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Main providers


8.Adult education and training

8.3Main providers

Last update: 22 February 2024

Adult education is provided in different types of institutions depending on whether it is offered by education or employment public authorities.  

Education authorities

The training provision offered by the Education Authorities takes place mainly in the following institutions:

  • specific adult education institutions, which carry out their functions on a full-time basis and are used exclusively for adult education. They also contribute to the social environment and are available for social and cultural activities.
  • adult education classrooms, integrated into duly authorised mainstream educational institutions, operate on a part-time basis and generally in the evening. They are usually located at primary or secondary schools(IES), although they can also belong to municipal councils or local corporations.

In Spain, in 2022, there were 1446 specific public adult education institutions and other 493 education institutions (primary education, secondary education, bachillerato or vocational training) providing adult education, as well as 9 specific public distance education institutions. (Source: Statistics of the Subdirectorate General for Statistics and Studies of the Ministry of Education, Vocational Training and Sport). The territorial distribution of the institutions depends on the Adult education provision from education authorities by Autonomous Community.

There are also private educational institutions supported by public funds which carry out Adult Education activities as described in Article 3.3 on financing Adult Education and Training..

On the other hand, in 2020, the Government's decision to integrate the dual Vocational Training System of the national qualifications system and to unify competences in a single ministerial department, currently the Ministry of Education, Vocational Training and Sport (MEFD), without prejudice to those of the ministry with labour competences, represented a major step towards the creation of a Vocational Training System that would respond to the principle of lifelong learning inherent to today's society. This new system is necessarily complemented by occupational training promoted from outside the Vocational Training System by other authorities, in particular, the Employment Authorities.

Subject to administrative authorisation and registration, the following institutions may provide vocational training:

  • public and private institutions authorised and accredited for this purpose by the competent Administration. Those centres that exclusively provide any of the degrees included in vocational training, as well as those dedicated, where appropriate, to vocational guidance within the framework of the Vocational Training System and to the accreditation of professional competences acquired through work experience or other means, are called specialised vocational training centres;
  • integrated vocational training centres;
  • the national reference centres, with the requirements and under the conditions established for this;
  • public or private bodies with which the competent administrations sign agreements or establish any other form of collaboration, including, in particular and for these purposes, institutions considered as second chance;
  • pPublic or private companies which, with their own or outsourced resources, carry out training actions included in the National Catalogue of Vocational Training Provision  for their own workers, under the conditions established in the corresponding regulations.

The training provision offered by the Education Authorities is organised according to the following options:

  • Provision to raise achievement in basic skills:
    • basic education for adults: initial education and secondary education for adults (ESPA), as well as the tests to directly obtain the Graduate in Compulsory Secondary Education qualification;
    • vocational secondary education for adults: basic vocational training (VET).
  • Provision to achieve a recognised qualification during adulthood:
    • post-compulsory education: bachillerato and intermediate and advanced vocational training;
    • examinations leading to different qualifications: bachillerato, technician and advanced technician;
    • Entrance examination to have access to studies leading to the award of an official qualification: entrance examinations for intermediate and advanced vocational training cycles, entrance examinations for advanced Artistic Education and entrance examinations for university education
    • examinations to obtain a language certificate without having completed the corresponding language;
    • preparation courses for the aforementioned examinations;
    • language education: to acquire the Basic User level (A1 and A2) and the corresponding certificates according to the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (MCER).
  • Vocational training within the Vocational Training System, which corresponds to the following sequential grades:  
    • grade A: partial accreditation of competence (levels 1, 2 or 3);
    • grade B: competence certificate (levels 1, 2 or 3);
    • grade C: professional certificate (levels 1, 2 or 3);
    • grade D: basic, intermediate or advanced vocational training cycle (levels 1, 2 or 3 respectively);
    • grade E: intermediate or advanced specialisation course (level 2 or 3 respectively).

Distance learning offer

In order to facilitate access to adult education, distance learning provision for adults is widely available at present.

The Ministry of Education, Vocational Training and Sport (MEFD), through the Centre for the Innovation and Development of Distance Education (CIDEAD), coordinates and organises the elements and processes of distance education for adults.

The Centre offers people over 18 the possibility of studying Distance Secondary Education for Adults and Bachillerato in the following circumstances:

  • residents in Spain who, for justified reasons (changing the place of residence frequently because of their families’ roving lifestyle, engaging in special activities: dance, music, sports, etc.), cannot attend a distance education institution in their Autonomous Community;
  • Armed Forces personnel;
  • Spanish citizens residing abroad or who had already begun Spanish official studies;
  • residents in Spain who want to study a Bachillerato branch that is not offered in their Autonomous Community.

In turn, article 26.4.c) of Royal Decree 659/2023 establishes with regard to the virtual modality, that the MEFD shall be responsible for articulating a modular vocational training offer of grades C, D and E, through CIDEAD. This provision must include at least the following services:

  • Modular offers for grades C, D and E , under the criteria for exemption from the in-company training period set out in article131 or the requirement, in the case of grade C, set out in artículo 80.
  • complementary modular training that may be required by those who successfully complete a process of accreditation of professional competences acquired through work experience or other means, with the aim of enabling them to obtain a vocational training qualification, certificate or accreditation;
  • preparatory courses for access to grade D.

The education authorities also promote distance vocational training through the website FP a distancia (Distance VT). This type of training provision is specifically aimed at people who cannot attend vocational training institutions during school hours.

Furthermore, there is a distance education system Aula Mentor, that uses training environments supported by information and communication technologies, and whose objective and design is aimed at the following objectives:

  • improving adults’ professional qualifications;
  • enriching their culture:
  • promoting the development of their skills.

A large number of institutions (Departments for Education of the Autonomous Communities, municipal councils, non-profit organisations and Ministries of Education of Ibero-American countries) participate in the implementation and maintenance of this project through collaboration agreements with the MEFD.

In addition, some Autonomous Communities, have established, within their area of management, specific distance education institutions for adults, like for example the Canary Islands.

Employment authorities

Educational institutions offering adult education are under the authority of the organising body.

Vocational training for employment can be promoted by the following institutions:

  • business organisations and trade unions, as well as other bodies benefiting from training plans primarily aimed at employed workers;
  • companies developing training actions with recruitment commitment for their workers or the unemployed;
  • training institutions or bodies providing training which does not lead to the award of certificates of professional experience.

In Spain there are a total of 14 0600 accredited entities in the different autonomous communities to provide training for adults in the employment authorities.

The training provision offered by the employment authorities is organised according to the following aspects: 

  • training planned by companies for their employees;
  • training provision for employed workers offered by the relevant administrations, consisting of sectoral training programmes and cross-cutting training programmes, as well as professional qualification and recognition programmes;
  • training provision for unemployed workers offered by the relevant administrations, including training programmes aimed at meeting the needs identified by the public employment services, specific training programmes and training programmes with recruitment agreements;
  • Other vocational training initiatives for employment, related to individual training leaves, training in alternation with employment, training of public employees and training not financed with public funds carried out by private initiative centres and entities aimed at obtaining professional certificates.

Local administrations

Finally, adult education is also present at local level, even in rural areas, where it is offered in public institutions such as:

  • specific adult education institutions;
  • popular universities;
  • social initiative institutions;
  • trade unions;
  • neighbourhood associations;
  • local corporations;
  • universities for adults.

These institutions are usually also available for socio-cultural activities.

Popular universities are a renowned training provision within local authorities offering a wide variety of options depending on their reality: provision of education, training, or training for employment and culture. As the Spanish Federation of Popular Universities points out,  "'Popular Universities are a cultural development project that acts in the municipality, with the aim of promoting social participation, education, training and culture, in order to improve the life quality of individuals and the community".