The main differences between a university and a private Spanish school

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Now that you have established that you want to study Spanish in Spain, you have a choice of two options as to where exactly to study: either at a Spanish university, or at a private Spanish school. Here at GoStudySpain, we work exclusively with universities, however, the company UniSpain offers both options. To help you to make up your mind, here’s a quick overview of the main differences between the two, as well as the advantages and disadvantages of each.

Studying at a Spanish University

GSS offers students the opportunity to study at four of the most distinguished universities in Spain: the Complutense University of Madrid, the Autonomous University of Barcelona, the University of Salamanca and the University of Malaga. Course duration ranges from four weeks up to one full academic year (nine months). All levels of Spanish are catered to, from absolute beginners to those with a better command of the language. All the universities offer intensive courses, which include between 80 and 100 hours of Spanish learning per month (depending on the particular university) and all (except the UAB) offer special summer courses, for those wishing to study during their university holidays. Malaga and Salamanca offer ‘Spanish Language and Culture’ courses which focus on more than just the Spanish language, offering students the chance to learn about Spanish literature, history and cinema, to name a few. The opportunity to earn study credits is available for all European and American universities.

Blackboard in Spanish Class- image by www.visualphotos.comStudying at a Spanish university is a wise choice if you are opting for long-term study, as it is most cost-effective. It also looks better on your CV- employers will see that you have studied abroad. There is also the chance to gain credits so that your course forms part of your university degree. As most foreign students studying at Spanish universities tend to stay for longer than a month, there is more of an opportunity to establish a circle of friends, and chances to interact with and form friendships with Spanish people are more frequent, given that you will be sharing the same campus (this is not always the case- for example at the University of Malaga, the campus for foreign students is separate from the main campus, however, foreign students can still access the main campus and make use of the facilities).


However, there are some drawbacks associated with learning Spanish at a university. The classes are bigger than those in private Spanish schools, often with a maximum of around 18 students. Therefore you may not receive as much attention in class and the study experience is less personalised. In addition, universities do not tend to arrange many extracurricular activities, if any at all. (This is not so much of an issue if you bear in mind that GSS arranges activities independently of the institutions.) Once again, the universities are not really suited to short-term study; the minimum course duration offered is four weeks.

Private Spanish school

There are numerous Spanish schools all over the country, many of which are officially accredited by universities. They offer courses for people of all ages and course duration can be as little as one week or as long as one year. As with universities, courses are provided for every language level, and many schools offer not only traditional Spanish language learning but also specialised programmes, for example those for DELE preparation and business Spanish. Classes are usually kept small and an assortment of extracurricular activities are planned to allow students to enjoy themselves outside of class hours.


spanish-lesson- image by condadodealhamaservices.comFor those looking to study Spanish for a short period of time, then private Spanish schools allow students to study for as little as one week. Classes are smaller than those at universities, meaning that students receive more help and support. Schools often provide various extracurricular activities, ranging from cooking and dancing to sports and excursions, in order to ensure that students always have something to do. Given that the institutions are often smaller environments, staff are very hands-on and knowledgeable about every aspect of the courses, even participating in the activities themselves.


However, studying at a Spanish school is not necessarily as immersive as studying at a university, given that you will spend the majority of your time surrounded by other foreign students- running the risk of only interacting with other foreigners. Additionally, if you are studying for a longer period of time, then not only is it more expensive, but your circle of friends will constantly change as people come and go. Another issue is that there is less freedom to do as you please- you may feel as though you need to participate in the extra activities even though you would rather go off and explore the town for yourself.

As you can see, there are advantages and disadvantages for both options- consider all the factors and determine what is best for you personally. Broadly speaking, short-term study seems more suited to a private Spanish school (check out UniSpain), but if you are hoping to study for a longer period of time and also want to enhance your CV then a university is your best bet. Now the only thing to figure out is which city you want to study in…