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

At the Complutense University of Madrid (UCM), you can pursue virtually any major. In addition to regular university courses, you can choose to take a Spanish language course to continue your language study while abroad. 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

  • As part of its internationalization efforts, the university offers a number of bilingual degree programs, such as psychology, where you can access a variety of courses taught in English.
  • Explore programming theory, artificial intelligence, or usability engineering from a different cultural perspective.


Language of Instruction: English, Spanish

Spanish Language Study: Optional

During fall semester, you can opt to take a Spanish language course offered by UCEAP. This course is available at the beginner, intermediate, and advanced level. The coursework includes planned activities throughout the city to get to know Madrid and to put your language to use in real time with locals.

Even if you plan to only take courses in English, you may find Spanish language study to be helpful as you navigate living in a Spanish-speaking country. Madrid is an international city and many folks speak English but being able to communicate even with a little Spanish can be incredibly useful and could open up more opportunities for getting to know locals.

A few months prior to departure, you will complete a language placement exam to determine your Spanish language level. If you are interested in the Spanish language course, the placement exam will determine your Spanish language course level and your eligibility to take coursework in Spanish in the UCM degrees. All UCM degrees offering coursework in Spanish require students to demonstrate a B2 (upper intermediate) level of proficiency. Some degrees, such as Spanish Language and Literature, even require a C1 (advanced) level of Spanish proficiency in order to take coursework in Spanish. 

If you do not meet the B2 level of proficiency, you will only be able to choose from coursework available in English. If you meet the B2 level of proficiency, you are not required to take coursework in Spanish. 

Courses and credit

Requirements While Abroad 

  • Take a minimum of four courses and 20.0 quarter/13.1 semester UC units; most courses are 5 quarter/3.3 semester UC units.
  • You may select one course for pass/no pass credit.

Current Program Courses

Course offerings for the next academic year are typically available in mid- to late June but you can use the current course lists on the UCM website to start researching course options as most degree plans stay pretty consistent year-to-year. See the Catalogs and Resources section below for a link directly to the UCM degrees and course offerings.

Regular university courses are available in most academic disciplines. 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).

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.

Courses in English

UCM degrees with significant coursework in English include:

  • Business Administration
  • Chemistry
  • Computer Science
  • Economics
  • Education
  • English Studies
  • Physics
  • Psychology

Outside of these degrees, English offerings are very sparse and change from year-to-year so you will not be able to confirm availability of English courses in other degrees until the next academic year courses are posted in June. You will need to get comfortable searching the Complutense website in order to find course options.

Course Restrictions

If you do not have a B2 level of Spanish or higher, you may not enroll in UCM courses taught in Spanish. See the Language section above for further information.

Common UC degrees not offered at Complutense include:

  • Area Studies (African Studies, Asian Studies, Latin American Studies, etc)
  • Environmental Studies
  • Film & Media Studies
  • Women's & Gender Studies

This is not an exhaustive list so please review the UCM course offerings carefully in order to confirm that coursework you are interested in taking is available.

International students may not enroll in courses offered in doble grados (double majors). For example, UCM offers a double major in Sociology -- International Relations. If you are interested in this type of coursework, you will need to look in the separate Sociology degree and the International Relations degree.

Experiential Learning

Research, independent study, and internships for academic credit are typically not available.

Course Registration

In June before the start of fall semester, the UCEAP Academic Specialist will email you to complete a course registration form in which you will indicate the courses you wish to take. UCM will then confirm if space is available in those classes. While this is not your final course enrollment, please be aware that once the fall semester begins in September, the process for requesting to add or drop courses is time-consuming and it may be a while before the department confirms any new course enrollment. The UCEAP Study Center staff will be available to answer any questions you may have and to facilitate this process.

Remember that similar to your UC campus, you are not guaranteed enrollment in UCM courses. UCEAP also cannot guarantee enrollment ahead of time. Only during the June course registration will you get an idea of course availability. You will need to be flexible and have a back-up course plan if your top course choices are full.

Catalogs and resources

  • Browse undergraduate degrees to explore the study plan (plan de estudio) and class lists (planificación docente) for that course of study.
    • Use this guide for instructions on how to search for courses and syllabi.
    • Use this guide to find English courses in Psychology.
  • UCEAP Course Catalog: See a list of courses students have taken on this program. This is not a current representation of course offerings on this program. Reference the above links to review recent course offerings.
  • Campus Credit Abroad: learn the types of credit (major, minor, general education, elective) students from your campus received at this location.

Academic culture

Successful students on this program need to be independent, self-motivated, and plan ahead. While UCEAP does have Study Center staff in Madrid to assist you, you will largely be responsible for navigating the ins and outs of the university yourself.


Complutense has two main campuses: Moncloa and Somosaguas. If you are taking coursework in different facultades, pay attention to what campuses the facultades are located on since you may need to factor travel time between campuses into your course schedule. Transit time between the two campuses takes approximately one hour.

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. Lectures are complemented by smaller group practical sessions where discussions and group work may take place. 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.


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.

Assessment and Exams

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. 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), you must take your final exam during the first exam period. UC policies also 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.


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.

If your term abroad is your last term at UC, please be aware that grades may not arrive in time for degree verification deadlines. UCEAP recommends that you speak with your UC campus Study Abroad Office about your plans for advice on when you should declare your candidacy for graduation.