Around 290,000 high school graduates in Spain are taking their university entrance examinations, a grueling set of nationwide tests that began on Monday in some regions and will end mid-month in others. Known officially as Pruebas de Acceso a la Universidad (PAU) and more popularly as Selectividad, these exams account for 40% of the students’ final score, with the other 60% coming from their high school grades. Statistics show that most students will get a passing score, but not all will perform well enough to be admitted into their top career choice.
So which studies are in greatest demand in Spain? In recent years, dual degrees have become increasingly popular, and math is on the rise. The most coveted program for the last five years has been the dual Mathematics/Physics degree, which is offered at nine public universities.
“These are degrees with a lot of demand and limited supply. Added to this is social popularity and very good employment options,” says Isabel Gutiérrez, the vice-rector of Carlos III University in Madrid.
Two other dual degrees on offer at this institution, International Studies/Business Administration and Law/Political Science, require the highest grades at the entrance exams.
The new programs reflect the fact that for around a decade now, Spanish campuses have been designing degrees that come closer to what the business world is demanding.
With dual degrees growing in popularity, Madrid’s Autonomous University now offers a combined program in Modern Languages, Culture and Communication; A Coruña has Biology/Chemistry; Alicante offers Law/Criminology; and Barcelona has a degree in Pharmacy, Human Nutrition and Dietetics.
The next step will be the introduction of more flexible programs, where students will be allowed to select from a wide variety of options, mirroring the US higher education system. But the administrative complexities of the Spanish university system are slowing this process down.
“Studying for two degrees at the same time is pretty difficult. These are people with special abilities,” says Antonio Bru, the dean of the Mathematics School at the Madrid Complutense University.
One of Bru’s first initiatives was to place these students – who make up a small group – together with those enrolled in regular programs. “These students have to be exposed to other things, they can’t be isolated in the cafeteria, always in their little group. And they can’t get different treatment, or they’ll think of themselves as being something they are not, and so will the educators.”
English version by Susana Urra.