Higher education and research in Spain and Catalonia


HE in Spain | HE governance | HEIs in CataloniaResearch in Catalonia


Higher education in Spain

Spain has about 1.5 million HE students (2007/08). There are 77 universities: 50 public and 27 private. Although more than one third of the universities are private, they produce only 8% of graduates in a system that has grown rapidly since the 1970s but decreased again in more recent years. Non-university higher education is almost non-existent.


Higher education is rapidly internationalising. The number of foreign students is increasing every year. 2.3% of undergraduate students and 23% of graduate students are of foreign nationality. About 51% of the Ph.D. students from foreign universities come from Latin America. Nearly 24 000 Spanish students participated in the European student exchange programme Erasmus in 2007-08.


Public expenditure in HE for grants and loans for HE students is 0.08% of GDP (OECD-average: 0.25%). Private funding for HE has increased considerably during the 1990s (over 25%).


Higher education governance

Higher Education Institutions in Spain are governed by two different Ministries: Ministry of Education and Ministry of Science and Innovation. The Ministry of Education co-ordinates the whole education system from primary to tertiary education including vocational higher education. The Ministry of Science and Innovation is in charge of research policy, including funding.

The Minister of Education is responsible for:

  • Designing, planning and regulating HE (including teaching staff regulations)
  • Developing the European Space of Higher Education and co-ordinating international programmes
  • Planning, co-ordinating and managing financial help for students, teachers and research staff, through grants and loans
  • Evaluating and analysing innovation and improvement of university quality


The Minister of Science and Innovation is responsible for:

  • Promoting co-operation among universities, research centres and companies
  • Defining a National Plan of Research, Development and Innovation
  • Co-ordinating scientific and technical research as well as co-operation at national and international levels
  • Identifying research careers, and providing public financing for it

Regional governments are responsible for funding and managing HE in the regions. They set up, authorise and oversee public and private HEIs. They may also design and implement regional research policy.


Higher education institutions (HEIs) in Catalonia

Catalonia has eight public and four private universities. The public universities belong to the Catalan Association of Public Universities (ACUP), which was established in 1997 to represent and promote public higher education in Catalonia.

ACUP’s mission is to support the work of its member universities and unite their strengths to share knowledge and good practice. It also works for a diverse higher education sector that provides benefits to the region and its inhabitants.


Information on the Catalan university system

Undergraduate students 205.050 (2005-2006)
Postgraduate students 29.116 (2005-2006)
PhD students 11.963 (2004-2005)
Academic staff 11.211 (2005-2006)
Expenditure in HE/GDP 1% (2006)
Expenditure per student in PPP 9815 (2006)


Public universities

Private universities


Research in Catalonia

In 2006, 1.43% of the regional GDP was devoted to R&D. Roughly two-thirds of this expenditure was allocated to the private sector. From the total expenditure in the public sector, approximately 65% was allocated to HEIs.

There are 50 research institutes currently operating in Catalonia and seven more are in the planning stage.
The research institutes can be divided into:


The Catalan research institutes employ more than 3,000 people including researchers, postgraduate students, technical and other staff.





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