Main funding principles
The aim of adult education is to offer citizens over the age of 18 the possibility to acquire, update, complete and expand their knowledge and skills for their personal and professional development. It comprises different types of programmes, which are organised by the education, employment, and local authorities.
In addition to adults and in exceptional cases, students over 16 may pursue these studies if they apply and have an employment contract which prevents them from attending general education schools, or if they are high-performance athletes. Similarly, education administrations may authorize the access to adult education to students over 16 who, because of proven and recognised circumstances, cannot attend general education schools, and to those who were not enrolled in the Spanish education system.
The State General Budgets for 2021 establish the following objectives of the Ministry of Education and Vocational Training regarding adult education:
- To improve workers’ qualification and accreditation level, boost and facilitate the process to obtain the accreditation of the professional competences acquired by work experience of those workers who do not have any diploma. In addition, there will be specific vocational training offers adjusted to the needs of adult people.
- To contribute to digitalization by means of training adults without digital competences. The goal is to reach 1,500 towns with a wide training offer through Aulas Mentor.
- To promote equal opportunities of access, permanence, and promotion to quality education for every child, young person, and adult, by giving special attention to those sectors which, for their geographic or social situation, are in disadvantage through actions that will compensate the initial disadvantages.
- To contribute to the integration of disadvantaged young and adults, in risk of social and professional exclusion, who lack of a basic training, into basic education or vocational training.
- To promote adult education as a key component of permanent education by facilitating the support and configuration of formative itineraries which contribute to a higher employability, mobility in the labor market, as well as social inclusion.
- To ensure the quality of provision (in its different modalities) and establish a monitoring system of the adult education sector.
Funding for the actions and measures developed in order to achieve these objectives comes from the State Budget, the budgets of the different Autonomous Communities and the European Social Fund.
Bodies responsible for public funding
Public funds for adult education and training are mainly provided by the Ministry of Education and Vocational Training, the Ministry of Employment and Social Economy, and regional authorities, both education and employment.
Educational authorities finance:
- formal adult education, leading to 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, and studies conducive to achieve professional certificates.
In 2019, EUR 379.2 million were invested in adult education and EUR 858 million in occupational training.
Management autonomy and the mechanisms for control have the same characteristics as funding of publich schools offering other types of provision.
Since 2020, the education administrations are responsible for the vocational training aimed at employment. In the State General Budgets of 2022, it is the second programme to receive the most fundings of the MEPF, with EUR 1151 million.
Professional administrations currently fund a part of the training aimed at employees and the unemployed. In 2019, EUR 2,414 million were allocated to their training, both in state and in autonomic scope.
The Public State Employment Service (SEPE in in its Spanish acronym), The autonomous communities, the National Institute of Public Administration (INAP), and the State Foundation for Employment Training (FUNDAE) manage vocational training for the employed. Vocational education for the unemployed comes mainly from SEPE and is managed by the autonomic labor administrations. Autonomous communities and local corporations also contribute via their budgets.
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:
- entrance examinations to 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 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 terrorist attacks.
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 training system of the Ministry of Education and Vocational Training, must pay a monthly fee of EUR 24 and register for at least two months. In the case of 30-hour courses, they must register for at least a month.
Cost-free education is one of the principles underpinning vocational training for employment, so 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 or advanced vocational training, professional artistic education, or sports education, whether in mainstream provision or in specific adult education provision (including part-time provision). The procedure is the same for the rest of students in the secondary education funding.
They may include:
- for students in post-compulsory education:
- grants to cover the cost of registration fees in private institutions;
- materials and 'city supplements', in the case of learners who have to travel to study in more populated areas.
- must be enrolled in, at least, four subjects or areas, or in a number of vocational training modules equivalent to 500 class hours;
- must pass all the subjects, areas, or modules in order to qualify for assistance in the following year.
The duration of the grants can be one year longer than the regular duration established for the study programme.
Grants for students attending language courses in Official Language Schools
They can be awarded financial help provided they are registered in a full course.
The grant covers:
- tuition fees;
- school materials.
It is awarded 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: Call for applications 2022/2023.
Grants for university education
Grants may cover enrolment, transport, and school supplies. The procedure is the same for the rest of the students in the 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:
- university education leading to official bachelor's and master's degrees, including bachelor's and master's studies at the centres of both the 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
Students engaged in vocational training for employment, who are unemployed and meet the requirements established, may receive financial assistance.
It may cover:
- attention to children under 6 or dependent family members.
In addition to this financial support, the Ministry of Employment and Social Economy 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 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 authorities or whether it leads to the award of an official certificate or not, into:
- mainstream institutions;
- specific institutions for adult education;
- 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 2020/21 there were a total of 62 private adult education institutions as opposed to 2 164 public institutions. Private institutions can also be publicly funded or fully private.
Publicly funded private institutions:
For compulsory and post-compulsory non-university education, the educational authorities 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 publicly-funded 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.
Private institutions organising adult education provision can be classified into three main categories:
- private non-profit institutions:
- they receive public funding from different administrations and are characterised by a high degree of social intervention, and by organising a wide variety of cultural activities, together with education provision as such;
- the following should be emphasised:
- adult community colleges: integrated by a series of groups which form associations devoted to organising activities in the field of adult education, their objective is to promote participation in adult education on the basis of solidarity, integration, equity, and participation. They are grouped under the Federation of Adult Education Associations;
- popular universities: they are private-owned institutions, normally belonging to foundations, although they receive public financing. For more information, see Provision of liberal (popular) adult education.
- private profit institutions organising in-class provision:
- they mainly offer non-formal education related to professional and language training, as well as formal training leading to official qualifications;
- they are self-governing institutions and their income is obtained from students’ contributions.
- private profit institutions organising distance provision:
- they mainly offer language and vocational training programmes;
- they are private, self-managing institutions, and are financed with students’ contributions;
- most of them are integrated in the National Association of Distance Education Centres.