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Spain:Short-Cycle Higher Education

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Spain:European Perspective





Branches of study

Advanced Vocational Training is the last stage of formal vocational education.

It leads to specific professional accredited qualifications within the National Catalogue of Vocational Qualifications. For more information, see Lifelong Learning Strategy.

It is structured in a series of training cycles, organised into vocational modules and classified according to a number of professional families established in the Catalogue:

  • Administration and Management
  • Arts and Crafts
  • Building
  • Chemistry
  • Commerce and Marketing
  • Computer and Communication
  • Electricity and Electronics
  • Energy and Water
  • Extractive Industries
  • Farming
  • Food Industry
  • Glass and Ceramics
  • Graphic Arts
  • Health
  • Hotel and Tourism Industry
  • Imaging and Sound
  • Installation and Maintenance
  • Maritime and Fishery
  • Mechanical Production
  • Personal Image
  • Safety Environment
  • Socio-cultural and Community Services
  • Textiles, Clothing and Leather/Fur
  • Transport and Maintenance of Vehicles
  • Physical and Sport Activities
  • Wood, Furniture and Cork.

Admission requirements

Access to Advanced Vocational Training is quite flexible, so as to offer a variety of learning paths which can be easily adapted to student needs and interests, as well as to facilitate transfer between education and labour.

Admission to Advanced Vocational Training depends on the fulfilment on one of the following requirements:

  • Bachillerato certificate.
  • Technician diploma and have completed a specific training course leading to Advanced Vocational Training cycles, either in a public or private institution authorised by the relevant education authorities. This course has a minimum duration of 700 class hours and is divided into two parts:
    • common part: it has an instrumental nature. Students must attain, at least, the learning objectives for Spanish and for a foreign language set up for the stage of the Bachillerato
    • specific part: it is divided into, at least, two specialised branches: science and technology, and humanities and social sciences. Educational Authorities may also establish at least two additional subjects for each of these branches.
  • have passed an entrance examination to Advanced Vocational Training Cycles or a university entrance examination for students over 25:
  1. the basic configuration of this exam is regulated by the Ministry of Education, Culture and Sport. However, regional Education Authorities are in charge of the exams and of the specific preparatory courses
  2. students must be 19 (within the year they take the exam) or 18, if they already have an accredited Technician diploma in the same area of study as the programme for which they are applying
  3. it focuses on the general objectives of Bachillerato, as well as on the specific knowledge required for the relevant vocational training cycle
  4. it is divided into two papers, a general and a specific one, which is designed taking the contents of the specific preparatory course as a reference framework
  5. the education authorities may regulate exemption from any of the two papers, in view of previous accredited training and qualifications of the candidates
  6. the results obtained both in the preparatory course and in the examinations have official validity nationwide.
  • hold a university degree or equivalent.

When the number of candidates applying for a programme exceeds the number of places available, the educational institutions only take into account the students' academic record, regardless regardless of whether they belong to the institution itself or to another one. Bearing in mind that there are different admission paths, the Education Authorities allocate places according to the following criteria:

  • between 60% and 70% of the places are set aside for students with a Bachillerato certificate
  • between 20% and 30% of the places are reserved for students who have passed the preparatory course
  • between 10% and 20% of the places are held in reserve for students applying for admission through other channels.

The Education Authorities regulate further priority criteria within these three general groups, as well as the tie-breaking procedure.


The Ministry of Education, Culture and Sport, after due consultation with the Autonomous Communities, establishes the basic elements of the curriculum for each of the Advanced Vocational Training qualifications, according to the professional profiles with the highest demand within the production system.

The regulations for each qualification must include, at least, the following information:

  • identification of the qualification: name, length of the programme, professional branch or branches to which it is associated, MECES level, and its correspondence with the relevant European Qualification Framework
  • professional profile: general, social, personal and professional competences related; and an inventory of the professional qualifications and competence units of the National Catalogue of Professional qualifications included in the programme
  • working environment, which consist of, among other things, a list of jobs and positions associated with the qualification
  • prospects within the relevant production sector or in other sectors
  • programme: general objectives and configuration of the vocational modules: objectives, assessment criteria, basic contents, pedagogical guidelines, minimum length and equivalent number of ECTS credits for the purpose of validation with other levels of MECES
  • basic requirements for educational facilities: work spaces, minimum equipment according to the number of students, teachers’ qualifications and areas of specialisation
  • equivalence between vocational modules and competence units for accreditation purposes
  • validation, exemption and equivalence procedures
  • information regarding requirements, according to current legislation, for professional practice
  • branches or subjects of the Bachillerato which may contribute to admittance in case of competitive admission procedures.

The education authorities establish, within the scope of their competences, their own additional dispositions for curriculum design in each training cycle, adapting them to the socio-economic context of the region and to its prospects for economic and social development.

Vocational modules in which each vocational training cycle is structured

These modules are organised into theoretical and practical knowledge areas, according to the expected outcomes in terms of different professional, social and personal competences.

The different vocational modules which integrate Advanced Vocational Training cycles are the following:

  • modules associated to competence units from the National Catalogue of Professional Qualifications
  • professional training and guidance: it includes information regarding learning and employment opportunities, labour organisation, business and corporate relationships, basic labour legislation, rights and obligations arising from labour relationships, as well as training on health and safety at work. All these contents are adapted to the individual characteristics of the relevant professional family or production sector
  • business skills and entrepreneurship: it includes training on the mechanisms for the creation and basic management of companies, self-employment opportunities, social responsibility of companies, innovation and creativity in processes and labour procedures
  • work placement module (FCT):
  1. it has no employment status
  2. it is aimed at completing the acquisition of the professional competences that have been attained in the training institutions. Placement also enables students to achieve professional identity and maturity and to complete knowledge related to, among other areas, production and marketing issues, economic management and social and labour relationships within companies. Its goal is to facilitate labour insertion, to assess and put into practice the knowledge acquired by students during the training programme and to provide accreditation of actual work knowledge, which can only be verified in real working environments
  3. the Education Authorities decide at which point of the programme students can enrol in this module, depending on the specific characteristics of the training cycle, seasonality, job vacancies or availability of placement positions in companies
  4. the official regulations for each qualification establish the number of vocational modules which the student must have completed in order to apply for work placement. This module can be validated or subject to exemption, provided that candidates have at least one year of accredited working experience in the area, directly related to the qualification involved.
  • project module:
  1. it is a specific module within higher vocational training
  2. it is aimed at integrating the different abilities and knowledge included in the curriculum of all the módulos that make up each training cycle. Students must complete a project which integrates all the technological and organizational variables related to the qualification
  3. it is developed during the last stage of the training cycle and is evaluated after the work placement module has been completed.
  • additional modules which are not directly linked to competence units of the National Catalogue of Vocational Qualifications.

They may have a variable duration.

In order to promote lifelong learning and to contribute to reconcile training with other activities and responsibilities, these vocational modules may also be divided into shorter training units.

Teaching methods

The Education Authorities are responsible for the promotion of pedagogical, organisational and managerial autonomy of the schools which organise Higher Vocational Training provision. They must also encourage teacher teamwork and development of training, research and innovation plans, as well as development of any other actions which may contribute to ongoing improvement of training processes.

Educational institutions must bear in mind the specific characteristics of their student population, as well as their expectations and the training possibilities available in the area, especially regarding work placement module (FCT), in order to provide them with adequate opportunities to acquire the competences of the relevant qualification.

The teaching methodology of Vocational Training must integrate the relevant scientific, technological and operational features relevant in each case, so as to provide students with a global vision of the production processes involved in the professional field concerned.

As far as Advanced Vocational Training for adults is concerned, both the organisation and the teaching methodology must be open and flexible, based on self-learning, in order to allow adults to enrol in this type of provision, making it compatible with their family and/or work responsibilities.

Training programmes must be adapted to cater for students with specific educational needs, so as to guarantee their access, permanence and progress within the programme.

Progression of students 

Students are given a maximum of four opportunities to pass each vocational module, except for work placement module, where students only have two opportunities.

Exceptionally, Education Authorities may organise extraordinary official examination calls for those students who have already used up the four regular opportunities to pass the module due to illness, disability or any other personal circumstances which may have hindered normal progress in their studies.

Education Authorities may establish a priority order for completion of the vocational modules, and determine which ones the student must finish before enrolling in work placement.

In order to complete a training cycle, students must receive positive evaluation in all the vocational modules therein included.


The new structure of Vocational Training within the Education System has been designed so that training programmes and qualifications respond to the needs of the knowledge society, based on competitiveness, employability, mobility of workers and promotion of social insertion and cohesion, adapting these programmes to the specific interests and needs of each person. In order to do so, the training offer must take into account socio-economic reality, the expectations of citizens, training demands, economic and social development prospects, and the need to respond to current qualification needs.

In order to adapt training offer to social and economic needs, the Labour and Education Authorities in each regional government must promote the participation of all stakeholders in this type of provision, by establishing the necessary participation mechanisms and bodies in which all the different social agents can be adequately represented (2011 Act on Sustainable Economy).

Among the functions assigned to these bodies, we must include the analysis and detection of general and specific training needs of companies and workers in their area, so as to communicate these needs to the relevant education and labour authorities, in order for them to incorporate them into the planning of training provision.

The objective is to provide citizens with the training required by the production system, and to adapt Vocational Training provision to the real needs of the labour market, so as to guarantee employability of the persons enrolled in this type of programmes. It is essential to collaborate with companies, corporations, business organisations and self-employed professionals, especially in areas related to emergent, growing and innovative business areas. 

The collaboration must be materialised in the following aspects:

  • the structure of the curriculum in each training cycle, as well as the planning of the work placement modules (FCT), the project module, the module of professional training and guidance and the one devoted to business initiative and entrepreneurship
  • vocational modules must be carried out directly in working premises, so as to guarantee up-to-date equipment and facilities for this type of training
  • the use of equipment and facilities within educational institutions by companies, provided that they do not interfere with regular training and educational activities
  • the promotion of collaboration projects between higher vocational training institutions, universities and companies from the relevant production system.

In Spain, the foundations of dual vocational training, for workers to become professionally qualified through work-linked training schemes which combine work with training within the framework of the education system, which result in a real immersion into the working environment, were regulated at the beginning of November 2012. For more information, see Work-linked training.

Student assessment

Student assessment in vocational training is carried out in each of the vocational modules, according to:

  • the objectives established as educational outcomes
  • the assessment criteria for each of these modules
  • the general objectives of the whole training cycle.

As regards evaluation of work placement modules (FCT), the tutor assigned to the student in the firm where placement is being carried out must collaborate with his/her counterpart from the vocational training centre for assessment.

Students receive a numerical mark (1 to 10) in each vocational module. The minimum grade required to pass each module is 5, except in work placement module, which operates on a pass/fail basis.

The final mark for each training cycle is the result of the mark average of all the modules within each cycle, with two decimal positions.

The final grade obtained in a vocational module can be transferred to another training cyle which also has the same module.


Advanced Technician certificate within the relevant specialisation

It is awarded on successful completion of these programmes, or after passing the required examinations.

The diploma provides accreditation of the competences included in the relevant professional profile, together with working, social and personal competences, as well as with professional qualifications and competence units.

It has official, academic and professional validity nationwide.

Advanced Vocational Training diplomas are included in the National Catalogue of Professional Qualifications of the education system, which has been designed to respond to the professional competences required in the different production sectors and to contribute to economic development at central, regional and local levels. For this reason, the Catalogue is being continuously updated by the MECD.

According to the International Standard Classification of Education established by the UNESCO, a diploma of Higher Technician in Advanced Vocational Training belongs to ISCED 5B level.

It provides direct access to university Bachelor programmes, in compliance with current regulations for admission to university, or credit validation for the relevant university studies. The mark required for application is the average point grade of all the modules included in the diploma for the training cycle.

Recently the MECD has regulated the validation of the different Higher Education qualifications, establishing their relation, and also the validation of ECTS credits between them. The corresponding Educational Authorities are responsible for the validation of the official accredited Bachelor programmes, leading to the studies of Higher Technician.

Examinations leading to the award of the Advanced Technician certificate

  • it is an alternative option to in-class or distance provision
  • they are intended for persons who already possess a considerable training in a specific professional field but have no official qualifications, and who are able to plan their own learning activity without assistance. Candidates are allowed to take single final examination for each programme module
  • they are held at least once a year by regional Education Authorities, and assessment is carried out independently for each vocational module
  • the contents of the examination refer to the curriculum of each training cycle
  • applicants must be at least 20 years old and meet some of the admission requirements for Higher Vocational Training
  • the education authorities have to ensure equal opportunities, non-discrimination and universal accessibility for people with disabilities who sit these examinations.

Academic certificate

Students who have not successfully finished all the modules in each training cycles at this level may apply for it.

It specifies the completed vocational modules, as well as the relationship between these ones and the corresponding competence units accredited in the National Catalogue of Professional Qualifications.

Students who register partially in some specific vocational modules can apply for these academic certificates, which are issued by the education authorities, specifying those modules the student has already passed, so as to allow them to accumulate the training required to obtain a diploma or a certificate of professional experience.

They have official validity nationwide, must be printed in official standard forms, and must include, at least, the following details:

  • personal information
  • specific information about the training cycle
  • information about the school where the programme has been carried out
  • the final marks obtained in each of the vocational modules, specifying the year and the order of the official call for examinations
  • admission requirements.

Certificate of professional experience

It is issued by the employment authorities at the request of the person concerned.

It states the vocational modules completed by the student and provides accreditation for the competence units associated to them.

Vocational module certificate

These competence units may also receive accreditation without having necessarily completed the vocational modules to which they are associated. In that case, the certificate is only valid for the territorial area of competence of each regional government. On completion of all the competence units, applicants are entitled to a certificate on the corresponding vocational module, which is the minimal unit for accreditation valid at national level.

The students who have received an accreditation for the competence units of the National Catalogue of Professional Qualifications are allowed to validate the vocational modules associated to them, according to the regulations for each Higher Vocational Training qualification.

In order to increase workers’ possibilities to improve their qualifications, a new procedure has been established for the evaluation and accreditation of professional competences acquired by means of working experience or through non-formal education. This accreditation allows beneficiaries to fulfil admission criteria for other types of provision or to receive recognition for specific subjects or components within a programme. The components which may be accredited are, for example, any of the vocational modules in which Higher Vocational Training qualifications are structured, thus improving the opportunities of applicants to obtain a Higher Technician diploma. For more information, see Validation of non-formal and informal learning.

Organisational variation

Advanced Vocational Training provision must be flexible in order to allow students to combine training, work and other types of activities. Therefore, students may enrol in complete programmes, in individual components or in distance education. 

Regional education authorities and the Ministry of Education, Culture and Sport have undertaken the responsibility of promoting distance Vocational Training, giving priority to growing economic sectors or to those which are currently generating employment. The two administrations, in collaboration, design the materials required for these programmes.

Along the same lines, a system of online Vocational Training has been developed. It allows to:

  • enrol in distance Higher Vocational Training cycles
  • engage in the additional training, required by applicants to the diploma of Higher Technician who have received accreditation of professional competences acquired through work experience
  • complete the vocational modules associated to the different competence units of the National Catalogue of Profesional Qualifications, as part of the training which can be accumulated towards obtaining a diploma of Higher Technician
  • enrol in courses leading to access to Vocational Training
  • find information about the different online training possibilities provided by Education Authorities.

As far as the educational institutions organising online courses are concerned, Education Authorities are responsible for implementing the necessary measures in order for these centres to have the required facilities, equipment, resources, teachers and materials to guarantee training quality. Any institution which organises this type of provision must be duly authorised, except public centres specifically devoted to distance training.

In distance Higher Vocational Training, students are required to take in-class examinations in approved centres in order to receive a final mark for each of the vocational modules. This evaluation, however, is designed according to the different student assessment procedures employed throughout the programme.