Studying at a Spanish University

ACCENT works with local institutions to offer several direct enrollment programs, where students at our partner universities have the opportunity to attend classes at Spanish universities. Direct enrollment programs allow students to experience a foreign educational system first-hand. The transition is a challenging and rewarding process. At ACCENT Madrid, direct enrollment students benefit from the support and expertise of our Academic Liason/Programs Coordinator Raquel del Pozo, who assists with course selection, registration, academic advising, and helps students adjust to a different system. This week, we’ve asked Raquel to answer some of the most common questions asked by incoming students about academic and student life at universities in Spain.

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 -Are all classes in Spanish universities taught in Spanish?

Some universities, such as our local partner institutions, do also offer their courses in the English language. It is up to the student to select the course in English or Spanish. The same course can sometimes be offered in both languages.

-What are the biggest differences between classes in Spanish universities and American universities?

There are several important differences:

CtlqrFjXgAA0r4zThe Professor: Students in Spain tend to work in a more independent way, in the sense that they must take responsibility for organizing their studies and prepare for the course by going to the library to find more resources. Professors usually won’t remind you of every deadline and their lectures are more based on guidelines. Professors are not as on top of students as they are in the US, they do not respond to e-mails as quickly, and are not as readily available, since they usually have other professional duties apart from teaching. However, they are available during office hours to answer questions and clarify any confusion that arises in class. Sometimes professors use PowerPoint, but not as often as in the US, so it is important to take notes based on the professor’s lectures. Also, keep in mind that we don’t shy away from sensitive topics in Spain. We like discussing and debating everything– and everything means everything (sexual orientation, politics, religion)— in a very free way.

Small group work: Assignments are very often done in groups rather than on an individual basis.C2S2lMfXgAEJHgn

Class Size: Classes are usually composed of 50-80 students who have often been studying together from their very first year at university.

Classroom Conduct: We usually dress more formally than in the US, so we don´t go to classes with gym clothing. Wearing caps, eating, and drinking are not accepted in class. On the other hand, Spanish students usually call the professor by his or her first name. We only address them by their last name if you really want to talk to him/her in a very formal way.

Cost: Tuition at a Spanish public university costs around €3,000 a year, whereas in a private university, tuition is more expensive (€6,000-€10,000 per year). This is still much more affordable than most universities in the United States!

Grades: The grading system is also different, since in Spain we grade on a 0-10 scale, with 5 being a passing grade. Professors are usually very demanding. It is not as common here to receive an A, though a B is already considered a very good grade. The final exam is usually worth around 60% of the final course grade, with the other 40% based on daily assignments and class participation.

DSC_0024-Where do most local students live while studying at a university?

While some students who are from other regions of Spain live either in residence dorms on campus (especially freshmen) or in shared apartments, most students commute within Madrid or live with their families.

-What is student life like on campus? Are there many clubs and sports teams to participate in?

bellas-artesNot at much as in the US. There aren’t any fraternities or sororities and we do not usually join clubs as often. The feeling of school spirit is not as strong as in the US, and we don´t wear our university hoodies as proudly as Americans do! Life on campus is mostly limited to academics, although universities do offer language courses, sports activities, theater, cooking classes, etc. Madrid is a big city, and students live in many different areas, which makes it more difficult to go back to campus after classes are over if there is not an academic reason for it. A Spanish student’s social life generally takes place off campus. Part of the reason for this is the location of the universities, which are mostly situated in the heart of cities with plenty of things to do, so there is less of a need for on-campus activities.

-What is the best way to meet local students?

There are many ways! During your classes, through your work in class groups, or joining a group activity on campus. You can also meet people at the best social hub in Spanish universities: the cafeteria. This is not only the place to have a coffee or a bite to eat, but also to socialize, do classwork, and meet students from different backgrounds.

-Is there a gym and a dining hall on campus?

Yes, there is. The gym is usually open during class hours and you can go there on your own or participate in group activities. The dining hall offers a special menu to students, so you can have lunch for 4-5 euros. There are also microwaves in the dining halls in case you want to warm up your meal.

Studying at a local institution is a great experience that allows you to grow personally and academically.

¡Atrévete! (Dare to!)

photo-16~ Raquel del Pozo, ACCENT Madrid Academic Liason/Programs Coordinator

If you’re faculty or a study abroad office looking to collaborate on a direct enrollment program with ACCENT, check out our program design FAQs (link: or contact us for a quote at