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EACEA National Policies Platform:Eurydice
Main executive and legislative bodies


1.Political, social and economic background and trends

1.2Main executive and legislative bodies

Last update: 22 December 2023

Spain’s political regime is a parliamentary monarchy. This is characterised by the King being the Head of State and the separation of the legislative, executive and judicial powers, which are assumed by different bodies and institutions:

  • the legislative power is vested in the Spanish Parliament, comprising representatives of the Spanish people who are elected every four years. It is composed of two houses: Congress and Senate;
  • the executive power is entrusted to the Government of the Nation, comprised of the President, vice-presidents, ministers and such other members as provided by law;
  • the judicial power: in accordance with the Constitution, justice emanates from the people and it is administered by judges and magistrates on behalf of the King.

The territorial organisation of the Spanish State is made up of municipalities, provinces and Autonomous Communities. The Spanish Constitution of 1978 recognises and guarantees their right to autonomy in the management of their respective interests, and decrees that the State is solely responsible for the effective fulfilment of the principle of solidarity, watching over the establishment of an adequate and just economic balance among the different areas of the Spanish territory and paying special attention to the particularities of the islands.

The organisation of the Spanish education system has changed since the adoption of the Spanish Constitution:

  • the State began transferring educational powers to the Autonomous Communities in 1981, a process which ended in 2000;
  • this distribution of powers requires coordination by the different education authorities and the body in charge of it is the Sectoral Committee for Education, made up of the Heads of the Departments for Education of the Autonomous Communities and the Ministry of Education, Vocational Training and Sports (MEFD). With voice, but without vote, the secretariat of this body is assumed by the Head of the General Directorate for Territorial Cooperation and Evaluation.

The State

The General State Administration is made up of the ministerial departments and the rest of the agencies that depend on them, with the Ministry of Education and Vocational Training (MEFD) being the body in charge of proposing and executing government policies on education.

The State has reserved the exclusive exercise of the powers that safeguard the homogeneity and substantial unity of the educational system and that guarantee the basic equality of all Spaniards and although, for the most part, the powers of the State are of a legislative nature for the regulation of the elements or basic aspects of the system, it also has others of an executive nature.

As a result of the ministerial restructuring of January 2020, the functions relating to the proposal and implementation of the Government's education policy have been distributed among the following ministries: the MEFD, the Ministry of Universities (MUNI), and the Ministry of Culture (MCU).

The Autonomous Communities 

Spain is made up of 17 Autonomous Communities and the Autonomous Cities of Ceuta and Melilla.

Their Statutes of Autonomy constitute their basic institutional law, which the State recognises and upholds as an integral part of its legal system.

The regional legislative and executive bodies are as follows, with different designations in each of the Autonomous Communities:

  • the Legislative Assembly, Parliament or Cortes, elected by universal suffrage
  • the Government Council, with executive and administrative functions;
  • the President, the ultimate representative of the Autonomous Community and the formal representative of the State in the given Community.

The different Autonomous Communities have their own model of education administration, sometimes as a Regional Ministry, and sometimes as a Department for Education, in order to exercise the educational powers and provide the services established in their respective Statutes. They have:

  • regulatory powers for the development of State rules and the regulation of non-basic elements or aspects of the education system;
  • executive-administrative powers for the administration of education in their respective region, with the exception of those reserved to the State.

Local administration

The bodies that make up the local administration are municipalities and provinces.

  • Municipalities:
    • are the immediate means by which the civil population participates in public affairs;
    • have full legal status and institutionalise and manage the interests of the various social groups;
    • municipal councils, made up of mayors and councillors, are responsible for their government and administration.
  • Provinces:
    • are local entities with their own legal personality;
    • are determined by the grouping of municipalities and territorial division;
    • the autonomous government and administration of provinces is entrusted to provincial councils;
    • in the Canary Islands and the Balearic Islands, the provincial councils, are called the Cabildo and the Insular Council respectively.

Local administrations are not considered as education authorities, although most municipal councils have education offices or municipal education institutes, through which the State and the Autonomous Communities can delegate the exercise of powers in areas which relate to their interests as regards education.