Choosing the Right Spanish Language School: Spanish Universities Vs. Private Schools

Spain’s language schools

Language schools in Spain fall into two main categories: public universities and private language schools. But deciding which one would be the most suitable for your language learning abroad can be difficult! The following questions should help you to consider the pros and cons and make an informed choice…


1. Why are you studying Spanish?

If your main reason for studying Spanish is simply to have a hobby, or because you are looking for an alternative holiday or want to do something personally fulfilling, then you can choose either a university or private school.

But if you are looking for an impressive addition to your CV, career resume or university application, then a university would be the more prestigious choice.

(Having said that, UniSpain works with several popular public universities like Barcelona, Malaga and Salamanca, but also many private schools, which are all officially accredited by the Spanish Government and in many cases have additional regulatory or quality certifications from universities, international language associations or highly respected organisations – like the Cervantes Institute, ALTO, NAFTA, etc.)


2. What destination do you prefer?

With universities, you may be more limited by destination, as there are less university courses than language schools. UniSpain covers most reputable and popular Spanish universities: Alicante, Barcelona, Granada, Madrid, Malaga, Salamanca and Santiago de Compostela.

In Alicante and Malaga you’ll find a Mediterranean climate with sun, beaches and mild winters.  In Salamanca and Madrid you’ll be in Spain’s interior plateau where Castilian Spanish, the original and clearest of all Spanish accents, is spoken. In Granada you’ll find Andalusian and Moorish history and Santiago represents Spain’s northern Celtic country.

This leaves a whole host of private schools (over 35 in total) for you to choose from all over Spain. Try the UniSpain Course Finder to view them all!


3. What pastimes or activities would you like, apart from the Spanish lessons?

If you are looking to take a holiday that includes language learning, or expect lots of organised socialising, then many times private schools offer more specialised activities like dancing, cooking, concerts, socialising and organised field trips. The classes are smaller so you’ll probably get to know your classmates better (and quicker) and because the activities tend to be organised so that everybody is involved, you won’t have to worry too much about making friends if you are travelling alone.

University courses, however, tend to offer bigger classroom sizes, at least on the cheaper standard courses (as opposed to more expensive intensive courses) – and less organised activities focused on giving students a ‘social’ experience. There may be sightseeing tours or welcome parties at certain universities, but in general, students are expected to make their own arrangements and get to know the area independently. There will also be little or no specialist extras on offer, like cooking or salsa dancing lessons, as the main focus is on language learning.


4. What class size and number of lessons per week are you looking for?

As mentioned above, university classrooms tend to hold many more students than private school classes do. So if a small environment where you’ll get lots of personalised attention from your teachers is very important to you, you may want to check the class sizes before booking and will probably end up choosing a private school.

The same goes for the number of weekly lessons. These can vary from 15 to 30 lessons per week lessons, so check the course information before you book. Some university standard courses offer 15 lessons a week, and whilst intensive courses containing 25 lessons plus additional culture lessons are often available, you’ll have to pay for them accordingly.


5. How long are you staying… and what is your budget?

If you want to stay a whole term or a whole year in Spain, then you are better off looking at university options because their long-term courses are much cheaper. Some private language schools can have cheaper prices for longer term stays too, but in general, universities offer more lessons and time, for less cost.

For example, a whole term at Malaga University, from October to January, can be as little as 815€ (£692  $1069), whilst the currently cheapest school in Spain, Gran Canaria School, offers a twelve-week course for 1242€ (£1055 or $1630). Both are great courses and extremely good value, but the offerings are different. With Malaga, you’ll get “University” on your CV, competent teachers and cheap living, but bigger class sizes. At Gran Canaria you’ll pay more, but get lots of organised activities and the school’s teachers and facilities are quality certified by the University of Alcalá.


Help! I still can’t choose!

There is no right or wrong answer, and your choice will depend entirely on your personal requirements. Whatever you decide, going to Spain to study Spanish is commendable and it won’t be a decision you’ll ever regret.

To help you choose, you can review over 40 language schools, including private schools and public universities, by using the UniSpain School Comparison Tool. This will allow you to compare many factors, like number of students per classroom, length of lessons, student reviews and comments, official school accreditations, as well as expense. You may also want to explore UniSpain’s vast blog information resources, to find out more about individual schools and universities, destinations, cheapest schools and best courses in Spain – and much more.

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