University Admission Guide in Spain for Students from the British Educational System: Post-Brexit

In a post-Brexit world, the educational landscape between the United Kingdom and Spain has undergone significant changes, marking a new chapter in international cooperation. The UK’s departure from the European Union has raised questions about the future of students from the British educational system who aspire to study in Spain. But there’s good news: the recent Educational Cooperation Agreement between Spain and the UK provides clarity and renewed opportunities.

This historic agreement, a direct response to the complexities of Brexit, ensures that students who have followed the British curriculum, including many Spaniards in British schools, maintain their access to Spanish universities. In this article, we break down what this means for you, how you can navigate this new scenario, and what you need to know to pave your way to higher education in Spain. Dive into this detailed analysis to understand how this agreement facilitates your educational journey in an era full of changes and challenges.

Understanding the British Educational System and UCAS Points: The Foundation for Access to Spanish Universities

The UK educational system, known for its rigor and prestige, may seem complex to those unfamiliar with it. Here we provide a clear overview of how it works, focusing on its two key stages: GCSE and A-Level, as well as the UCAS points system, crucial for university access.

1. Secondary Education: GCSEs

The first significant phase in British education is the GCSE (General Certificate of Secondary Education). These are qualifications that students typically earn between the ages of 14 and 16. Subjects range from science and mathematics to arts and languages, allowing students to receive a broad and varied education. Grades range from A* to G, though in England numbers from 9 to 1 are now used, with 9 being the highest grade. To pass a subject, one must achieve between a C- and A*. These grades lay the foundation for future advanced studies.

A* pass A pass B pass C pass D E F G

2. Post-GCSE Education: A-Levels

After completing the GCSEs, students may choose to continue their studies by taking A-Levels (Advanced Level). These are specialized studies that students select based on their interests and career goals. Generally, a student takes 3 or 4 A-Levels over two years. These qualifications are essential for university access and are graded from A* to E.

3. UCAS Points System: UCAS Tariff

UCAS (Universities and Colleges Admissions Service) is the organization that manages admissions to UK universities. Within this system, A-Level grades are converted into UCAS points, which are used by universities to assess student applications. Each A-Level grade has a points value; for example, an A* is worth more points than a B. A student’s total points are calculated by adding the individual points from each A-Level subject. This total is crucial for admission to many universities.

In summary, the British educational system is a combination of a general secondary education (GCSE) followed by specialized studies (A-Levels), with a UCAS points system playing a key role in accessing higher education. This understanding is vital for students looking to study at universities outside the UK, especially in countries like Spain, where these qualifications are considered for university admission.

2 Paths to University Access in Spain for British Students

For students from the British educational system aspiring to study in Spain, there are two clear paths to access universities, each with its own requirements and rules. The choice between these options will depend on the individual grades and personal circumstances of each student.

1️⃣ First Path: Direct Access without Equivalence

The most direct and perhaps most attractive option for many is university access without needing to equate their studies, following the path outlined in Annex I. This path is open to those who meet certain specific academic criteria:

  • Students must have at least 5 GCSE subjects with grades A, B, C, or 4 to 9, and
  • a minimum of 3 and a maximum of 4 Advanced Level subjects, accumulating a minimum of 48 points in the UCAS Tariff system.

This method allows students to directly use their grades from the British system to apply for UNEDasiss accreditation, significantly simplifying the admission process. However, it is recommended to take two PCE subjects with a weighting of 0.2 to improve the obtained grade and reach the maximum of 14 points, as there will no longer be subject recognition as in previous years.

⚠️👀 Those students who wish to opt for this path must apply for UNEDasiss accreditation through the “Secondary Studies from Annex I” pathway.


Calculation of the grade for direct access🔢:

Ne = 5 + ((UCAS Points – 48) x 5 / 176).

2️⃣ Second Path: Equivalence of Studies and Access as Non-Europeans

For those students who do not meet the requirements of the first path or whose grade does not reach the university degree they want to pursue, there is the possibility to equivalent their studies and apply for accreditation as if they were non-European Union students. This process involves validating British studies before the Spanish Ministry of Education, a procedure that can be longer and more complex, but opens doors for those with less than 3 Advanced Level subjects or who do not meet the required UCAS points. Equivalence to the Spanish Baccalaureate is a key step in this path. In this other post

Both paths offer unique opportunities and distinct challenges. Choosing the right route is an important decision that should be based on a careful evaluation of each student’s grades and personal goals. In the following sections, we will detail more about each of these paths, helping you make the most informed decision for your academic future in Spain.

⚠️👀 Those students who wish to opt for this path, must apply for UNEDasiss accreditation through the “Secondary Studies that allow obtaining the Equivalence to the Baccalaureate” pathway.


Calculation of the grade for access through equivalence🔢:

This section explains how GCSE and GCE grades are converted to Spanish equivalents, an essential step for admission to Spanish universities:

  • For GCSE subjects: Grades are converted to a numerical scale, where A* equals 5, A equals 4, B equals 3, C equals 2, and D equals 1. If + and – grades are used, the scale expands: A+ equals 10, A equals 9, A- equals 8, B+ equals 7, and so forth down to C- which is 2 and D which is 1.
  • For GCE (A-Level) subjects: Grades are also converted to a numerical scale, where A equals 6, B equals 5, C equals 4, D equals 3, E equals 2, and F equals 1. If + and – grades are used, the scale is modified: A+ equals 16, A equals 15, A- equals 14, B+ equals 13, and so on down to E- which is 2 and F which is 1.
  • Other Considerations: In the case of the GCSE in England since 2017, the scale is numerical from 1 to 9, where 9 is the highest passing grade and 4 the minimum. For Scotland, scales may vary slightly, using both literal and decreasing numerical scales.
  • Number of Positive Grades: The system also specifies the minimum number of positive grades a student must have. For example, for the GCSE, 4 positive grades are required, while for the GCE, 5 are needed.
  • Percentage Scale: Some grades can be presented on a percentage scale, where the minimum passing grade is generally 40% and the maximum 100%.

For more details, we invite you to consult the additional information here. It’s important to remember that this grade obtained in the equivalence of your studies contributes up to 60% to your final grade in the PCE exams. Additionally, the calculation of your final grade will adapt according to the academic pathway you select, as the specific format of the PCE can vary depending on the Autonomous Community of the destination university, as detailed in our post “structure of the PCE“.

At the end of this journey through the different access routes to Spanish universities for students from the British educational system, it is important to remember that the final grade obtained through UNEDasiss accreditation is a crucial aspect, as it is valued out of 10 points. Spanish universities will use weighting tables to adjust these grades up to a maximum of 14 points, taking into account the subjects of the Specific Competency Tests (PCE) that you choose, with special attention to those that weigh 0.2 at your target universities.

This process, although it may seem complex at first, offers a unique opportunity for students from the British educational system to continue their education in Spain, thus enriching their academic and personal experience. At Academia La Llibreta, as a collaborating center of the UNED, we are available to help you with all the procedures of the process and provide personalized advice. We encourage you to carefully review the options, evaluate your grades, and select the path that best fits your educational and professional aspirations. With our help and the right information, access to Spanish universities is within your reach.

Intensive PCE Course 2024

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Structure of the PCE Exams

Discover how the PCE exams vary depending on the degree and province, and your type of baccalaureate!

Weighting Table for Spanish Universities

PCE Grade Calculator

Use our grade simulator to discover your target score to meet the cut-off mark.


Have questions? Our selection of Frequently Asked Questions is here to help you!

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