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What are the differences between an official master's degree and a UAB-specific master's degree?

In most countries, especially the English-speaking ones, universities offer specific degrees. They are specific in the sense that the universities themselves are the ones designing the curricula and programmes, and guaranteeing those programmes with their prestige. In Spain there are official and university-specific degrees. The official degrees (bachelor's, master's, PhD) have the endorsement of the university which grants them and the recognition of the State. These studies are subjected to a full evaluation process that guarantees their quality and their inclusion in the RUCT (Registry of Universities, Centres and Qualifications, RUCT for its Spanish acronym). University-specific degrees are backed and endorsed by the prestige of the university (or the training centre) granting them.

What are the main differences between official master’s degrees and specific master’s degrees?

  • Recognition in the Labour Market

    Official titles are essential to work in the public service sector. In Catalonia, Spain, and in western and English-speaking countries, recognition in the labour market of a master’s degree depends on both the prestige of the institution which grants it (UAB is a leading university in international rankings) and the prestige of the master’s degree in its own discipline (which will be given by the lecturers, the subjects, the number the programme editions, etc.) In general, private companies do not consider whether a qualification is an official or a university-specific degree when they hire a professional, but consider the prestige of the programme and whether it provides students with the knowledge and skills required for the profile they seek.

    The prestige of a master’s degree depends largely on the work it has made in its specific sector or field of study and, especially, if it is recommended by former students or by its lecturers. It is important to assess if it incorporates academic staff of reference in the field, what former students think and say about the programme, what the degree of recognition is of the master's in its field of study, etc… To find out, we recommend contacting the programme coordinator, lecturing team and/or alumni.


  • Access to PhD

    Current legislation in Spain does not allow credits obtained in a university-specific master’s degree to be validated for access to a PhD programme. To enter the doctorate level in the Spanish higher education system, it is necessary to hold an official master’s degree or equivalent (for example, a master's degree from another country which in that country gives access to PhD programmes).


  • Academic Design: duration, access requirements...

    UAB applies to its specific master’s degrees curriculum evaluation and academic exigencies similar to those followed by official master's degrees. For example, they are expressed in ECTS credits, consist of a minimum of 60 ECTS and for students to be admitted they must hold a bachelor's degree or equivalent. This means that aspects such as the duration of the programme or the access requirements are the same for official and specific master’s degrees. And that both are fully adapted to the European Higher Education Area (EHEA).


  • Recognition in Other Countries

    In the European Higher Education Area, EHEA, official master's degrees are recognized in all universities. It is, however, the legislation of each state which decides on the recognition or non-recognition of Spanish qualifications both in relation to official and specific master's degrees.


  • Grants and Public Employment Announcements

    Official master's degrees are required to gain access to jobs convened by the government. However, the requirements set depend on each announcement and each institution. In the case of announcements from institutions, private companies or third countries, again it is the entity which establishes in the announcement whether they take into consideration specific master's degrees. Many announcements in the private sector, and also at an international level, include both official and specific master’s degrees.


  • Price and Funding Model

    Official master’s degrees have public and private funding: that is, the state subsidizes a portion of tuition fees and students must pay the rest. This partial public funding applies only to citizens of the European Union and foreigners with permanent residence permits. Prices are different for each programme: for an EU student or resident, a 60 ECTS credits official master’s degree costs between €2,600 and €4,100, while for an international non-EU and non-resident price will range between €4,100 and €6,900 (2015-2016 provided prices).

    UAB-specific master’s degrees, however, are self-funded: that is, they are financed primarily with students' enrolment fees. Enrolment fees are the same for local and international students. At UAB, a specific master's degree of 60 ECTS credits has an average price of €5,000 (average price for 2015-2016).

    Some official master’s degrees are self-funded. In these cases, tuition fees are not partially subsidized, and their average price is the same as that of a specific master’s degree.

    Check each programme's website to find out more about fees for an official master's degree or a specific master's degree at the UAB.


  • Academic Staff and Professionals of the Sector

    Just as happens with bachelor's degrees and PhD programmes, official master's degrees are taught by lecturers from the university granting the title. Specific master’s degrees, in contrast, generally incorporate teaching staff from other universities or professionals from the sector or field of study.


  • Hands-on Orientation and Internships

    University-specific master’s degrees were born in the 1990s with the main objective of providing a practical hands-on orientation, and therefore often incorporate the possibility of non-curricular or curricular internships (mandatory or optional), and also professionals who contribute to the programmes academics with the type of orientation demanded by the labour market. Official master's degrees, born in 2006 from the new division of academic programmes including the former pre-Bologna PhD-s, have in many cases been redefined in recent years to seek a professional orientation as well, so that now both official master’s degrees and specific master’s degrees can offer practical hands-on training and the possibility of curricular or non-curricular internships. Most important, therefore, is to analyse in detail the content and orientation of each programme.


Both official master’s degrees and university-specific master’s degrees at the UAB are endorsed by the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, which designs academically all of its programmes and endorses them with its prestige.

The UAB is a leading public university offering quality, diversified, multidisciplinary and flexible teaching, tailored to the needs of society and adapted to the new models of the Europe of Knowledge.

International recognition of the UAB can be seen in its leading position in major international university rankings. The UAB is among the leading Spanish universities in worldwide rankings such as the QS World University Rankings (QS WUR), the Times Higher Education World University Rankings (THE WUR) and the Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU). It occupies a world-leading position among young universities according to specific classifications for universities under 50 years old developed by QS and Times Higher Education.

Summary table:


Official Master's Degree


Specific Master's Degree

Recognition in the labour market Essential requirement to work in the public service.
The UAB + programme's prestige are valued.
The UAB + programme's prestige are valued.
Duration Between 60 and 120 ECTS credits. Between 60 and 120 ECTS credits.
Access requirements Bachelor's degree or equivalent. Bachelor's degree or equivalent.
Access to PhD Allows access to PhD. X In Spain, university-specific master's degrees do not allow access to PhD programmes.
Recognition in other countries Within EHEA they are recognized by all universities.
Depends on each country's legislation.
Counts with State and the UAB's endorsements.
Depends on each country's legislation.
Counts with the UAB's endorsement, a public university in Spain.
Grants and public employment announcements Necessary for applying to job offers announced by public administrations. ? Depends on the announcement: in public announcements in Spain official master's degrees are often prioritized.
Price and funding model Partial public funding: between €2,600 and €4,100 for EU students; between €4,100 and €6,900 for international students ouside EU. Except in self-funded official master's degrees. Self-funded: average price of €5,000.
Academic staff and professionals of the sector Mostly university professors. Generally university professors and sector professionals.
Hands-on orientation and internships Offering both research and professional orientations. Often diverse itineraries are offered within a given master's programme. Professional hands-on orientation, often incorporating curricular or non-curricular internships.