Spain boasts more than 70 universities throughout the country. Over 50 are public and around 20 are private institutions. Some private universities are affiliated with the Catholic Church. Large cities like Madrid, Barcelona and Valencia are home to the most universities.

The quality of education in Spain is recognised globally. The 2014–15 QS World University Rankings listed 14 Spanish institutions in the top 500 best universities in the world. Three highest rated universities are Universitat de Barcelona (166), Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona (173) and Universidad Autonoma de Madrid (178). Four Spanish institutions come in the top 25 business school rankings 2014 by The Financial Times: IE Business School Madrid (2), Esade Business School Barcelona (4), University of Navarre’s IESE Business School (6), and EADA Business School Barcelona (24)

The majority of courses in Spain are taught in Spanish, but there are a growing number of English-taught courses at postgraduate level. The study “English-Taught Programmes in European Higher Education” published by the Academic Cooperation Association (ACA) in 2015 reveals that short Master programmes of less than two years’ duration are most common in Spain. It is also handy to have basic knowledge of the local language if you intend to move to Spain for your study. Intensive Spanish summer courses provided by some universities including Universidad Catolica San Antonio de Murcia, Barcelona University and Malaga University might be a good option for master’s students. Moreover, Spain is the second most widely spoken language in the world, so doing your master’s degree in Spain could be an excellent opportunity to improve your language skills.

Spanish universities offer two types of master’s degrees: official degrees (University Masters) and unofficial degrees (Non-official Masters, University-specific Masters, Masters Specialist and Masters Expert). Official Masters are established by the Government and adapted to the EHEA. Therefore, they are valid in all the countries that comprise the EHEA. Unofficial degrees are created by universities and hence only valid within these institutions, but they are generally recognised in the professional world. Two types of degree courses are the same length, but their scopes are different. Official degrees prepare students not only for professional careers in companies, but also for institutional or academic research, whereas unofficial degrees are mainly designed to train students to work in the business sector or specialised professions. Therefore, only those who hold an official Master’s degree are qualified for doctoral studies. Generally, you cannot switch from an unofficial degree’s course to an official degree’s course.

A Master’s degree usually takes one year to complete.

Accreditation and Recognition


In Spain, the National Agency for Quality Assessment and Accreditation (Agencia Nacional de la Evaluacion de la Calidad y Acreditacion), or ANECA, is mainly responsible for the quality of the Spanish high education system. This means universities have autonomy to decide the orientation and curriculum of their Master’s degrees, but they must meet the requirements set out by the ANECA in order to be accredited and included in the Registry of Universities, Centres and Degrees (RUCT). Some of the autonomous regions have their own Quality Assurance agencies.

However, the competencies of Quality Assurance bodies largely depend on their membership in the European Quality Assurance Register (EQAR). ANECA and five of the regional agencies are members of the EQAR. These are:

  • AQU-Catalunya in Catalonia
  • ACSUG in Galicia
  • ACSUCYL in Castilla y Leon
  • ACC-DEVA in Andalusia
  • UNIBASQ for the Basque Country

These agencies have the competency to give initial accreditation for new courses as well as re-accreditation for existing courses. Other agencies which are not members of the EQAR can only re-accredit master’s programmes.

Furthermore, since 2011, the Spanish Qualifications Framework for Higher Education has been introduced to set out criteria and standards for quality assurance practice. Master's degree programmes belong to Level 3 of this framework. This means although Spain has a decentralised higher education system, the quality of Spanish education is assessed within rigorous procedures.


The Ministry of Education, Culture and Sport (MECD) issues all degrees in Spain.

The alignment of the Spanish Qualifications Framework for Higher Education with the Framework for Qualifications of the European Higher Education Area (FQ-EHEA) and the European Qualifications Framework means that Spanish Master’s degrees are recognised around Europe.

Universities in Spain