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EACEA National Policies Platform:Eurydice
Historical development


1.Political, social and economic background and trends

1.1Historical development

Last update: 30 November 2022

The current political situation derives from Spain’s Transition, a historical period during which a series of social and political reforms started and which culminates in the proclamation of the 1978 Constitution, moment that represents the change from a dictatorial regime to democracy. This Constitution defines Spain as a social and democratic State subject to the rule of law where parliamentary monarchy is established as the form of government.

In the 1980s, a milestone profoundly influenced subsequent political and social development: Spain entered the European Community, now the European Union. The process of integration culminated on 12 June 1985, when the Accession Treaty was signed, coming into effect on 1 January 1986.

The Spanish education system has its historical origins in the 1970 General Education Act, enacted during Franco’s time. It remained in force until 1985.

Once democracy had been established, the alternation in power between the two main political parties, the Partido Socialista Obrero Español (Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party) and the Partido Popular (People’s Party), resulted in legislative changes of greater or lesser intensity within non-university education:

  • the 5/1980 Act on the School Regulations, revoked;
  • the 8/1985 Act on the Right to Education (LODE), in effect since 1985;
  • the 1/1990 Act on the General Organisation of the Education System, revoked. With this law, compulsory schooling was extended from age 14 to 16;
  • the 9/1995 Act on Participation, Evaluation and Governance of Education Centres, revoked;
  • the 5/2002 Act on Qualifications and Vocational Training (LOCFP), revoked;
  • the 10/2002 Act on the Quality of Education, revoked without ever being put into effect;
  • the 2/2006 Education Act (LOE), in effect with modifications introduced by LOMLOE;
  • the 8/2013 Act on the Improvement of the Quality of Education, which modified the previous act (LOE). It is nowadays revoked;
  • the 3/2020 Act which modifies LOE (LOMLOE), in effect;
  • the 3/2022 Act on organization and integration of vocational training (LOOIFP), in effect.

Likewise, university education has undergone legislative changes:

  • the 1983 University Reform Act (LRU), which involved the modernisation of Spanish universities, as they began being governed by the academic community
  • the 2001 Act on Universities (LOU) was intended to improve their quality by encouraging their autonomy, increasing their effectiveness, efficiency and responsibility, and promoting research work. The change introduced by the Act modifying the Act on Universities, in 2007, marks the start of its adaptation to the European Higher Education Area (EHEA), promoting their international projection and inter-university mobility, among other objectives. LOMLOE modified the requirements to access university in LOU,  and students’ admission regulations to universities.

The organization of the administration and government at the central and regional levels of Spain constitute a decentralized state which resulted, in 1981, in a process of transfer of educational powers from the State General Administration (AGE) to the Autonomous Communities. This process ended in 2000.