General Subdirectorate of Statistics and Studies of the MEFD). Private institutions can also be publicly funded or fully private.

Publicly funded private institutions:

For compulsory and post-compulsory non-university education, the educational administrations can establish an agreement to allocate public funds to privately owned education institutions. The beneficiary of this type of funding is the school unit, i.e., group of students being collectively and simultaneously taught by a teacher on an ordinary basis. Several school units may coexist in the same institution, some of them are considered grant-aided while others are completely private. 

Private schools with no public funding:

As private institutions offering other types of provision, they are free to decide, among other aspects, on their structure and resources.

The MEFD provides grants for the implementation of actions aimed at the educational care of adults with special educational needs. These are aimed at private non-profit organisations for carrying out actions aimed at the educational care of adults with special educational needs, understood in accordance with Article 73 of Organic Law 2/2006, of 3 May, on Education. These are people who require specific educational support and attention as a result of a disability or serious behavioural disorders. The grants are aimed at promoting the following types of educational actions for adults with special educational needs, at state or supra-autonomic level:

  • development of skills and acquisition of basic competences;
  • promotion of comprehensive development in areas such as quality of life, self-determination, cognitive stimulation, communication, personal and social skills, knowledge and exercise of the rights of people with disabilities, interdependence, autonomous and independent living;
  • participation and inclusion in all spheres of society;
  • keeping them up-to-date in the educational, social, personal, cultural and employment fields, in accordance with their expectations, needs and interests;
  • training aimed at orientation and preparation for labour market integration;
  • reinforcement in the use of information and communication technologies.

In turn, some Autonomous Communities offer financial aid to private non-profit organisations that develop adult education programmes. Such is the case of Comunitat Valenciana or Extremadura.