Why Some Spanish Schools in Spain Are Cheaper or More Expensive Than Others

value2If you’ve just started researching Spanish language schools, you’re probably quite confused right now. There are hundreds. Big, small, private academy, public university, summer camp, courses with salsa or culture classes, city destinations, beach resorts, historic towns… the choice is overwhelming and the prices vary widely.

Price vs. quality?

Price is a big issue when booking a language course abroad. You want to make sure you get the most for your money. Many students wonder why some Spanish schools seem very expensive, compared to others. Is quality a factor?

In some cases, yes. At some Spanish schools you will get what you pay for. For instance, excellent teachers, modern facilities, course books included in the price, or lots of fun, organised activities. And the location and type of destination is also a factor. But you have to be careful. There are many schools that will charge through the roof – and you could get the same package for half the price somewhere else.

So how do I choose?

When comparing language schools, here are some important factors you should look at:

  • Destination?
  • University or private school?
  • Student reviews
  • Reputation
  • Official accreditations
  • Students per class
  • Lesson duration
  • Course duration
  • How many proficiency levels?
  • Books included?
  • Easy travel?
  • Facilities?
  • Age and nationality of students?
  • Organised activities

For an example of how this sort of comparison works, check out UniSpain’s online School Comparison Tool. Here you can select from 43 officially recognised Spanish language schools in Spain, and compare their different features.

Big cities

Some schools are more expensive than others because of their location. Take, for example, Barcelona and Madrid. In cities, businesses have higher overheads and this is why urban schools tend to charge more. You’ll also need to budget more for accommodation and living expenses. (Check out our blog post on lowest destination and school prices for more information.)

Having said all this, even in big cities there are some excellent schools that are very reasonably priced. Take for example Camino Barcelona, arguably Spain’s most popular language school. It is officially accredited by four different language associations, employs qualified native teachers, has 10 students per class and offers social activities galore, plus for those who want it for an extra cost, self-catering onsite accommodation with WiFi. And yet, Camino Barcelona’s two-week course, including 20 lessons each week, starts at 252€ (£213 or $330). And if you want to stay longer, the prices only get inversely cheaper. This is extremely good for a language school anywhere in Spain, never mind in the centre of Barcelona.

Now look at the Complutense University of Madrid – right at the opposite end of the price scale. A four-week summer course including 20 weekly Spanish lessons costs a whopping 924€ (£780 or $1199). The full term courses are of course proportionately much cheaper at 1155€ (£1323 or $1717), so if you’re looking at a longer stay in a big city environment, this could be ideal. But universities take more students per class and there are hardly any organised activities.

So why the price difference?

History and prestige

Sometimes, high prices may reflect a learning institution’s status and popularity. Academic prestige, and international recognition and popularity also play a role. The MadridComplutenseUniversity, for example, is known for its links with Harvard in the USA and, in short, is very famous outside of Spain. This kind of a Spanish language school can look great on a CV or count for course credits at your university back home – but the price also reflects this.

Student opinions

Look for independent sources to read student reviews. These are a great source of information. Be wary of language school marketing materials; school websites and brochures tend to only show favourable opinions. Sometimes an independent agency website like UniSpain.com can give you more of a rounded view, or you can try posting questions for other internet users in online forums like Expatica.com.


Schools that are officially evaluated by external quality control organisations can give you some peace of mind, because you’ll know that the school has been independently reviewed. Here are some international and Spanish organisations that you might come across, although the list is by no means exhaustive:

  • FEDELE, Spanish Federation of Associations of Schools of Spanish as a Foreign Language
  • NAFSA, Association of International Educators
  • AATSP, American Association of Teachers of Spanish and Portuguese
  • ALTO, Association of Language Travel Associations, international
  • Instituto Cervantes, Spanish non-profit organisation that promotes Spanish language and culture globally and accredits Spanish language schools
  • ELITE, British Council accreditation agency
  • Ideal Quality Certificate, Ideal Education Group, international quality organisation that guarantees education service standards

There are many reputed accreditation associations; some schools are reviewed by one, some by many and some schools can also be reviewed by specific universities.


Whilst accreditations are a good sign, just because a school does not have accreditation by one of the bigger quality assessment companies, does not mean that it is a bad school. Take for example Gran Canaria School. It has no official accreditations by bigger quality auditors, but holds a CEELE certification since 2007, which is a quality recognition given by the University of Alcalá in Spain. The school is well known, has a 70% student satisfaction rate and is very respected in the industry, because it offers high quality tuition and an excellent activity and cultural program. Yet it is another one of Spain’s cheapest language schools – a two-week course that includes 20 Spanish lessons each week costs only 279€ (£236 or $366) and you can do two whole months for only 837€ (£709 or $1100). The price here is of course influenced by the location too, Gran Canaria being much cheaper than many Spanish mainland cities.

Finally, if the school has no accreditations, do check that it is Spanish government authorised to provide Spanish courses for foreigners. For example, all of UniSpain’s schools are officially recognised schools, well respected in the industry and government authorised. When in doubt, ask for information to ensure that the school you have picked is legal.

Private schools vs. Universities

The rule of thumb when comparing university and private school prices, is that universities tend to offer cheaper long-term courses than private schools, whilst presenting negatives like bigger classes and less activities. Check out our blog post Choosing the Right Spanish Language School: Spanish Universities Vs. Private Schools for more information on this subject.


Once you have selected a few schools, determined prices, looked into the schools’ popularity with past students, as well as the location, and found out about any official accreditations… then you should also, very importantly, check what kind of teaching methods and staff the school has.

School prices may also vary depending on how much they pay their staff. This in turn can depend on how qualified the teachers are, the location (salaries in Madrid are higher than in Cadiz for example) and any on-going training that the school pays for. A school that hires native teachers with a degree in philology or linguistics, plus a teacher qualification, and pays for additional training, will be more expensive.

Proficiency levels and class size

Another factor is, how many proficiency levels does the school divide its students into, and how big are the classes? The more levels, the better, because the course provides the right pace for you. Schools with small classes and finely-tuned programs for varying levels, will logically charge more than schools with fewer levels and more students per class.

Other considerations

Finally, you’ll also want to check course duration, lesson duration (anywhere between 45-60 minutes), whether text books are included, are there lots of activities or excursions or other extras, how near the accommodation is, is there a registration fee on top of the course price, is the school easy to get to by air, train or road, what the facilities there are – check for WiFi, a library or audio-visual equipment – and does the school offer added extras?

Identifying problems

If a school has a very high price, but presents any of the following problems, then be very careful:

  • Negative student reviews
  • No clear information about teachers or teaching methods
  • Reluctance to give you clear information

And if the school is not properly authorised by the Spanish government, you should definitely steer clear!

In conclusion

value4As we have seen, many different factors influence Spanish language school prices. Sometimes, despite extensive research, you might not be able to work out why two schools offer similar services, but have very different prices. Then, it’s worth remembering that perhaps it is simply a question of how a school runs as a business.

But in most occasions, location, teaching and all the other factors discussed above, will play a part in the final price. Always do your research carefully and use independent information sources to confirm your opinions, before making up your mind and booking and paying for a course. This can save you a lot of disappointment in the future.

For more information, see UniSpain’s blog page on Spanish language school prices.

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