Skip to main content
European Commission logo
EACEA National Policies Platform:Eurydice
Higher education funding

Spain

3.Funding in education

3.2Higher education funding

Last update: 29 March 2023

Funding

Non-university higher education

Non-university higher education institutions comprises:

  • advanced vocational training cycles;
  • advanced artistic education (music, dance, dramatic arts, preservation and restoration of cultural property, plastic arts and design);
  • advanced vocational education in sports.

Non-university higher education funding has the same characteristics as early childhood and school education funding regarding: 

  • the funding system;
  • the degree of financial autonomy and control mechanisms;
  • the fees in public and private schools;
  • the financial support to families and students.

The financing of advanced vocational training cycles in publicly-funded private schools presents some peculiarities:

  • The minimum amount of public funding per school unit (group of students taught jointly and simultaneously by a teacher on a regular basis) is set annually by the State in its general budgets. The amounts will vary depending on the group to which each training cycle belongs, according to the number of hours it lasts and the level of expenditure it entails. For the year 2023, the amounts for the first course of advanced cycles range from EUR 71 002.12  to 77 462.91.
  • Total amount of public funds allocated to publicly-funded private schools: it is established in the budgets of the relevant education authorities.
  • The amount of fees that students must pay in subsidized private center, which complement the financing coming from public funds assigned to the system of singular agreements, depends on the specific autonomous community.  As a general rule, fees cannot exceed the limits annually established in the state general budget, except in special cases recognised by legislation. In 2023, the amount ranges from EUR 18 to 36 per student per month, ten months a year.

University higher education

Its funding is set in the state general budgets, in a programme focused on university education (programa 322C, Anexo I). This programme aims for the promotion and encouragement of the development, by Spanish universities, of the public service of higher education through research, teaching and study at state level, and in cooperation with the autonomous communities, at regional level. This programme facilitates the execution of the roles of the university at the service of society, with the following aims:

  • development, transmission, and critique of science, technique and culture;
  • preparation for the exercise of professional activities which demand the application of knowledge and scientific methods, and for the artistic creation;
  • transmission, appreciation, and transference of knowledge to the service of culture, life quality and economic development;
  • knowledge and culture transmission through the university extension and training within the student’s entire life.

The Strategic Plan for Grants, 2021-2023, developed by the Ministry of Universities (MUNI) has 5 strategic objectives that show the most relevant aspects of the funding activity and are focused on resolving the main problems. At the same time, these strategic objectives are divided into several specific objectives which are expected to be accomplished by the subsidy activity of the Ministry within the period in which the Plan is in force.

STRATEGIC OBJECTIVES

SPECIFIC OBJECTIVES

1

Guarantee the fundamental right to education, as well as equity and equal opportunities of access and permanence in the Spanish education system

1.1

Facilitate access and permanence at University

1.2

Improvement of citizens' competencies for their personal and professional life.

1.3

Promotion of the participation of the most representative social agents and student associations to guarantee the effectiveness of the right to education

2

Re-qualification of teaching and investigation staff

2.1

Visiting and mobility

2.2

Improvement of the abilities to access and exercise of teaching and research duties in the university

3

Promote scientific and technical research and innovation in all sectors

3.1

Promotion of scientific and university vocations, promoting the research-oriented spirit in young people.

3.2

Attraction of research talent from abroad

4

Promote the internationalization of the Spanish university system

4.1

Promotion of the internationalization of educational institutions and centres

4.2

Promotion of international student mobility.

4.3

Promotion of international cooperation

5

Digitise the Spanish university system

5.1

Improvement of digital infrastructures, equipment, technologies, teaching and evaluation

Bodies responsible for public funding

Sources of income of public universities

The sources of income for public universities are as follows:

  • fees paid by students;
  • public funds provided by the Autonomous Communities and the State:
    1. State: it establishes the funds for universities which are directly dependent on it, the National University of Distance Education (UNED) and the Menéndez Pelayo International Universitiy (UIMP). The amounts allocated to each institution are annually established in the state general budget.
    2. Autonomous Communities: they establish in their annual budgets the funds for universities located in their territories. Such funds come from:
      • the taxes they collect and other revenues;
      • State transfers: the amounts established for each Autonomous Community are determined by different parameters, especially population ones.
Funding model of public universities

The funding model of public universities is established by each autonomous community within its own territory.

These models, which are multi-annual, set out the criteria for the allocation of resources to the different universities on the basis of their:

  • teaching activity;
  • research activity;
  • technology transfer and innovation activity.

There are different models of public financing to ensure the basic financing of universities in such a way that it is sufficient to guarantee that the current cost of operation, equipment and infrastructure is met, as well as research and teaching activity, taking into account, among other aspects, the demand through the number of students. This basic financing is destined to guarantee the provision of the university public service with a sufficient and homogeneous level of quality. This funding is calculated using formulas, taking into account the cost per full-time student, in most cases enrolled in 60 ECTS credits per year.

Other sources of income of public universities

Public universities present other sources of income. They are the following:

  • prices of studies leading to the award of their own diplomas and certificates, especially postgraduate master, expert or specialist programmes, which are not official;
  • prices of lifelong learning studies, such as language courses;
  • transfers from public and private entities, as well as bequests, inheritances and donations;
  • patrimony and any other economic activity they may develop;
  • credit operations;
  • returns from research initiatives derived from contracts for with people, or public and private universities or entities, to carry out scientific, technical, or artistic work, as well as to develop specialised courses or specific training activities.

Financial autonomy and control

State regulations grant public universities economic and financial autonomy and establish accountability over the functions assigned to these institutions.

Autonomy of public universities

Public universities are entitled to:

  • draw up their own statutes;
  • prepare, approve, and manage their budgets;
  • administer their goods.

In regards to budgets, regardless of the above, the autonomous communities establish the regulations and procedures for their development and implementation. They specify total income and expenses and are annually approved by the university’s Social Council, which is the body in charge of supervising all economic activities and promoting the participation of society in university funding.

In terms of expenses, budgets include, together with current spending, a detailed list of the different job categories established within university staff, as well as total expenditure on personnel. The salaries of teaching and research staff, as well as of administration and service personnel, must be authorised by the relevant Autonomous Community, or the State in the cases of the National University of Distance Education and the Menéndez Pelayo International University.

On the other hand, the remuneration of the personnel presents different characteristics depending on the type of position that is occupied. Teaching and research staff remuneration complies with what is established by the education authorities; in the case of civil servants, the state determines the system of remuneration. Salaries cannot exceed the maximum limits defined by the relevant autonomous community, in accordance with the rules established by the State. In the case of the staff employed on a contractual basis, the autonomous communities regulate the system of remuneration. And in the case of administration and service staff, their remuneration comes from the budgets of the autonomous communities.

Control in public universities

The autonomous communities establish the regulations and procedures for the control of their investments, income and expenses, by means of audit services under the supervision of the social councils.

Universities submit a budget settlement to the governing council of each regional government, together with all the documents related to their annual accountancy.

Once the regional government has received the books, they are sent to the relevant body in charge of the supervision of the accountancy, or, failing that, to the court of auditors.

Analytical accounting model for public universities

Approved by the Council of Universities and the General Assembly for University Policy, the analytical accounting model for public universities’ objective is to determine the real costs of the different services provided by universities in a more efficient way, as well as their relationship with private and public funding. By doing so, accountability levels and efficiency in management are expected to increase. The Analytical accounting model for public universities (MCAU) aims to serve as a framework for all Spanish public universities. The model was updated in 2019 (MCAU19) to introduce improvements after analysing the results achieved since it was first implemented.

Fees within public higher education

Cost of education

Official university studies

The fees students pay depend on the following:

  • the public prices fixed by the relevant Autonomous Community, within the limits established by the General Assembly for University Policy;
  • the number of credits in which they are enrolled;
  • whether the programme is highly experimental;
  • the extra charges involved in registration for second or subsequent times in one or more subjects:
Minimum and maximum public prices of credits for new students of official bachelor and master programmes in Spain. 2022/23 academic yearLowest fee per credit Highest fee per credit Average fee
Bachelor programme12.019.115.6
Official master programme which entitles the holder to perform a professional activity that is regulated in Spain12.621.416
Official master programme which does not entitle the holder to perform a professional activity that is regulated in Spain11.582.530.8

Source: Drawn up by Eurydice National Unit of Spain (National Institute for Educational Evaluation, MEFP) on the basis of Statistics on university public prices, 2022/23, published by MUNI

Non-official university studies

Registration fees are determined by the social council of each university.

PhD programmes

The public prices of the academic tutorship for the preparation of the doctoral thesis varies between EUR 60.3 in Andalusia and EUR 401.1 per year in Catalonia, depending on the services offered to doctoral candidates.

Fees only new students have to pay

The total cost of registration for a student includes registration fees (depending on the number of credits), together with:

Fees for other services

Other fees:

  • the issuing of the relevant certificate or the Diploma Supplement;
  • the doctoral thesis examination: its price ranges from EUR 117.1 to EUR 260.0.

Financial support for learners’ families

University students' families do not receive direct financial support; it is directly awarded to students, although their family situation (income, number of family members in the household, etc) is taken into account.

Full or partial fee waivers

Full or partial fee waivers are established in accordance with national and regional regulations.

They are both aimed at students coming from certain family situations, including the following:  

  • members of a large family;
  • dependent people or people with disabilities;
  • victims and relatives of victims of terrorist attacks;
  • victims of gender-based violence;
  • orphans of civil servants and military personnel who have died in the line of duty;
  • honours qualifications.

Tax deductions

Different tax deductions regarding educations costs are applied to PIT by Autonomous Communities: financial support to families through tax deductions by education authority.

Financial support for learners

There are some mechanisms which allow coordination between the Ministry of Education and Vocational Training and the Autonomous Communities in order to ensure that the general system of grants and financial support guarantees access to higher levels of education according to students’ aptitudes and inclinations, regardless of their financial circumstances, social status, or place of residence.

System of grants and financial support

The academic requirements applicants must meet are the following:

Advanced training cycles

  • first year: having obtained at least 5 points in the 2nd year of Bachillerato, or the corresponding entrance test or course;
  • second and subsequent years:
    • courses organized by subjects: having passed all the subjects in the previous year, except for one;
    • courses organised by modules: having passed at least a number of modules in the previous year, representing 85 per cent of the total hours of the course.

Bachelor programmes

  • grant in the 1st year: obtaining 5 points in the university entrance examination, excluding the specific part, or in any other test or studies allowing them to access university education;
  • renewing of the grant in the 2nd and subsequent years: students must have passed 100% of the enrolled credits in the case of studies in the areas of Arts and Humanities, Social and Legal Sciences, Sciences, and Health Sciences; and 85% in the case of Engineering and Architecture (see First Transitory Provision. University education of Royal Decree 1721/2007 that establishes the system of scholarships and grants)”

To obtain the fee waiver, students must have passed the following percentages of credits enrolled in their previous studies:

Knowledge areapercentage
Arts and Humanities90%
Social and Legal Sciences90%
Health Sciences80%
Science65%
Technical Studies65%

Master programmes

  • grant in the 1st year:
    • having obtained an average grade of 5.00 points in the previous studies that give access to the master's degree:
    • the renewal of the scholarship depends on obtaining these same grades, on average, the previous academic year.
  • credits that have not been achieved the first time taking them, are not covered by the grant.

Amounts and types of aid

The MEFP establishes income and family wealth thresholds above which the right to receive grants or financial support disappears, the current thresholds being grouped into three categories. 

 

First threshold  

Second threshold 

Third threshold

1 member family

Between 8 422 € and 8 871 €

13 236 € 

14 112 €

2 member family

Between 12 632 € and 13 306 €

22 594 €    

24 089 €

3 member family

Between 16 843 € and 17 742 €

30 668 €

32 697 €

4 member family

Between 21 054 € and 22 177 €

36 421 € 

38 831 €

5 member family

Between 24 423 € and 25 726 €

40 708 €

43 402 €

6 member family

Between 27 791 € and 29 274 €

43 945 €

46 853 €

7 member family

Between 31 160 € and 32 822 €

47 146 €

50 267 €

8 member family

Between 34 529 € and 36 371 €

50 333 €

53 665 €

All students with a family income within threshold 3 are entitled to a grant, at least to the exemption of tuition fees or the basic grant.

There are a number of deductions to be applied for calculating a family’s income:

  • income from other family members;
  • large family status;
  • disability affecting the applicant or one of his/her relatives (sibling or child);
  • residence away from the family home for the purpose of university studies: the applicant or one of his/her siblings;
  • orphan status being under 25 years of age;
  • single-parent families.

The amounts that can be received are:

  • 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 and beneficiary through a formula that takes into account family income and academic performance;
  • other financial support:
    • for residents of the Canary Islands, the Balearic Islands, Ceuta, and Melilla;
    • subsidies and aids for students with specific academic support needs resulting from disabilities, severe behavioural disorders or autism spectrum disorders or associated with high intellectual capacities;
    • support for students with high capacities: a single aid only for non-university levels;
    • victims of gender-based violence and/or their children under twenty-three years of age: same support but some of the requirements to be eligible don’t apply.

In 2020/21, a total of 612 406 students of bachelor and master programmes in public universities received some sort of grant or financial support (number of scholarship holders by level of funding educational administration, autonomous community, level of education and ownership of the school. General Subdirectorate of Statistics and Studies of the Ministry of Education and Vocational Training).

Number of grant holders and percentage they represent in Bachelor and Master programmes. Public face-to-face universities. 2020/21 academic year

 Percentage
Bachelor32.6%
Master's18.6%

Source: Drawn up by Eurydice National Unit of Spain (National Institute for Educational Evaluation, MEFP) on the basis of Statitics on Grants and Financial Support, 2020/21 academic year. MEFP Subdirectorate General for Statistics and Studies.

Salary grants

Some Autonomous Communities, as the Community of Valencia, offer a salary grant for university studies, linked to applicants' income, to those students who meet the economic and academic requirements specified in each call for applications. The beneficiaries of these grants receive a monthly allowance over the duration of their studies as long as they continue to meet the requirements for each academic year. 

Grants and financial support for PhD students under the State Programme for the Promotion of Talent and its Employability in RDi

The State Programme to Create, Attract and Retain Talent is integrated within the State Plan for Scientific and Technical Research and Innovation (PEICTI) 2021–2023, an instrument of the General State Administration for the development and achievement of the objectives of the Spanish Strategy for Science and Technology and Innovation (EECTI).

The objective of this programme is to promote and highlight the importance of the talent of research, technology and innovation staff through grants intended to the training of new generations of professionals, which will let them acquire the necessary competences for investigation and innovation in academic and professional contexts.

There are 3 lines of action:

  • Pre-doctoral and post-doctoral training in research teams , university departments and other R&D&I first level organizations.
  • New incorporations of research, technology and technic staff into R&D&I centres and  companies.
  • Mobility of research staff.

For each of these lines, there is a subprogramme with its own actions:

  • State Training Subprogramme.
  • State Incorporation Subprogramme.
  • State Mobility Subprogramme.

 

State Training Subprogramme:

The actions of this Subprogramme include grants for the pre-doctoral contracts for the training of doctors (PhD):

  • Objective: the training of doctors through the funding of employment contracts.
  • The contracts are carried out under the form of pre-doctoral contracts.
  • They have a maximum duration of 4 years.
  • The grants also aim to fund employment during a post-doctoral orientation period of a minimum of 6 months period and a maximum of 12 months.

These grants also aim to promote different types of training:

  • pre-doctoral contracts for the training of research personnel or doctorates in the industrial sector;
  • pre-doctoral contracts for the training of university teaching staff;
  • contracts for doctors in training at the European University Institute;
  • pre-doctoral contracts in centres of the national healthcare system and in collaboration with companies in the health sector.

State Incorporation Subprogramme:

The grants within this subprogramme are created to favour the incorporation of young researchers and R&D&I personnel in research organisations, including universities, research facilities, companies and other state level research and experimentation centres.

With this purpose, several types of grants have been created aimed at companies, universities, and other entities to subsidise the hiring of recent PhD graduates:

  • Ramon y Cajal contracts;
  • Torres Quevedo contracts;
  • Beatriz Galindo contracts;
  • Miguel Servet contracts;
  • Juan Rodés contracts;
  • contracts for the Strengthening of the research activity in the national healthcare system;
  • incorporation of new talents into technological companies and small and medium-sized companies.

Mobility State subprogramme:

The objective of this subprogramme is the promotion of geographic and interinstitutional mobility of researchers. It also considers international mobility and talent appeal as an essential aspect of the researching career.

There are different types of aids, including the grants for the realization of residencies at foreign centres.

Private education

Private universities draw up and pass their own organisational and operational rules:

  • internal regulations concerning administrative and financial principles;
  • preparation, approval, and management of their budgets;
  • administration of their goods.

The funding of private universities comes mainly from students’ contributions.

The cost of fees for the provision of training services is established by each university and represents about 80% of the funding. In some private universities, students make considerably lower contributions since these institutions receive subsidies from public regional and local bodies which make up for users’ contributions.

Official grants and financial support for students enrolled in private universities is the same as the one offered to public university students.

In the case of registration fee waivers, the amount awarded must not exceed the official price established for the same degree and study programme in public institutions within the same autonomous community.

In 2020/21, a total of 35 956 students of bachelor and master programmes in private universities received some sort of grant or financial assistance from the education authorities.

Percentage of grant holders and percentage they represent in bachelor and master programmes. Private face-to-face universities. 2020/21 academic year

 Percentage
Bachelor9.1%
Master8.3%

Source: Drawn up by Eurydice National Unit of Spain (National Institute for Educational Evaluation, MEFP) on the basis of Statitics on Grants and Financial Support, 2020/21 academic year. MEFP Subdirectorate General for Statistics and Studies.

At their own choice, private universities can also:

  • offer grants and financial support which are financed from their own resources;
  • grant some benefits to their students provided they fulfil a series of academic requirements;
  • offer a reduction in academic fees in the case students who are victims of terrorism or members of large families.