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EACEA National Policies Platform:Eurydice
Main providers


8.Adult education and training

8.3Main providers

Last update: 27 November 2023

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 2021, there were around 1419 specific public adult education institutions and 333 other education institutions (primary education, secondary education, bachillerato or vocational training) providing adult education, as well as 10 specific public distance education institutions and 428 institutions belonging to other categories with adult education activities. (Source: Statistics of the Subdirectorate General for Statistics and Studies of the Ministry of Education and Vocational Training). 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..

Training provision offered by the education administration will consist in the following:

  • 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 certificates;
    • 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 for employment aimed at obtaining certificates of professional experience: 
    • integrated vocational training centres and other public or private training centres or entities.

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 and Vocational Training (MEFP), 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 (such as 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 addition, some Autonomous Communities, have established, within their area of management, specific distance education institutions for adults, like for example the Canary Islands.

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 a:

  • 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 Ministry of Education, Culture and Sport.

Labour authorities

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

Vocational training for employment can be promoted by:

  • the relevant public authorities, either through their own institutions (national reference institutions, public vocational training integrated institutions and other institutions with the appropriate facilities and equipment) or agreements with public bodies or companies
  • 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 23 0600 accredited entities in the different Autonomous Communities to provide training for adults in the employment authorities.

Training provision offered by the labour administration will consist in the following: 

  • Programmes for education and vocational training linked to active employment policies and on-the-job-training.
    1. Supply training: specific programmes aimed at people with special training needs or for those experiencing difficulties in entering the labour market or in the acquisition of professional qualifications, training actions with recruitment commitment, training actions primarily aimed at the unemployed and work placement activities in companies;
    2. Work-linked training: training and learning contracts (Dual Vocational training: Training activity inherent to this contract) and public employment and training programmes: workshop schools, trade schools and employment workshops.
  • Other types of publicly subsidised provision for adult learners. These actions are primarily aimed at employed workers, although unemployed workers can also take part in some of them These other types of training include:
    1. demand training: on-the-job training actions and individual training permits;
    2. supply training: training programmes aimed primarily at employed workers;
    3. training actions for public officials of the public administrations.

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".