The financing of education in Spain comes from both public funds and contributions from private institutions and citizens. Therefore, the total expenditure on education is defined as the set of funds allocated to education (both public and private) from public and/or private sources.
Bodies responsible for public funding
Organisation of the public financing system
The organisation of the system of public financing of education is consistent with the decentralisation (distribution of competences) and autonomy of the education system in Spain.
Public funds are provided mainly by the Ministry of Education and Vocational Training (MEFP) and regional education authorities. Other ministries, as well as other regional and local education authorities, also provide economic support, although to a lesser extent.
At state level, the amounts allocated to education and their distribution among the different educational stages are annually established in the state budget (PGE). It manages public funds for its sphere of management, which includes the Cities of Ceuta and Melilla, and educational institutions abroad.
The autonomous communities manage public funds within their territories and decide on the amounts allocated for education and their distribution among the different types of provision, programmes and services, which is annually established in their budgets. Such funds come from the taxes they collect and other revenues, and the state transfers (the amounts established for each autonomous community are determined by different parameters, especially population).
Finally, local administrations, although they do not have the status of education authority, cooperate with central and regional authorities in developing education policies and, more specifically, in the creation, building and maintenance of facilities for public educational institutions. Their funds come from the collection of taxes and other revenues, as well as from transfers from the State and the relevant Autonomous Community.
The funding of publicly-funded private schools
Educational agreements seek to ensure/guarantee the effective implementation of the right to education and the right of parents to exercise their freedom of choice, whether in favour of a public or private school, by means of allocating public funds by the administration to private schools.
The global sum of public funds aimed at public-funded private schools’ sustainment must allow for the gratuity of education covered by educational agreements and is set by the corresponding administrations’ budgets. Every year, the general state and autonomous communities budgets establish the economic module amount per class unit, which will not be inferior to the amount marked in the general state budget.
In 2020, public spending by education administrations in private schools reached EUR 6 914 million, distributed mainly between pre-primary and primary education (EUR 3 407 million; 49.3%), secondary education and vocational training (EUR 3 067 million; 44.4%) and special education (EUR 410 million; 5,9%). Source: drawned up by Eurydice España - rediE (INEE, MEFP) from Statistics on public spenditure on education 2020. Transfer of fundings from education administrations to private schools by education administration and levels. General Subdirectorate for Statistics and Studies of the Ministry of Education and Vocational Training.
Funding for programmes managed by the MEPF and collaboration in programmes with the autonomous regions
The MEPF, along with the autonomous communities, creates and manages several territorial cooperation programmes in order to reach the general educational objectives, reinforce students’ competences, favour the students’ knowledge and appreciation for the cultural richness in the different autonomous communities, contribute to inter-territorial solidarity and territorial balance regarding the compensation of inequalities. These programmes are:
- Programme for educational guidance, development and enrichment (PROA+);
- Personal and family guidance service and accompaniment units (UAO) for vulnerable students on Education;
- Support programme for the purchase of textbooks and teaching materials;
- Inclusive education programme;
- Emotional well-being in education programme.
These programmes are financed by the MEFP and the regional education authorities. State funding for co-financed programmes is distributed among the Autonomous Communities as agreed at the Sectoral Committee for Education. The distribution criteria depend on the characteristics of the programme, but usually take into account the number of public schools that provide the relevant studies for the programme and the number of students in these schools and programmes.
Financial autonomy and control
Every school year, the education authorities in each Community establish the material and human resources for each public institution in their territory, based on different aspects:
- educational stage;
- number of units;
- opening hours;
- the supplementary services it provides;
- the characteristics of its population;
- the specific needs to be determined by the management team of the institution.
In addition, they may receive additional funding from the following:
- the local administration, institutions of the European Union or other international bodies;
- legacies and donations;
- agreements signed with individuals or legal entities;
- the benefits obtained from the sale of facilities as a result of educational activities or which are currently not being used;
- income from the use of school facilities by municipal governments and other bodies, or by individuals or legal entities.
Schools are provided with pedagogic, organisation and management autonomy within the current legislation. Through the elaboration of their own management project, public centres present the organization and use of their human and material resources.
The education administrations are responsible for the following functions:
- to favour the schools’ autonomy in such way that their material and human resources can give answers and feasibility to their educational projects and proposals;
- to allocate bigger resources to particular public or publicly-funded private schools, as required by some projects or the conditions of the special needs of their pupils;
- to fix limits to the complementary resources that public schools can obtain, with the approval of the School Board;
- to promote quality educational actions which imply that schools will elaborate a strategic plan which will include: objectives, results, management, expected results, temporal framework, and activity schedule.
Control and accountability of educational institutions
Public schools have economic management autonomy, as it is established by their respective education administrations. In accordance with the current regulations on the public administration contracts and on the implementations and justification of expenditure, the acquisition of goods, contracting of construction works, services and supplies may be delegated to the governing bodies of public schools by the education administrations.
Public educational institutions are held accountable for the management of their resources through a report which states the amounts received, the expenses incurred and the resulting credit/debit balance.
This document must also include a supplementary report on:
- the academic results obtained during the year;
- the evolution of the indicators established in the report attached to the annual budget of the institution.
Bigger allocations for publicly-funded educational institutions are subject to accountability and justification that resources have been properly used.
Additional resources cannot come from activities organised by parents’ associations, in compliance with their purposes, and must be used to cover the school’s expenses.
The management team draws up a budget, which is submitted by the head teacher to the School Council for approval. Once authorised, it is sent to the relevant education authority.
All the documents submitted must be made available for verification to education inspection, regional bodies with competence over budget or tax issues or the Court of Auditors, among others.
Fees within public education
Pre-primary education: first (0-3 years of age) and second cycle (3-6 years of age)
The authorities owning the school establish the fees families must pay in these public educational institutions; the first cycle is not free and the second cycle is free of charge and has an enrollment rate of almost 100%.
In future years, a progressive implementation of the first cycle is planned through a sufficient and free public offer, which will lead to an increase in the enrolment rate in this cycle, prioritising students in poverty risk and social exclusion.
The education authorities may regulate the maximum public prices in public educational institutions, for which they normally take into account the following criteria:
- having more children attending the same school;
- income of the household;
- extended school hours;
- use of the canteen service.
Primary education and secondary education
It is provided free of charge in publicly-funded schools.
Families only cover the costs of school materials, textbooks, and supplementary services, such as meals or transport. However, there are grants to help them pay for these expenses.
In a large number of autonomous communities, systems of free books and curricular material have been developed in order to ensure fully free basic education.
From 3rd year of compulsory secondary education and so on, registration in public schools requires payment of a small fee for school insurance, which covers in case of family hardship, accident, or illness. The fee is directly paid, through a bank account, to the educational institution, which transfers it to the Social Security Treasury, reporting to the Ministry of Inclusion, Social Security and Migration (MISSM).
In order to carry out after-school activities, voluntary fees may be established for parent associations.
The different administrations, national, regional, and local, provide different types of financial support for those students' families with children under 18 years old, whether they are of school age or not.
These administrations offer three types of benefits:
- tax related;
Direct financial support
It is general in nature and provided by the Social Security.
There are three types:
- benefits for dependent children or minors: for families with one child whose income is less than EUR 14 011.0 per year (2023), a threshold which gradually increases as the number of dependent children also increases (these families receive EUR 588 per child per year);
- benefits for birth and adoption, for large families, single parents, and in cases of parent/s with disabilities;
- benefits for multiple birth or adoption;
- support for families with children, both minors and children of full age, who have some kind of disability. They do not depend on family income, but on the degree of disability of the children.
There are two types of tax benefits available in the Personal Income Tax settlement, depending on the number of children:
- increase in the individual minimum level of income for the calculation of the taxable base;
- deductions from the social security contribution.
The personal and family minimum, i.e. the amount of the taxable base which, being used to meet the basic taxpayer's personal and family needs, is not subject to personal income tax, increases:
- EUR 2 400 per year for the first dependent child or minor;
- EUR 2 700 per year for the second one;
- EUR 4 000 per year for the third one;
- EUR 4 500 per year for the fourth and subsequent ones.
In any case, for those minimums to be applied, the dependents must meet some specific requirements.
These amounts are increased by EUR 2 800 when the child is less than three years old.
Some autonomous communities increase this personal minimum for the calculation of the regional tax.
In addition, women with dependent children under the age of three who are self-employed or employed by others are entitled to a deduction of up to EUR 1 200 per year for each child in that age group. An additional EUR 1 000 will be added to this deduction if the worker has paid childcare costs in nursery schools during the fiscal year. This aid is not limited by the worker's income.
The Autonomous Communities apply different tax deductions in the autonomous phase of personal income tax for birth or adoption and for educational expenses.
Specific financial support
In addition, there is specific financial support for the following target groups:
- single-parent families;
- parents who are chronically ill;
- large families (three or more children): they receive the largest amount of specific financial support, such as:
- transport discounts;
- preferential status when applying for grants;
- reduction or exemption from public fees;
- housing benefits;
- some fiscal benefits;
- victims of gender-based violence and/or their children under the age of 25. According to Royal Decree 117/2023, in the 2023/24 school year, they can receive:
- the basic grant or the enrolment grant, as appropriate;
- the fixed amount determined by the income;
- the fixed amount determined by residence;
- the variable amount.
Financial support for families of pupils with Specific Needs for Educational Support
Families with children with specific needs for educational support may receive social aid as well as support for their children’s education..
The Ministry of Education and Vocational Training annually offers direct financial support for families with students with needs derived from:
- attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD);
- severe behaviour disorders;
- severe communication and language disorders associated to special educational need;
- autism spectrum disorder (ASD);
- intellectual giftedness.
This assistance covers the costs of:
- registration fees;
- textbooks and school materials;
- pedagogical or language re-education.
*The amounts established for transport aids or benefits are up to 50% higher in the case of students with a recognised motor disability of over 65%.
In order to be eligible, the family income and assets must not exceed the economic thresholds defined in the call for applications, and the beneficiaries must meet the following requirements:
- holding a certificate attesting to the specific need for academic support;
- being two years old by 31 December of the year preceding the application;
- being enrolled in one of the following educational levels:
- pre-primary educationPrimary education;
- compulsory secondary education;
- intermediate and advanced training cycles;
- professional artistic education;
- basic vocational training;
- transition into adulthood programmes;
- other vocational training programmes.
In the case of large families who do not meet the economic requirements, there is the possibility of obtaining an allowance for special academic support needs. It only covers urban or intercity transport and canteen aids and is not subject to income or wealth thresholds.
Gifted students may only receive a maximum amount of 913 euro for attendance to specific programmes for this group that are not provided free of charge by the corresponding educational administration. They will be eligible for this aid when they meet the following requirements:
- holding a certificate that recognises the specific need for academic support for gifted students;
- being six years old by 31 December of the year preceding the application;
- being enrolled in one of the following educational levels:
- primary education;
- compulsory Secondary Education;
- intermediate and advanced training cycles;
- professional artistic education.
Like other students with specific academic support needs, family income and assets must not exceed the financial thresholds defined in the corresponding call.
Financial support and subsidies are not available whenever the need for which the allowance is aimed is already covered by publicly-funded services, or by funds directly transferred to schools to finance this type of provision.
There are three types of economic support to begin or pursue a programme of studies which are valid throughout the country:
- financial support: awarded on the sole basis of the applicant’s socio-economic circumstances. It does not include individual financial help to cover the expenses of supplementary services which the education authorities must offer free-of-charge as established by legislation to students enrolled in basic education who must attend school in a town other than their place of residence: transport, meals, and boarding;
- grants: awarded based on the applicant’s socio-economic circumstances and academic achievement;
- awards: aimed at students with high academic achievement.
The requirements in order to be eligible, as well as household income and capital thresholds, are annually updated.
Support and grants
The State finances grants and support through the Ministry of Education and Vocational Training, and also co-finances grants with the Autonomous Communities.
Regional education authorities also finance certain supplementary services, such as meals, transport, residence, and boarding.
The State, through the MEFP, annually awards grants (which are subject to socioeconomic circumstances and academic results) and aid schemes (which are subject to socioeconomic circumstances only) of a general nature targeted at students who are enrolled in any of the non-university post-compulsory studies:
- 1st and 2nd year of bachillerato;
- intermediate and advanced vocational training, including vocational training studies in military training centres;
- professional artistic education;
- sports education;
- advanced artistic education;
- advanced religious education;
- advanced military education;
- language education in official language schools of the education authorities, including distance provision;
- access courses and courses to prepare vocational training entrance examinations and specific training courses in order to have access to intermediate and advanced vocational training offered by public and publicly-funded private institutions providing authorised vocational training;
- basic vocational training;
- 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;
- complementary credits or training supplements required to access or complete the master's and bachelor's degrees.
To be eligible for these grants and aid schemes, the following requirements are established:
- General requirements:
- not to possess or not to meet the legal requirements for obtaining a degree of the same or higher level as that of the studies for which the grant is claimed;
- to be a Spanish citizen. In the case of citizens of the Union or their family members, beneficiaries of the rights of free movement and residence, they will be required to have the condition of permanent residents or to prove that they are self-employed or employed by others.
- Academic requirements:
- Admission: to obtain a grant, students must enrol for complete courses or at least half of the modules comprising the corresponding cycle.
- Required teaching load:
- Students in the first year of bachillerato must prove they are not repeating a course and having obtained an average grade of 5.00 points in the fourth year of compulsory secondary education or entrance exam.
- Students in the first year of other studies must prove that they are not repeating the course either totally or partially.
- Students in the second and subsequent courses organised by subjects must prove that they have passed all the subjects in the previous academic year, except one.
- Students in the second and subsequent courses organised by modules must prove that they have passed at least a number of modules in the previous academic year, representing 85% of the total number of hours of the course in which they were enrolled.
- No grants or aids will be awarded to students repeating a course either in full or partially.
- 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.
The awarding system consists of two parts:
- fixed amounts:
- tuition grant;
- fixed amount linked to the student's income;
- fixed amount linked to the student's residence during the school year;
- fixed amount linked to excellence in academic performance;
- basic grant.
- variable amount: it is established for each call for applications and beneficiary through a formula that takes into account family income and academic performance:
- the lower the income and the higher the performance, the higher the individual amounts;
- with the same income, a higher performance entitles the student to a higher amount;
- with the same performance, a lower level of income entitles the student to a higher amount.
The income and family wealth thresholds above which the right to receive scholarships and study aid disappears, is established by Royal Decree 117/2023, which determines the income and family wealth thresholds, and the amounts of the scholarships and study grants for the 2022/23 academic year.
In the 2019/20 school year, a total of 1 860 323 students in pre-primary education, primary education, compulsory secondary education, special education, basic vocational training, bachillerato and intermediate vocational training received a grant. The total amount was EUR 1 208 million.
Number of grant holders and percentage they represent, according to educational level. 2019/20 school year
1 622 098
2 843 852
Compulsory secondary education
2 041 117
Basic vocational training
Intermediate vocational training
Source: Drawn up by Eurydice National Unit of Spain (National Institute for Educational Evaluation, MEFP) on the basis of data obtained from Statistics of education (2020/21: students enrolled on general non-university levels and number of students who received grants and amount in compulsory child and special education, and post-compulsory non-university levels)
Subdirectorate General for Statistics and Studies, Ministry of Education and Vocational Training.
The education administrations call for Excellence Awards of:
• secondary school;
• vocative training;
The aim of this awards is to officially recognize the students’ merits, with an excellent academic performance, based on effort and work. Each education administration establishes the nature of the award, which can be a reduction of tuition in a public local university, cash award, etc.
Publicly-funded private schools
The education authorities establish educational agreements in order to provide public funding to educational institutions of private ownership.
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 publicly funded while others are completely private.
These schools select their own teaching staff, although salaries corresponding to classes taught in publicly funded school units are directly paid to teachers by the relevant education authority.
The management of both non-teaching staff and material and economic resources in publicly funded school units must be in line with the allocation of expenses established by public authorities for financing educational agreements.
As far as fees are concerned, there are two types of educational agreements:
- publicly funded units providing the second cycle of pre-primary education, primary education and compulsory secondary education are entirely financed with public funds and free for families (general educational agreements);
- publicly funded units offering other types of provision are partly financed with public funds (singular educational agreements), so students have to pay fees the amount of which depends on the specific Autonomous Community. In the case of bachillerato, as a general rule, fees cannot exceed the limits annually established in the State Budget. In 2018, the amount ranges from EUR 18 to 36 per student per month, ten months a year. However, these amounts may be increased in some cases which are recognised by legislation on education.
Publicly-funded private schools are allowed to supplement their income by means of charging fees to parents for additional and extracurricular activities and services, provided that no member of the school community is discriminated against, the activities always take place out of school hours, are voluntary and have a non-profit character. However, the income obtained by means of these fees requires approval from the relevant education authority.
When it comes to accountability, in general, regional education authorities apply to publicly funded school units the same mechanisms as in public schools.
As regards tax relief, educational services up to university levels, provided by either public or private institutions authorised by the relevant authorities, are exempt from payment of VAT.
Furthermore, in some Autonomous Communities, there are additional tax benefits for families with regard to school fees and associated costs, regardless of the type of educational institution chosen.
Financial support and grants for students from publicly-funded private schools are the same as those for students from public schools. More information can be found in the article on the organisation of private education.
Private non publicly funded schools
Private schools enjoy autonomy to draw up their own internal regulations, select teachers, in compliance with qualification requirements set up in current legislation, and decide on their economic regime.
Their main source of income is the fees charged to families, although they may also receive additional funding through transfers made by private institutions or individuals.
They charge fees for their educational services, namely:
- tuition (formal education);
- out-of-school supplementary activities (trips and/or visits);
- extracurricular activities;
- supplementary services (meals, transport, and residence);
- other services, such as extended school hours in early child education, health care, etc.
Regarding tax relief, educational services up to university levels, provided by either public or private institutions authorised by the relevant authorities, are exempt from payment of VAT.
In addition, in some Autonomous Communities, there are additional tax benefits for families with regard to school fees and associated costs, regardless of the type of educational institution chosen.
As far as grants and financial support are concerned, families may apply for financial help from the education authorities to cover the cost of registration and tuition fees of children attending private pre-primary schools.
In this case, they cannot apply for State assistance to cover the expenses of textbooks and school materials. Despite this, the Autonomous Communities may provide financial support to students enrolled in compulsory education in order to contribute towards the costs of textbooks and school materials or meals.
In post-compulsory non-university levels, as a general rule, the types of grants and financial support available are the same as the ones offered for students attending publicly-funded schools.
There is a component which is specifically addressed to pupils in private schools and earmarked for tuition costs in these institutions. This financial assistance can be awarded to students who do not exceed a maximum income level and who are enrolled in bachillerato, vocational training, professional artistic education or sports education.