Spanish National University of Distance Education, Spain: Distance Language Courses


[For further information on the programmes offered by UNED see:] Please note this link is in Spanish.

The Universidad Nacional de Educación a Distancia (UNED), is similar to other Spanish public Universities. It awards the same qualifications, which are equally valid and it is run under the same general legislation. However, the special features of UNED make it different from most other Spanish Universities. This is due to the fact that it is nationwide in scope, uses a different methodology, and has a wide social influence.

UNED has been offering continuous training (formacion permanente) since its origin in 1972. Both through regular 3 or 5 year degrees (enseñanzas regladas: undergraduate and postgraduate programmes) and shorter courses (certificates in: expert in, specialist in, master's, teacher training, language courses, etc.)

Although Spain has no national strategy, policy or framework specifically aimed at Life Long Learning, lifelong learning is a concern and is mentioned and addressed in policies or frameworks regarding Vocational Training, general Education, and Higher Education. UNED has been committed to lifelong learning since its origin in 1972.

The UNED's educational model is based on new learning theories, and supported by experimental psychology. According to these theories, the direct teacher/pupil relationship is not essential to learning, as some scientific content can be learnt alone, if the right technique is used. This technique should guarantee the quality and clarity of content and requires a minimum of teaching communication.

In order to achieve their purpose, approved teaching methods must be used and synthesized in the teaching material. The assessment system ensures that scientific content will be transferred from teacher to student and properly learnt. The system also enables the teacher to assess the extent of students' understanding. Students can then communicate back to the teacher. Consultation and counselling provide two-way simultaneous communication between students and their teachers.

The Open Distance Learning Programme (PEA) provides further education at university level. Many people want to have access to this kind of education, without having to follow official courses or show previous academic qualifications. They are looking for specific courses with which to complete their education, approach new fields of knowledge, progress in some particular area of science or new technologies, or to update or specialise within their own professional fields.

There are courses in Law, Science, Engineering, Education, Philology, Philosophy and Economics. Courses are between five and seven months long, and it is estimated that an average of 90 to 180 study hours are required to complete them. Multimedia teaching methods are used, an essential part of which is the individual study of written material. telephone tutorials, and assignments and research by students. Some courses also contain audiovisual or computer support material.

UNED plays an important role for capacity building and widening access within higher education in Spain and in the Spanish speaking parts of the world. (See this link on capacity building).

Besides the formal programmes, UNED offers non-formal programmes in order to raise the general educational level of the population. Of special interest are the programmes for people over 55 (UNED Senior, See: this link on revenue streams), and UNED's Distance Language Courses ( See this link to CUID's website:

UNED's Distance Language courses aim at promoting the learning of the official languages in Spain (Spanish, Catalan, Basque, Galician) and foreign languages. Each course lasts from November to May (150 hours).

The courses are awarded a UNED "participation certificate", adapted to the European Common Frame for Languages.

The Distance Language courses are non formal programmes with structured learning objectives, learning time and learning support that is awarded with a certificate of completion.

Delivery is through the online learning platform and optional face-to-face interaction in the regional centres ( 2 hours per week approx.)


The Distance Language Courses provide students with courses in the inter-official languages in Spain (Spanish, Catalan, Basque, Galician) as well as in foreign languages.

How the programme is delivered

UNED offers these programmes through a specific Distance Language Education Center (CUID: Centro Universitario de Idiomas a Distancia, whose purpose it is to "promote the learning of co-official Spanish languages and foreign languages". Spanish is included among the languages on offer.

The courses are taught at different levels (beginner, basic, intermediate, advanced and superior) using semi-distance methods. There are limited registration periods and a level assessment must be completed in order to place each student on the most appropriate course. Teaching materials include books and different digital formats.

(Taken from Universia Spania websitet:

Reasons for success

These criteria for success have been identified for the courses:

  1. 1the course fills a gap in the market;

  2. the course is easily accessible;

  3. there are no qualifications for entry;

  4. fees are affordable;

  5. the teaching is done at a time and place and through media which best suits the students;

  6. the accreditation is valued;

The number of students studying this programme in the school year 2007-08 was 4,776 students.

    This program meets the following needs:

    • a need for easy access

    • a need for affordable fees

    • a need for time/space convenience

    • a need for accreditation

    • a need for retrieving learning materials asynchronously


What makes the Distance Language Courses different and worthy of interest:

"The Universidad Nacional de Educación a Distancia (UNED), is similar to other Spanish public Universities. It awards the same qualifications, which are equally valid and it is run under the same general legislation. However, the special features of UNED make it different from most other Spanish Universities. This is due to the fact that it is nationwide in scope, uses different methodology, and has a wide social influence.
The University Reform Law in Spain ensures the UNED) the same degree of autonomy as the rest of Spanish universities. The law states that the UNED is to provide distance education throughout the country.

It is the UNED's teaching methodology that actually makes it special within the spectrum of Spanish higher education. The keystones of this methodology are printed and audiovisual teaching material, tutorial teaching, and an ever-increasing use of new information and communications technologies."

(Taken from )

The university has an adequate infrastructure to support large numbers of distance education students. Each Distance Language course lasts from November to May (150 hours).

Market Relations

Regarding key partnerships: UNED currently has 60 study centres in Spain and 20 abroad, thanks to the cooperation of local institutions. These centres provide face-to-face sessions with professors once a week.

UNED as a brand has a distinguished and coherent identity. UNED has been able to leverage core competencies in e-learning research and development which have positioned it very strongly within the e-learning market. Since 1997, UNED has held the UNESCO chair in Distance Education which promotes research, development and documentation in the field. ( See this link:

Regarding positioning within the market to provide services to relevant segments:

"The UNED is also uniquely positioned with regard to a vast potential market of Spanish speakers, a market which extends beyond Europe and Latin America to the nearly 30 million speakers of Spanish in the United States. The UNED already has a regional presence through local study and support centres in places such as Buenos Aires, Caracas and New York. The positive consequences of the enhancement of human potential in Latin America through openly available UNED-produced OER – which would also drastically reduce costs related to student-mobility – are clear."

(Taken from Open Educational Resources at the Universidad Nacional de Educación a Distancia oeruned.pdf)

Productions and Delivery

The value proposition offered through these courses is one that involves integrating life relevant themes to its students. Channels: Courses are often held in centres in small towns and are partly face-to-face and partly distance learning, supported through the university's dedicated web learning platform. Furthermore, UNED has created the Centre for Technological Innovation and Development (CINDETEC) to provide digital support for the creation of online material, including open resources to its students.

The use of social media/ web 2.0 tools/ virtual worlds and online collaborative learning environments are available to students.

CUID has thus many support materials on offer to its language students. On a side note—whilst the language courses are accredited with a certificate of participation, and not with a formal certificate, it is salient to add that in Spain, legislation has been passed which directly concerns the importance of recognising learning, irrespective of where, when and how it was acquired. For students in regular degrees at UNED, some of the CUID certificates (depending on the language level) receive recognition as academic credits (ECTS).

Centro Universitario de Idiomas (CUID), has also, recently established a new suite of exams aligned with standards from the Common European Framework that will enable students of English as a Foreign Language (EFL) who have acquired their knowledge of English in informal and/or open contexts to gain a valuable qualification which will improve their job prospects.


Fees are set at € 298 per course. A reduced fee (188 €) is available for UNED students and workers and for other specific student groups.

Regarding the continuing education programmes at UNED, government grants and student fees cover the costs of course production and presentation, collaborating professors, text and other materials, etc. In some cases, extra financing by regional governments, private institutions, foundations, trade unions, etc. is provided.


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