Skip to main content
European Commission logo
EACEA National Policies Platform:Eurydice
Funding in education


3.Funding in education

Last update: 15 February 2024

The Spanish education system has a decentralised management and administration model. Educational powers are shared between the following:

  • the State General Administration (AGE): Ministry of Education, Vocational Training and Sports (MEFD) and Ministry of Science, Innovation and  Universities (MCNU);
  • the autonomous communities (departments of education or universities).

The general system for the transfer of funding to each Autonomous Community is settled by means of a multilateral agreement between regional governments and the State, which guarantees, through a series of mechanisms, solidarity between territories and a certain level of expenditure for the provision of the basic public service of education throughout the country.

The Autonomous Communities enjoy a high degree of management autonomy and they are therefore entitled to approve their own annual budget and to decide on the distribution of their resources.

Most of the investment in education is public, representing an 88% of the total spending on education in 2020 in primary, secondary and post-secondary non-tertiary studies, and a 66% in tertiary education.

Private expenditure comes mainly from household spending: 12% in primary, secondary and post-secondary non-tertiary studies (out of a total of 13% of private expenditure), and 30% in tertiary education (our of a total of 33%).

Proportion of public and private expenditure on education. Year 2020

  % Public Expenditure % Private expenditure: households % Private expenditure: others
Lower than higher education 88 % 11 % 1 %
Higher education 66 % 30 % 2 %

Source: Drawn up by Eurydice National Unit of Spain (National Institute for Educational Evaluation, MEFD) on the basis of Education at a Glance: OECD Indicators 2023 (Chapter 2.3.2, Figure 2.25, page 87).

Public expenditure on education refers to the amounts targeted by public authorities. Most of it is assumed by the education authorities (MEFD, MCNU and the departments of education  or universities in each Autonomous Community), whereas the rest is provided by other authorities.

Private funding comes exclusively from private sources. Non-university education in public schools and publicly-funded private schools supplements public expenditure and covers expenses such as books and school materials, meals, transport or extracurricular activities. In private non grant-aided schools, families must pay for registration and tuition fees. In public universities, private funding comes mainly from registration and tuition fees paid by students, the organisation of specialised courses and agreements signed with private corporations, as well as from other sources such as legacies, donations or subsidies granted by private institutions.

The annual expenditure, both public and private, per student by educational institutions is the result of dividing the total expenditure on education by the total number of students in Spain. This expenditure per student, expressed as a percentage of GDP per capita, reflects the effort made by the country in relation to its level of development.

Tertiary education students are the ones generating the highest cost, followed, in this order, by those in secondary education, primary education and early childhood education.

Annual expenditure (public and private) per student by educational institutions, relative to GDP per capita (from childhood to tertiary education). Year 2020

  Expenditure per student Percentage GDP per capita
Early childhood education 5440 23,0 %
Primary education 5629 23,8 %
Secondary education 6923 29,3 %
Tertiary education 8793 37,2 %
All levels 6622 28,0 %


Source: Drawn up by Eurydice National Unit of Spain (National Institute for Educational Evaluation, MEFD) on the basis of Sistema estatal de indicadores de la educación 2023 (Indicator F2, Figure 1, page 71).

Public educational expenditure in 2020 reached around EUR 59  772.9 million, representing 4.89% of the GDP, and was mainly distributed amongst pre-primary and primary education (29.7%), secondary education and vocational training (29.3%) and university education (14.8%).

Distribution of public expenditure on education according to educational activity. 2021 (in EUR thousand) 

  Amount (in EUR thousand) Percentage
Pre-primary and primary education 17 762 993,7 29,7 %
Secondary education and vocational training 17 528 972,4 29,3 %
University education1 8 857 071,6 14,8 %
Specialised education 1 243 001,5 2,1 %
Special education 1 676 625,6 2,8 %
Adult education 407 834,6 0,7 %
Education abroad 105 354,2 0,2 %
Supplementary services (non-univ. ed.) 1 319 944,1 2,2 %
Compensatory education (non-univ. ed.) 296 271,0 0,5 %
Extracurricular and additional activities (non-univ. ed.) 723 218,6 1,2 %
Teacher training and retraining (non-univ. ed.) 164 774,2 0,3 %
Educational research (non-univ. ed.) 79 934,3 0,1 %
General administration (non-univ. ed.) 1 618 163,0 2,7 %
Other higher education (non-univ. ed.) 18 983,8 0,0 %
Occupational training 1 051 132,3 1,8 %
Grants and financial support 2 515 658,1 4,2 %
Allocated social contributions 4 403 000,0 7,4 %
Total 59 772 932,8 100,0 %

1 From the initial amount of 10 804 433.3 thousand euros, 354 898.2 thousand euros have been deducted from the MEFD scholarships for exemption from academic fees, and 1 592 463.7 thousand euros of private funding from the universities.

Source: Drawn up by Eurydice National Unit of Spain (National Institute for Educational Evaluation, MEFD), on the basis of statistics on public spending on education, 2021, (total expenditure on education by type of education activity and economic nature) of  the General Subdirectorate for Statistics and Studies of the MEFD. rediE has elaborated the comparative chart of public expenditure distribution according to educational activity per autonomous community.

Public spending on education also includes transfers made to publicly-funded private schools in the form of educational grants and educational agreements. In 2021, around EUR 7426 million euros were allocated to publicly-funded private schools offering pre-primary and/or primary education, secondary education, special education, other types of education and university education.

Public expenditure allocated to agreements. 2021 (in EUR thousand)

Pre-primary and primary education 3 686 789.0
Secondary education 3 210 165.7
Special education 441 735.8
Other types of provision 27 095.8
University education 60 585.8
Total 7 426 372.1

Source: Drawn up by Eurydice National Unit of Spain (National Institute for Educational Evaluation, MEFD) on the basis of data from Statistics on Public Spending in education, 2021 (transfers from educational administrations to private schools by educational administration and level) of the General Subdirectorate for Statistics and Studies of the Ministry of Education and Vocational Training. rediE has elaborated the comparative chart of public expenditure distribution allocated on educational agreements per autonomous community.