University Entry In Spain - A Curious System
In Spain secondary school runs from 12 - 16 years old, four years split into two cycles of two years. After this students can either leave school or opt for one of two paths: academic (choosing between four bachilleratos: Sciences, Social Sciences, Humanities or Art) or practical (formación profesional) for a further two years. At the end of the this time, in the academic path, a series of external exams are taken (selectividad) which, together with the average of course work marks for the ten subjects studied, forms the basis for entry into university.
The curious element of this sytem is that it is based not as a percentage but as a mark out of fourteen, which is particularly strange given that the bachillerato course comprises ten subjects.
Here's the way it works. Of the ten subjects, certain ones (optativos, those most relevant to the path studied) may, at the students discretion, count double (some only single) and be added to the overall mark recorded during the course, as can other selectividad exams taken at the students discretion. These would be non-core subjects studied during the bachillerato. Up to two optativos may be selected for inclusion in the overall mark.
A concrete example: my daughter, who did the Social Sciences bachillerato obtained the following:
For any course in the Social Sciences fields she has 13.382, which would be sufficient to get her onto every course. That would not be the case if she, theoretically, decided to apply for a Science course (she wouldn't get in any way for not having studied science subjects). Her Ecomomics optativo would not be available so she would have only 9.362, not enough to get onto any of the Science courses. Similarly, if she applied for a Humanities course, such as Translation - English, she would lose the Maths and Economics optativos, but she would get two points for English and one for History giving her an overall mark of 12.552. Complcated isn't it?
To further complicate matters, the additional points for optativos are valid for only two years, so if she applied for 2023/2024 she would have only 9.652 points! It is irrelevant in my daughter's case as she applied to several UK universities and was accepted at Exeter, Sussex and UEA, based only on her bachillerato mark of 9,652 (or 96.5%). The UK (and probably other countries) universities do not take selectividad into account!
Now comes the most interesting part. Unlike in some countries where universities have fixed entry requirements (in the U.K. for example a certain course might require AAB at A Level) in Spain the requirement changes each year according to the level of skill required and demand for the course. The University of Granada has just published its requirements for 2022/2023 and they make interesting reading:
Who would have thought that Nursing required a higher mark than Computer Engineering? Or that Translation - Arabic required only the minimum of 5.000, a mark achievable by a student who attended his/her bachillerato classes only intermittently and did not sit any selectividad external exams? That English Studies requires 9.801 and French Studies only 5.000 no doubt reflects the ubiquity of the English language. Some other surprises: Physiotherapy requires a far higher score than Law (for which Granada University is renowned), Psychology needs more than double the marks of Geology and Company Administration demands more than Arquitecture. No doubt some of these are cultural, others may depend on the university's reputation in a particular field.
There are just under 11.000 undergradute places at Granada University for 2022/23 for which the university has received 120.000 applications, 21.000 of which place Granada as first choice. This shows a marked increase over 2021 (107.000), 2020 (99.000) and 2019 (88.000). Whether this is due to an improvement in the teaching or the desirability of living in Granada (we have 60.000 university students in a city of 230.000) is debatable.
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