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Academics

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

At the University of Barcelona (UB) you can take a combination of regular UB courses and specially designed core courses on Spanish literature and Catalán culture. Within the regular university facultades, UC students usually take courses in the humanities and social sciences, especially in the fields of Spanish literature, economics, history, art history, Catalán studies, and linguistics. Other disciplines are also available if you have the requisite background.

Unique study opportunities

  • Add an internship for academic credit during the term.
  • Take studio art courses at with UB’s Faculty of Fine Arts.
  • Access a number of courses taught in English to round out your studies.
  • Learn basic Catalán skills and interact with locals in their home language.

Language

Language of Instruction: English, Spanish, Catalan

Spanish Language Study: Optional

Most university courses are taught in either Spanish or Catalán. Therefore, you must meet the Spanish language eligibility requirement. During the academic year, Spanish or Catalán language study is available but not required. There are also some courses taught in English that you could take to round out your studies. No matter the language of instruction, you may ask questions, take notes, and write your papers and exams in Castilian Spanish (castellano).

Benefits of Learning Catalán

In Barcelona today, Catalán is spoken and used in street signs, official documents, university publications, and political activities. All university information is in Catalán. Using even a few phrases in Catalán will help you meet locals; they appreciate when visitors attempt to learn their language. 

The study center in Barcelona offers many opportunities to learn Catalán, both during the intensive language program (ILP) and through additional classes throughout the academic year. Take advantage of these opportunities. If you mix courses taught in Catalán into your curriculum, you’re likely to have more course options and an easier schedule than if you take all your courses in castellano. Instead of filtering courses by language of instruction, consider Catalán as a challenge. If you already know Spanish, you can learn enough Catalán to achieve an adequate level of listening comprehension for classroom situations. 

Intensive Language Program

The program begins with a three-week Spanish intensive language program (ILP). The ILP offers training in Catalán. During the ILP you’ll also become familiar with the classes that are available at UB in the coming term. 

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. 

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.
  • You are required to enroll in at least four courses each term.
  • Take a maximum of two core courses per term.
  • You may select one course for pass/no pass credit.
  • If you want to add an academic internship, plan for a total minimum load of five courses.

Units 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. There is no variable unit option for the winter ILP.

Current Program Courses

Regular university courses in most academic disciplines are available. Before departure, you’ll complete an initial host registration (fall: May 10, spring: November 15). After arrival, program coordinators and the study center director will meet with you to finalize an appropriate course of study. Courses offered in the fall are usually posted on the UB website by late July. 

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.

Searching Courses by Language

The University of Barcelona announces the language of instruction for a given subject before the start of the academic year. The announcements are considered binding, meaning that the language of instruction cannot be changed during the remainder of the academic year. Together with the language information provided in the public course schedules, the study center also keeps track of professors who are known to prefer Catalán as the language of instruction. If you prefer to limit course choices to those taught in Castilian (castellano), check with the study center. 

Courses in Studio Art

The Faculty of Fine Arts in Barcelona is an inspirational place to pursue studio art. It offers instruction in painting, sculpture, drawing, design, image, art restoration, and art education. Space is extremely limited and admission is competitive. However, if you’re an art major with a clear idea of how you’d like to develop your artistic talents, this is a great option.

To apply, you’ll need to submit a portfolio of your work (photographs, slides, résumé, etc.) and a few other documents before departure. Your application documents and portfolio will be presented to the dean of the facultad for an admission decision. Admission is not guaranteed; it is best to have an alternate academic plan for your time in Spain. If accepted, you’ll be required to take two classes and may dedicate as many as 12 hours per week to each class.

If you wish to study art history, you may do so in the Facultad de Historia. There is no need for a separate application, but it is helpful to have some background in history. The language of instruction in both art history and studio art tends to be Catalán.

Catalogs and resources

  • UB Undergraduate Degree Listings: Page available in Spanish, Catalán, and English.
  • UB Faculties and Departments (page available in Spanish, Catalán, and English): Note that links to specific courses (assignatures), syllabi (pla docent) or plans of study (pla d'estudis), where available, may only be found through the Catalán pages.
  • Learn Catalan at UB: You can begin your Catalán study immediately by going to the UB’s listing of resources for learning Catalán.
  • UB Courses taught in English: Browse course descriptions using the alphabetical links at the top of the page.
  • UCEAP Course Catalog: See a list of courses UC students have taken on this program.
  • Campus Credit Abroad: Learn the types of credit (major, minor, general education, elective) students from your campus received at this location.

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 preassigned 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.

Grades

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.

Although Spanish professors may not usually take formal attendance, 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.

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.

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.

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

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.

Fall students are required to stay until the end of the program in February, so expect to miss winter quarter on your home UC campus. You may not request early exam dates from your instructors or the study center. Early departures from Spain are not allowed.