BM83: Resolution on Public Prices and Consecutive Enrolment Fees in Spanish Universities

25.11.2022
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As set by the current Organic Law of Universities it is the competence of the Government of each Autonomous Community of Spain to establish by decree the prices for ECTS credits for enrolment at public universities within their corresponding territory. As stated by the same Law, the maximum and minimum prices for these fees are set by the National Conference on University Politics and should reflect the cost of the service provided.  

In 2012, the then Minister for Education, Culture and Sports, José Ignacio Wert Ortega, proposed a Royal Decree-Law (RDL) that fundamentally changed how the pricing of these fees worked. The RDL was introduced as a means of recuperating from the 2008 recession and guaranteeing sufficient funding for universities after the government cut funding. 

The RDL allowed the Governments of the Autonomous Communities to increase the price of ECTS credits by 25% above their real cost. It also introduced a system of price brackets for their prices, introducing a new fourth-time enrolment fee which had never been seen before. In simple terms, every time a student repeated a subject, they would have to pay double, triple or even quadruple the original price of the ECTS credit. It also modified the ability to lower or raise prices based on how experimental the degree is, meaning science or engineering degrees cost more than humanities or social science degrees, from some autonomous communities to a nationwide level. For example, in the autonomous community of Madrid, the prices for the least (Social Sciences-Humanities-Law) and most (Health Sciences) experimental degree ECTS credits in 2011 were:

Nº ECTS  CREDITS ENROLMENT PRICE
1st TIME (least expensive) 11’03€
2nd TIME (least expensive) 13’79€
3rd and CONSECUTIVE TIME(S) (least expensive) 18’75€
1st TIME (most expensive) 17’23€
2nd TIME (most expensive) 21’54€
3rd and CONSECUTIVE TIME(S) (least expensive) 29’29€

In 2013 after the RDL came into effect, prices were changed to: 

Nº ECTS  CREDITS ENROLMENT PRICE
1st TIME (least expensive) 21,32€
2nd TIME (least expensive) 37,90€
3rd TIME (least expensive) 71,06€
4th and CONSECUTIVE TIME(S) (least expensive) 94,75€
1st TIME (most expensive) 27,14€
2nd TIME (most expensive) 50,53€
3rd TIME (most expensive) 94,75€
4th and CONSECUTIVE TIME(S) (most expensive) 126,33€

In practice, these measures increased the price by 20% for enrolment between 2012-2019 nationally, with some regions having a 70% increase. With these measures, the government put the financial burden on students and families to support the Spanish public university system. The increase in prices were seen as a punishment for students who did not pass their subjects on the first try and a means to rid the public university system of poorer or less well-off families. It also created a large disparity between the Autonomous Communities, where prices vary drastically from one to another. 

Thankfully in 2020, mainly due to the COVID-19 Pandemic, the Government of Spain introduced a new RDL to help deal with the economic impact of the pandemic. This new RDL abolished the pricing brackets that were established in 2012. However, even though these brackets have been removed, most Autonomous Communities have opted to keep the current system instead of reverting to the older, much fairer system. 

Therefore, the European Students’ Union along with CREUP and other student representatives of Spain urge and demand for the Government of Spain and its Autonomous Communities to: 

● Return to the pre-2012 financing system for public universities. 

● Abolish second, third and fourth enrolment fees. 

● Establish first enrollment fees free of charge.

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