Post-compulsory education

Post-compulsory education

Compulsory education in Catalonia is from the ages of 6 to 16. Normally, children who finish their compulsory secondary education (ESO, which stands for Educació secundària obligatòria) can continue studying for a Baccalaureate or do vocational training or receive an education in sports, plastic arts and design or music and dance.

Students who have not satisfactorily finished their ESO can opt for training and job-placement programmes (PFI, which stands for Programa de formació i inserció) to access vocational-training studies.

Once they have finished their ESO, students can access university or higher vocational studies.

The following chart summarises the education system:

Summary of School System

Training and job-placement programmes (PFI)

These are voluntary programmes aimed at young people, between the ages of 16 and 21, who will be finishing their ESO without having obtained any qualifications. The purpose behind these programmes is to enable these students’ reincorporation into the education system so they can continue with their vocational-training studies and thereby improve their chances of entering the labour market. The programmes normally last for one school year.


Baccalaureates are one of the post-compulsory studies that students can follow after they have completed their ESO. It is normally for students aged 16 to 18 but there is no age limit.

The state system allows students to study for their Baccalaureate in the classroom (during the day or at night) or through distance learning. It lasts for two school years and is divided into three areas: arts; sciences and technologies, and humanities and social sciences.

The Baccalaureate prepares students for their incorporation into later studies, both vocational (upper-level training courses) and university, as well as their access to the labour market.

To find out about accessing Baccalaureates in state schools, consult the “formalities” section on how to pre-enrol and enrol

Vocational education and training (VET)

VET studies enable you to obtain qualifications to work in various professions, as they provide the training required for acquiring each sector’s vocational skills.

These studies are divided up into professional families and can be studied at intermediate-level cycles  (which enable students to obtain a technical qualification) and higher-level cycles (through which higher technical qualifications can be obtained).

The professional families are as follows: physical activities and sports; farming; commerce and marketing; electricity and electronics; mechanical manufacturing; hotel management and tourism; personal image; extractive industries; installation and maintenance; chemistry; safety and the environment; textiles, clothing and leather; administration and management; graphic arts; construction and civil engineering; energy and water; wood, furniture and cork; image and sound; food industries; information and communication technology; maritime and fisheries; health care; social-cultural services and the community; and vehicle transport and maintenance.

For information on all vocational-training studies taught in Catalonia, visit the Studying in Catalonia website.

Also consult the procedure to access VET in schools mantained by public funds:


Artistic studies

You can also study arts courses in Barcelona at its prestigious schools. These studies generally belong to vocational training, so they are intermediate- or upper-level cycles. The latter have been adapted to the European Higher Education Area.

They are taught at both state and private schools and include studies in the field of the dramatic arts, dance, music, the plastic arts and design and cultural-asset conservation and restoration.

For further information on the artistic studies offered in Catalonia, visit the Studying in Catalonia website.

Sports education

Athletics, football, basketball, sailing, mountain sports and so on. You can do sports studies in various disciplines in Catalonia, in several schools located throughout the territory. These will enable you to practice the sport you are studying professionally.

You will find intermediate- and higher-level cycles for obtaining, respectively, sports specialist or high-level sports specialist qualifications.

In addition, if you’d like to devote yourself to the world of sport as a trainer, physical trainer, sports teacher or sports director, you may be interested in achieving a graduate qualification in Physical Activity and Sports Sciences.

The Catalan National Institute of Physical Education (INEFC) offers the following studies, among others, including master's degrees, postgraduate degrees and doctorates. For further information.

University studies

The local university system offers high-quality teaching, with an international focus that includes degrees offered in collaboration with other universities.

All qualifications are regulated by the European Credit Transfer System, which guarantees the harmonisation of university qualifications and student mobility.

There are five state universities in the Barcelona area :

In addition, there are also four private universities:

You can visit their websites to find out their admission requirements and academic programmes.

And, should you need help, you can visit the Barcelona University Centre (BCU), an official welcome and support service for university students, lecturers and researchers who come to Barcelona.

For further information on higher education in Catalonia, visit the Catalan regional government's Study in Catalonia website.

Further information on studying and researching in Barcelona.

Recognition and validation of studies

When you move to a new city you may have to obtain official recognition of a qualification or certification of studies you have carried out and achieved in another country. The process is called recognition and involves validating a qualification obtained abroad, having compared it with the studies carried out here. This will enable you to continue studying at the following educational level or working in your profession.

There is another process called validation and this refers to recognising the studies carried out in another country, although no qualification has been obtained. This allows students to complete the courses to obtain their qualification.