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Second-cycle programmes: Master's


7.Higher education

7.3Second-cycle programmes: Master's

Last update: 13 February 2024

Official university Master's degree and Artistic Master's degree have two goals:

  • to provide students with advanced specialised or multidisciplinary training, geared towards academic or professional specialisation;
  • to encourage the initiation of research tasks.

They constitute level 3 of the Spanish Qualification Framework for Higher Education (MECES), and they are defined according to the following learning outcomes:

  • having acquired advanced knowledge and to be able to demonstrate, within scientific, technological or highly specialised contexts, detailed and proven comprehension of theoretical and practical features, and the corresponding work methodology, in one or more fields of study;
  • being able to integrate and apply knowledge, understanding, scientific basis and problem-solving abilities to new or loosely defined environments, including multidisciplinary research and professional contexts which require high levels of specialisation;
  • being able to evaluate and select appropriate scientific theories, as well as adequate methodological tools, within an area of studies, so as to build hypotheses on the basis of incomplete or limited information, including, whenever necessary and pertinent, a reflection on the social and ethical responsibilities which the proposed solutions may entail;
  • being able to predict and control the evolution of complex situations through the development of new and innovative working methodologies adapted to the specific, generally multidisciplinary, scientific/researching, technological or professional field in which they work;
  • being able to communicate clearly and unambiguously to a specialised or non-technical audience the results of scientific and technological research or the most advanced field of innovation, as well as the most relevant foundations on which they are based;
  • having developed enough autonomy to set up, manage and lead work teams, innovative research projects and scientific partnerships, either at national or international levels, within the relevant research area, in multidisciplinary contexts which may demand high levels of knowledge transfer;
  • being able to take responsibility for professional development and specialisation in one or more fields of study.

Areas of study

Official university Master's degree

The curricula leading to the award of a university Master's degree have 60, 90 or 120 ECTS credits and a duration of one or two academic years.

These programmes are assigned to one of the thirty-two fields of knowledge listed in Annex I of Royal Decree 822/2021.

A university Master's degree may include one or more specialisations that must be included in the verified report of the degree curriculum. These incorporate complementary and specific training in a thematic or professional area in accordance with the overall training project of the Master's degree. The number of ECTS credits that constitute a specialisation may not exceed fifty per cent of the total number of credits that make up the Master's degree curriculum.

Official Master's degrees in Arts

These courses have a teaching load of between 60 and 120 ECTS credits and a duration of one or two academic years.

Admission requirements

The admission requirements for official Master's degree courses and official Artistic Master's degree courses are to be in possession of one of the following qualifications:

  • an official Spanish university degree or equivalent;
  • another university Master's degree;
  • qualifications at the same level as the Spanish Bachelor's or Master's degree issued by universities and higher education institutions in a country of the European Higher Education Area (EHEA) which entitle to access to such studies in that country;
  • qualifications from education systems that do not belong to the EHEA, which are equivalent to the Bachelor's degree, without the need for official recognition of the qualification, but which require verification by the university (for official university Master's degree programmes) or by the corresponding education administration for official Artistic Master's degree programmes) as to the level of training involved, provided that in the country where the qualification was issued it allows access to postgraduate university studies.

Universities may exceptionally establish, on the basis of specific regulations approved by their governing bodies, conditional enrolment procedures for access to a university Master's degree. This will consist of allowing a Bachelor's degree student who has no more than 9 ECTS credits remaining and who has yet to pass the end-of-degree project, to access and enrol in a university Master's degree, although under no circumstances may the student obtain the Master's degree if he/she has not previously obtained the Bachelor's degree. Universities guarantee priority enrolment for students who hold an official university degree. In this procedure, credits pending recognition or transfer in the Bachelor's degree may be taken into account, as well as the requirement to pass a certain knowledge level in a foreign language in order to obtain the degree.

Also, in both types of programmes, students may be admitted on the basis of specific requirements and training complements established by each university (for official university Master's degree programmes) or merit assessment criteria specific to the degree or established by the relevant education administration (for official Artistic Master's degree programmes).

In the case of official university Master's degrees that qualify for the exercise of a regulated professional activity, the Government establishes the access qualification or qualifications.

In the case of students with special educational needs arising from disability, admission procedures and systems must provide for the adequate support and guidance services in order to assess the convenience of possible adaptations of the curriculum, alternative learning paths or study programmes.

Each university or education administration decides on the number of students who may be admitted to the programmes. However, at least five per cent of the places offered must be reserved for students with a degree of disability equal to or greater than thirty-three per cent, as well as, in the case of university studies, for students with permanent educational support needs associated with personal circumstances of disability, who in their previous studies have required resources and support for their full educational inclusion.


The objective of official university Master's degree programmes is advanced training of a subject-specific or multidisciplinary nature in scientific, technological, humanistic and artistic knowledge, aimed at academic and professional specialisation, or, where appropriate, aimed at learning in research activities.

Universities, for official Master's degree courses, and education administrations (on their own initiative or at the proposal of the centres) for official Artistic Master's degree courses, are in charge of drawing up the study plans for these courses, a process in which they enjoy certain autonomy. These plans must include:

  • compulsory subjects;
  • optional subjects;
  • external placements (if any);
  • end-of-master project;
  • other academic activities, depending on the characteristics of each degree.

Both types of programmes require students to write and defend an end-of-master project, which is awarded between 6 and 30 ECTS credits.

In the case of official university Master's degrees that qualify for the exercise of a regulated professional activity, the Government establishes certain contents, competences or the development of academic practices that must be included in the respective curricula.

For official university Master's degree courses, once the curriculum has been drawn up, it must be verified by the Council of Universities, under the protocols drawn up by the National Agency for Quality Assessment and Accreditation (ANECA) or, for its corresponding territorial scope, the quality agencies of the autonomous communities registered in the European Quality Assurance Register for Higher Education (EQAR), after having successfully undergone an external evaluation in accordance with the ESG. Subsequently, it has to be authorised for implementation by the corresponding autonomous community. Once these processes have been completed, the official nature of the degree is established by agreement of the Council of Ministers on proposal by the head of the Ministry of Science, Innovation and Universities and then published in the Official State Gazette (BOE), making the university degree fully valid throughout the national territory. The degree is then registered in the Register of Universities, Centres and Degrees (RUCT).

For official Artistic Master's degrees, the education authorities send the curriculum proposal for its accreditation to the Ministry of Education, Vocational Training and Sports (MEFD), which in turn submits it to:

  • ANECA or to the corresponding evaluation agency of the autonomous community for its evaluation;
  • as well as to the Superior Council for Artistic Education (CSEA).

The Ministry (MEFD), considering the reports of the Council and of the corresponding evaluating agency, decides whether to issue or not issue a resolution of accreditation. The degree is accredited once it is registered in the State Register of Non-University Teaching Centres (RCD).

Teaching methods

Official University Master's degree

Universities follow the principle of autonomy to decide on their own teaching methodologies.

The university departments are the teaching and research units responsible for coordinating studies of one or more fields of knowledge in one or more university centres according to the teaching programme of the university, and for supporting the teaching activities and initiatives of the teaching staff. 

In practice, teachers are free to make use of the teaching methods and pedagogical resources they consider more appropriate.

Teachers employ different teaching methods at university, being lectures the most common practice, although it is becoming more and more common to resort to other types of activities, such as seminars, cooperative work, learning based on problem-solving activities, project-based learning, etc. Practical classes are very frequent in experimental science studies.

Official Master's degrees in Arts

The centres that offer advanced artistic education have pedagogical autonomy. It is the obligation of the education administrations to provide these centres with the necessary resources to facilitate their activity, and to develop their objectives in the areas of teaching, research and artistic creation.

Progression of students

Universities, for official Master's degree courses, and the education administrations of the autonomous communities, for official Artistic Master's degree courses, establish the conditions for the promotion of students, as well as the minimum and maximum periods of permanence in these studies.

In order to pass a subject, students are allowed to sit examinations for a limited number of times, ranging from four to six, and only twice a year.


The improvement of employability of university graduates is a constant source of concern for education authorities and universities.

In response to this concern, Article 61 of Law 2/2011 on Sustainable Economy establishes that university education must respond to the following principles:

  • the incorporation, in their study plans, of abilities and skills oriented towards innovation, creativity, business initiative and entrepreneurship, integrating them into the different subjects, concepts and cross-curricular competences, in learning methods and in examinations, and in all educational levels, particularly in doctoral studies;
  • the proposals for new degrees and educational provision which prepare students for the qualifications required by new employment needs so as to improve employability of citizens in the labour market;
  • the promotion of adaptability to social and economic changes, providing citizens with opportunities for ongoing professional development and extension of university studies;
  • the effective incorporation of university graduates into the labour market, strengthening the links between universities and the business world, paying special attention to the promotion of competences for entrepreneurship and self-employment.

Collaboration between universities and the productive sector may be articulated on the basis of the following initiatives:

  • the creation of technology-based innovation companies;
  • the establishment of innovation poles, by means of providing a common physical space for universities and companies in the production sector;
  • the launching and promotion of programmes to enhance transfer and appreciation of knowledge;
  • the creation of consortiums for research and the transfer of knowledge;
  • the creation of corporate-sponsored university chairs, based on the collaboration in research projects which allow university students to participate and combine their research activity with training opportunities.

In addition, both in the regulations for university education and in the University Student Statute there are a series of specific measures aimed at promoting the employability of university students, such as:

  • mobility programmes through university cooperation agreements which pay attention to academic training related to the degree in which the student is enrolled, and to other competence areas, such as training for employment;
  • the integration of external placements into the curricula;
  • student information and guidance services aiming at, among others, providing information and orientation regarding learning itineraries and future professional opportunities, training in cross-curricular competences and designing of professional projects, in order to facilitate the employability and insertion of students in the labour market;
  • guidance and monitoring through tutoring at degree level, in which coordinators and tutors assist and guide students regarding their learning process as well as their professional prospects in the labour market;
  • organisation of alumni associations, registered in the universities, which, among other functions, actively collaborate in the incorporation of graduates into the labour market.

Student assessment

Official University Master's degree

Universities must verify the knowledge acquired by students, as well as the development of their intellectual training and their academic achievements. In order to do so, it is necessary to establish assessment regulations.

Evaluation objectives, tools, procedures, activities and criteria are set up in the syllabi of each programme, and fall under the responsibility of university departments and teachers.

The European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System (ECTS) is fully implemented. The European credit is the unit for academic accreditation. It represents the amount of work that a student must complete in order to attain the programme's objectives.

Each ECTS credit represents between 25 and 30 class hours.

In order to obtain the number of ECTS credits assigned to a subject, both in practical or theoretical learning or in any other academic activity, students must pass the exams or assessment procedures established for that area.

The results obtained by students in each subject, which appear in the student’s record. They receive a numerical grade from 0 to 10, with a decimal position, which can be followed by a qualitative grade:

  • 0-4.9: fail;
  • 5–6.9: pass;
  • 7–8.9: very good;
  • 9–10: excellent.

Students may also be awarded an Excellent mark 'with Distinction', when the student has obtained a 9 or higher grade. The number of such mentions may not exceed 5 per cent of the students enrolled in a subject in an academic year. When the number of students is less than 20, only one excellent mark with distinction may be awarded.

In addition, students must receive a positive evaluation in the defence and submission of the end-of-master project.

Accredited professional and work experience may also be recognised in terms of ECTS credits, with validity to obtain a Master’s degree, provided that the experience is related with the competences inherent to the corresponding qualification.

Official Master's degrees in Arts

The assessment aims to verify the degree and level of acquisition and consolidation of the transversal, general and specific skills defined for each degree. It is differentiated by subject and has an integrating character.

All aspects of the assessment are defined in the curriculum that the education administrations prepare for each degree and it is the centres that deliver them and their teaching staff who are in charge of conducting it.

The grading of the subjects and the criteria for awarding an “Excellent with distinction” mention are similar to those of the official university Master's degrees.


Successful completion of these courses leads to the award of the following qualifications:

  • In the case of official university Master’s programmes, it gives the right to obtain the university Master’s degree, with the specific denomination that, in each case, appears in the Register of Universities, Centres and Degrees (RUCT). This diploma:
    • is issued, on behalf of the King of Spain, by the university Chancellor;
    • is official and valid throughout the national territory;
    • enables the holder to carry out regulated professional activities.
  • In the case of official Master's programmes in Arts, it gives the right to obtain the Master's degree diploma in Artistic Education followed by the specific designation of the degree. This degree is equivalent, for all intents and purposes, to a university Master's degree.

Both qualifications certify that the holder has attained the competences set out in level 3 of MECES, which corresponds to level 7 of the European Qualifications Framework (MEC).

As a result of the process of adaptation to the EHEA, a new procedure has been established, by means of which universities may issue the Diploma Supplement upon request of the student concerned. This document is attached to each official higher education qualification that is valid throughout the national territory. It contains unified and personalised information for each higher education graduate on the studies undertaken, the results obtained, the professional skills acquired and the level of his or her qualification in the national higher education system. The European Diploma Supplement must contain the following information:

  • identification data of the person concerned;
  • information on the degree;
  • information on the qualification level;
  • information on the contents and results obtained;
  • information on the purpose of the qualification;
  • further relevant information;
  • Diploma Supplement certification;
  • information on the national Higher Education system.

In the case of students who study only some parts of the programme, the Diploma Supplement is not issued. A certificate of studies is issued instead, with the content of the corresponding supplement model.

These characteristics and requirements of the Diploma Supplement apply both to official university education and to official advanced artistic education.