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Fields of Study: Humanities, Social Sciences, Science, Engineering

At the Complutense University of Madrid, you can pursue virtually any major. In addition to regular university courses, you can choose from a selection of UCEAP-designed core courses tailored for UC students each term. Many UCEAP students at this university have concentrated in the areas of political and social science, economics, psychology, anthropology, art history, and Spanish-language literature.

Unique study opportunities

  • Access a variety of courses taught in English as part of the university’s bilingual degree programs and internationalization efforts.
  • Explore programming theory, artificial intelligence, or usability engineering from a different cultural perspective.


Language of Instruction: English, Spanish

Spanish Language Study: Required

The program begins with a three-week Spanish intensive language program (ILP). This program is mandatory and designed to prepare you for courses taught in Spanish at the host university.

During the academic year, additional Spanish language study is available but not required. Although you must meet the Spanish language eligibility requirement, there are some departments that offer entire degrees in English.

Pre-Intensive Language Program

If you’re short on language requirements for this program, you can use the pre-intensive language program (pre-ILP) to qualify. The pre-ILP occurs in the summer in the city of Cádiz. You can also attend the pre-ILP simply for the additional language preparation. The program has benefits at all Spanish language levels, even if you’re an advanced speaker.

You select the option for the pre-ILP in Cádiz when you apply. Learn more about the pre-ILP in Cádiz.

Courses and credit

Requirements While Abroad

To successfully complete this program:

  • Take a full-time course of study: A minimum of four courses and 18 quarter/12 semester UC units. Most Complutense courses are worth 6 ECTS, equivalent to 5.0 quarter/3.3 semester UC units.
  • You may take a maximum of two core courses per term.
  • You may select one course for pass/no pass credit.

Units taken during the pre-ILP and ILP do not count toward the semester minimum unit requirement. These include:

  • Pre-ILP: One course for a total of 3-6.5 quarter/2-4.3 semester UC units. Course must be taken for a letter grade.
  • ILP: One language course for a total of 3–6 quarter/2–4 semester UC units. Course must be taken for a letter grade.

Current Program Courses

Regular university courses are available in most academic disciplines, and UCEAP is ready to help you navigate all of the course offerings of this large institutions. Immediately following the onsite orientation, you’ll become familiar with the classes that will be offered in the coming term. Onsite staff will then meet with you to finalize an appropriate course of study.

Many students take courses in the Facultad de Ciencias Políticas y Sociología (legal studies, sociology, political science, and social anthropology) as well as the Facultad de Filología (language and literature).

Offerings are also available in the Facultad de Ciencias Económicas y Empresariales (economics and business administration), as well as the Facultad de Psicología (psychology and behavioral science). Courses in environmental studies and the sciences can be found across several facultades.

Unlike Spanish students, you may take classes in any facultad. As you plan your academic choices, remember to explore the courses that a variety of facultades offer. For example, an anthropology course may be in the Facultad de Historia if such a course is a requirement for the history degree since each facultad provides all the courses that students need to fulfill their requirements.

The study center will help you navigate courses by providing information on class availability, schedules, locations, etc. Even so, do as much investigation as you can to find out what is available.

Research and independent study are typically not available.

Catalogs and resources

Common Terms

  • asignatura: course
  • curso: year
  • formación básica: foundational/basic course
  • grados: undergraduate degrees
  • guía docente: course description or syllabus
  • obligatoria: required course
  • optativa: elective
  • plan de estudio: degree plan
  • programa: course description or syllabus
  • trabajo de fin de grado: final project

Academic culture

Degree System

Spanish universities traditionally follow a career system, which means that Spanish students begin their studies with their major already selected and take courses that are pre-assigned within one facultad for their entire university career. Spanish students are therefore highly specialized in their fields.

In many respects, Spanish undergraduate degrees are similar to the American bachelor's degree: students progressively advance through a degree plan over four years, starting with foundational courses, required courses, electives, and a final project.

While not always exact, be aware that many courses designated as básica, particularly those offered for first year (curso 1, or primer curso) students, are considered lower division. Unless you are specifically trying to meet lower division GE requirements, try to avoid enrolling in first year courses whenever possible.

Class Format and Expectations

While some professors tend to be more open to interaction, many courses in Spain are lectures with little or no class discussion. Given this lecture format, note-taking skills are important. You’ll also need to do preparatory work on your own outside of class, which may extend beyond what a professor assigns.

Most professors supply a syllabus at the beginning of the course. In some cases these are available online in the guía for each facultad. The syllabus may include a bibliography and reading list that may be extremely long. You probably don’t need to read every book on the list, but you do need to find out which ones are essential and how they relate to each other. You may be expected to know the arguments of important books in the field, since a principle objective of many courses is to master what has already been written on any given topic.


You will earn direct UC credit and grades for all coursework. Grades for this program are typically available in late March for the fall semester, and late August for the spring semester.

Spanish professors usually take formal attendance and they’ll notice repeated unexcused absences from class. In many cases, exams concentrate heavily on material presented in class. Failure to regularly attend class can result in a lowered or failing grade. Spanish students know how and at what point in the year or semester the professor will be expecting them to apply themselves and be productive. Do not wait until the end of the year to study for a final exam; it constitutes your entire grade.

Exams are usually essays that may include subjects that were minimally covered in lectures. This is where independent research is critical. Exams may be open notebook or open book, in which case you’ll be expected to read several books and quote from them.

You may have a choice between two evaluation models. The evaluación única model bases the entire course grade on one comprehensive essay exam at the end of the term. The evaluación continua model, on the other hand, permits evaluation using two or three course elements, such as a term paper, a mid-term, and a final exam. Choose the evaluación continua model. Participants often do better overall when submitting assignments and receiving regular feedback from instructors.

In Spain the GPA is not as important as it is in the US, and the Spanish grading system differs greatly from the American grading system. Grades for Spanish students are rarely curved, so the performance of a fellow student does not affect another student’s grade. Grades are assigned according to how much of the course material you have mastered, not how much effort you feel you may have put into the class.

Although the Spanish system often allows for multiple final exam sittings (convocatorias), UC policies specifically prohibit re-taking final exams.

You may finish your exams in December, but final grades will not be available until the completion of the exam period in early February. You may not request early exam dates from your instructors or the study center. Early departures from Spain are not allowed.