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EACEA National Policies Platform:Eurydice
National reforms in higher education


14.Ongoing reforms and policy developments

14.4National reforms in higher education

Last update: 18 September 2022

Higher education is composed by:

  • university education;
  • non-university education:
    • advanced vocational training;
    • advanced artistic education, plastic arts and design professional studies and advanced sports education. All of them are part of specialised education.

Advanced vocational training: post-compulsory non-university education with a clear professional orientation.

University education: with an academic orientation and longer than non-university higher education.


Draft Law on the University System

In June 2022, the Council of Ministers has approved the preliminary draft of the Law of the University system. The document includes the commitment of a minimum expenditure on universities of 1% of GDP. Associate teaching staff positions will be stabilized, making them permanent positions, thus reducing temporary employment from the current 40% to 8%. In addition, measures will be incorporated to promote and improve the working conditions of teaching and research staff (PDI). Likewise, this future regulation pursues an international university and for all ages, two fundamental lines of work in the Law for the future of universities. Therefore, this law will offer universities the tools to properly adapt to current changes.

Royal Decree Law that facilitates permanent contracts in the Public Science System

In April 2022, the Council of Ministers approved Royal Decree-Law 8/2022, which facilitates indefinite contracts in the Public Science System. Specifically, the Royal Decree Law introduces a permanent contract modality linked to the development of scientific-technical activities for all types of research personnel within the framework of strategic lines of research.

The Ministry of Science and Innovation and the Ministry of Universities have promoted this measure with the aim of providing greater stability to professional careers in public institutions in the field of R&D&I, such as universities, research centres, foundations and consortiums.

This contractual figure, which includes the singularities of the R+D+I system, is not subject to the limits of the public employment offer or to the replacement rates.

In addition, these contracts of indefinite duration will not require prior authorization if their financing is external or comes from calls on competitive basis. In the event that the research group continues with funding, the contracts may be extended without the need for a new contract.

University coexistence law

The university coexistence Law 3/2022, published in February, lays the foundation to reformulate the university coexistence framework, highlighting the exercise of the liberties and fundamental rights, and guaranteeing equality. Autonomous Communities and the universities will develop it later.

With this new law, all universities are required to have coexistence laws that bring in mediation mechanisms as the preferred way to resolve conflicts, as well as prevention and response measures against violence, discrimination or bulling.

Moreover, the universities must create a Coexistence Commission, that must be parity and formed by representers of students, teaching and investigating staff, and the administration and services staff.

Furthermore, a new offence and sanction system is defined for students, with the largest guarantees and the possibility to change sanctions, in some cases, into educational or recovery measures, highlighting the own values of the university scope.
This law forms a new framework for university coexistence, along with democratic principles, and the full exercise of the fundamental rights and basic liberties, among which are demonstration, assembly, gathering, and strike for all the university tiers.

Organization of university education and the procedure of its quality assurance

The purpose of the Royal Decree 822/2021 is the establishment of the organization and structure of university education, starting from the general principles that define the European Higher Education Area (EHEA). Simultaneously, it sorts the official academic offer and the offer of other qualifications, especially the ones that are related to the permanent training. It also regulates the specific curricular structures, and the external academic internships that universities could add to their study programmes.

Similarly, it sets the quality assurance’s directions, conditions, and procedures of the study plan whose promotion lets the obtaining of official university qualifications with validity in all national territory. Said procedures are specified in the verification of the study programmes as a requisite for the initial certification of the qualification and the inscription in the Universities, Centres and Qualifications Register (UCTR), as well as the certification’s following, modification and renovation already granted.

Continuation of the reform of the scholarship and study aid policy

Royal Decree 154/2022 establishes the income threshold, family wealth, and grants and aids for education in the academic year 2022-2023. Moreover, it partially modifies Royal Decree 1721/2007 in which the grants and aids for study regime are established.

This law reviews the timetables and deadlines for submitting applications and the phases of the scholarship management process so that most applicants can know before the start of the academic year 2022-2023, whether they will be eligible for a scholarship. Likewise, it completes the reduction of the grades required to obtain a grant for master's studies, which was introduced in the academic year 2021-2022, extending this reduction in the required grade to studies leading to the award of non-qualifying master's degrees.

These changes in the grants and study aids system show a firm commitment to the social dimension of education and to the promotion of a grant policy that guarantees that no one abandons their post-compulsory studies for economic reasons, thus ensuring social cohesion, equity and equal opportunities.

Relaxation of the requirements to provide vocational training

The purpose of Royal Decree 62/2022 is to relax the requirements to provide professional training offers leading to obtaining vocational training qualifications, professional certificates and other formative offers linked to the National Catalogue of Professional Qualifications. Likewise, it aims to advance in the expansion and flexibility of the vocational training offer.

This norm applies to high schools, both public and private, duly authorized, which offer vocational training qualifications, professional certificates and other formative offers related to the National Catalogue of Professional Qualifications. In this respect, it complements and expands the assumptions provided for in Royal Decrees 34/2008 and 1147/2011 as requirements for the offer of vocational training.


Draft Law on University Coexistence

In September 2021, the Council of Ministers approved the Draft Law on University Coexistence proposed by the Ministry of Universities. In this last quarter of the year, its parliamentary proceedings will be carried out in both houses, Congress and Senate. 

The new text seeks to establish the appropriate framework for members of the university community to be able to exercise their fundamental rights and freedoms essential for the development of our democracy, such as ideological and religious freedom, freedom of expression, rights to assembly, association and demonstration, as well as freedom of teaching, academic freedom and the right to education, among others, through the creation and protection of coexistence environments democratically set by the universities themselves. Consequently, this document will establish the bases of coexistence in the university environment. Its publication will lead to the repeal of the Regulation of Academic Discipline of Higher Education Centres which dates back to 1954.

Draft Law of the Organic Law of the University System

In August 2021, the Council of Ministers approved the preliminary draft Law of the University System proposed by the Ministry of Universities. In this last quarter of the year, its parliamentary proceedings will be carried out in both houses, Congress and Senate.

The main proposals of the Law are:

  • commitment to a quality university system;
  • equity, a fundamental tool for a democratic university;
  • the university as a source of production and transfer of knowledge, and of quality employment;
  • lay the foundations to end precariousness at the university: a priority objective;
  • equal opportunities to access the University;
  • internationalization of universities;
  • a law as a fundamental tool for the future and for sustainable growth.

Strategic Plan for Subsidies by the Ministry of Universities 2021-2023

The Minister of Universities recently approved the Strategic Plan for Subsidies 2021-2023, with the aim of helping the planning, execution and monitoring of the subsidies managed by the Ministry. This plan seeks to carry out a more effective and efficient management, as well as a more transparent operation. The plan consists of 5 strategic objectives and 11 specific objectives:

1Guarantee the fundamental right to education, as well as equity and equal opportunities of access and permanence in the Spanish education system1.1Facilitate access and permanence at University
1.2Improvement of citizens' competencies for their personal and professional life
1.3Promotion of the participation of the most representative social agents and student associations to guarantee the effectiveness of the right to education
2Re-qualification of teaching and investigation staff2.1Visiting and mobility
2.2Improvement of the abilities to access and exercise of teaching and research duties in the university
3Promote scientific and technical research and innovation in all sectors3.1Promotion of scientific and university vocations, promoting the research-oriented spirit in young people
3.2Attraction of research talent from abroad
4Promote the internationalization of the Spanish university system4.1Promotion of the internationalization of educational institutions and centres
4.2Promotion of international student mobility
4.3Promotion of international cooperation
5Digitise the Spanish university system5.1Improvement of digital infrastructures, equipment, technologies, teaching and evaluation

Scholarships and study aid for the school year 2021/2022

The budget for scholarships and study aid has increased by more than 128 million, to 2038 million euros, in part to include the entry of new beneficiaries because of the crisis derived from the Covid-19 pandemic. It is the third consecutive year that its funding has increased. Since 2018, the budget has increased by 39.6% and the number of beneficiaries by 24.5%.

The deadline to apply for general scholarships for university students is October 14, inclusive.

All information on requirements, deadlines, amounts and procedures to be eligible for these scholarships and grants is available on the scholarships website of the Ministry of Education and Vocational Training (MEFP) and the Ministry of Universities. The goal is to centralize the information and make it more accessible.

According to the estimations of the MEFP and the Ministry of Universities, some 850 000 students will benefit from this call for general scholarships: 390 000 of them from university education and 460 000 from non-university education.

New Organic Law on Education LOMLOE

On January 19, 2021, the Law on Education 3/2020 (LOMLOE) which amends Law 2/2006 became effective. Its coming into force has repealed Law 8/2013 for the improvement of educational quality. This new educational law has also introduced changes in Organic Law 6/2001 for Universities.

  • University admission exam:

    • The system based on the grade obtained in the Bachillerato and the admission exam is fully restored.
    • The admission procedure to universities is reestablished under conditions of equality, regardless of where the previous studies were carried out or the specific need for educational support or disability.
    • The Government will establish the basic regulations that allow universities to set the admission procedures for those who have passed the admission exam.
    • More access arrangements are given in the university admission exam so as not to discriminate against students with a specific need for educational support and to guarantee universal accessibility for people with disabilities.
  • Access to advanced level of Vocational Training:
    • The degree of Professional Training Technician will allow access to both the Advanced training cycles and the Professional Teaching of Plastic Arts and Design.
  • Advanced Artistic Education:
    • Those who have the Bachillerato degree, or the Professional Training Technician degree and pass a more personalized test will be able to access to the Advanced degree in plastic arts and design. Likewise, those who hold the degree of Plastic Arts and Design Technician will be able to access these studies.
    • The equivalence between advanced degrees is reinforced and those students who pass the corresponding studies will be able to obtain the title of Bachelor Degree in Advanced Artistic Education.

Digitisation Plan for the University System

This project, developed by the Ministry of Universities and which has European funds, will have a budget of 142.85 million euro. Its fundamental objectives are, firstly, to have adequate technical, material and human resources to modernize the Spanish university system, significantly improving the relationship between the digital world and the academic world.

Secondly, to stimulate innovation and digital transformation from universities. It is a priority of the Ministry of Universities to help universities to become central actors in the digital transformation processes that are taking place in our societies.

Likewise, this plan seeks to develop strategic projects in the field of educational innovation by launching a selected set of projects of strategic nature - in the field of digital training - that function as prototypes, and that operate at interuniversity levels.

For more information, see Plan de Digitalización

New programmatic strategy of the Ministry of Universities

The education of people, equal opportunities for all, economic, scientific and technological development, cultural creation, the affirmation of ethical and civic values, the construction of identity, the learning of tolerance and solidarity between humans, and the defence of intellectual freedom and expression through the stimulation of a critical spirit depend on the University.

For these principles to be applied, institutional policies supported by a stable regulatory framework are necessary.

The new programmatic strategy is organized in the following areas:

  • public university, free and with quality of education: priority to the student body
  • the university as knowledge producer.
  • the university at the service of society
  • a university that contributes to economic development and the creation of quality employment
  • a differentiated and competitive university system
  • an internationalized university
  • the University as a space of freedom and cultural debate
  • an equitable university
  • an autonomous, democratic and participatory University
  • a university with adequate funding from the regional budgets through the corresponding State transfers.

For more information, see Estrategia programática.

Financing of the REACTIVAFP 20/21 plan and other programs related to VET

The Council of Ministers, at the proposal of the Ministry of Education and Vocational Training (MEFP), has approved an investment of 33 million euros for different educational programs of territorial cooperation with the Autonomous Communities in the field of Vocational Training, in which Advanced Vocational Training is also included. These agreements were approved on October 21, 2020 by the General Committee of the Education Sectorial Conference.

This investment distributed among the AACC will go to the following programmes:

  1. Evaluation and Accreditation of Professional Competences (3 481 170 euro)
  2. Dual Vocational Training (9 000 000 euro)
  3. Vocational Training Quality Actions of the Educational System (4 634 960 euros)
  4. REACTIVAFP 20-21 Programme, within the actions to promote the quality of VET (10 583 870 euro)
  5. Training, improvement and mobility initiatives for VET teachers with (5 300 000 euro).

These funds are in addition to those provided for in the Plan for the Modernization of Vocational Training. The execution period is between September 1, 2020 and December 31, 2021, and its justification will be made before March 31, 2022.

The distribution criteria used for the delivery of these funds are, among others, the number of students, teachers and VET centres, the at-risk-poverty rate, the number of municipalities with a population under 10,000, the early school drop-out rate, the number of companies participating in Dual Vocational Training, the gender gap in qualifications, people in search of employment, or the disperse distribution of the active population and of the Public Administrations in each territory.

For more information, see Programa de Cooperación FP.

Accreditation of professional skills

The Council of Ministers has approved a Royal Decree that establishes the opening of a permanent procedure for the evaluation and accreditation of professional competences acquired through work experience, or through non-formal training channels, and which affects all productive sectors.

This is one of the actions included in the Plan for the Modernization of Vocational Training with the greatest impact on the workforce, since it puts an end to the limitations of the existing method.

With an initial budget of almost 852.5 million euro, the Ministry of Education and Vocational Training will certify the skills of more than three million people in four years.

Cumulative accreditation system

This permanent procedure will have as a reference the totality of the professional competence units included in the Professional Training offer linked to the National Catalogue of Professional Qualifications.

The accreditation system will be cumulative so that the beneficiary can complete the training that leads to obtaining the corresponding Professional Training title or certificate of professionalism.
The education centres that offer Vocational Training of the educational system, the integrated VET centres, and the National Reference Centres will be authorized to carry out these activities. In addition, the competent administration may determine other venues that hand over their facilities and services.

This transformation is in line with the European Union's employment strategies aimed at qualifying the workforce in order to facilitate employability, mobility, social cohesion, equity and lifelong learning.

For more information, see BOE.


Draft Law on Education

Some of the provisions of the recent regulatory reform have an impact on certain aspects of higher education. Among these aspects, several stand out:

  • the layout of the university entrance examinations
  • the amendment of the requirements for access to the advanced levels of Vocational Training (FP)
  • the requirements for access to the advanced levels of artistic education and to higher artistic education
  • the correspondence of qualifications between higher artistic education and university degrees.
  • the provision of specialised further training for advanced vocational training graduates.

More information on Reforms in Vocational Training and Adult Education, and on An Education for the 21st Century.

Promotion of Vocational Training 

The MEFP has established the fostering of vocational training as one of its main lines of action. Initiatives such as the First Strategic Plan for Vocational Training in the Education System, the recent establishment of the General Secretariat for Vocational Training and the setting up of a system that unifies vocational training in the education system and for employment within the scope of the MEFP are examples of how vocational training is to be prioritised.

More information on Reforms in Vocational Training and Adult Learning.

National Scholarship System and Study Grants Reform

The Government has increased the investment in the scholarship system by 22% reaching 1 900 million euros for more than 600 000 recipients in the coming 2020/2021 school year. the Ministry of Education and Vocational Training and the Ministry of Universities have reformed the National System of Scholarships and Study Grants in order to ensure equal opportunities for all students regardless of their socioeconomic situation.

  1. Reform of academic requirements: passing the previous school year will be required to obtain a scholarship, and the current additional requirements for specific qualifications will be eliminated. Scholarships for bachelor programmes will be accessed if a percentage of credits has been passed, thus eliminating the previously required average grade.
  2. Raising income threshold 1 almost to the poverty threshold. This economic threshold will allow students coming from families with fewer resources to access full scholarship (tuition, fixed income, accommodation when necessary, and variable amount). This measure will benefit 161 603 people, 71 155 of which are university students in bachelor programmes (65 627) and master studies (5 528).
  3. With respect to universities, the amounts per scholarship for bachelor and master degree students increase by 100 euros. The current reform increases the fixed amount linked to the student's income (from 1 600 to 1 700 euros), which is what students with fewer resources receive (threshold 1). In addition, the fixed amount linked to the accommodation which those people who reside outside their municipality receive is expected be increased by 100 euros (from 1 500 to 1 700 euros). In the event that the person meets the requirements for both types of scholarships, the amounts will be cumulative and not exclusive.
  4. Increase investment in people with disabilities: Students with certified Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) will be able to access the scholarships for students with specific educational support needs. For students at university levels, this reform proposes to cover the full annual cost of enrolment of students with disabilities at the UNED. Therefore, only for university level studies, this measure would have an estimated cost of 3 726 401.98 euros and would benefit 4 737 students with disabilities.

For more information, see Royal Decree 688/2020, 21 of July, where the thresholds for income tax and family assets, and the amounts of scholarships and study grants for the 2020/2021 school year are established, and the general scholarships for students of post-compulsory studies.