Portugal has a long history when it comes to higher education and if you opt to study in the country you'll be able to choose from a range of degree courses
With reasonable course fees and a relatively low cost of living Portugal, the westernmost country in mainland Europe, is an attractive study destination.
Portuguese is the third most widely spoken European language in the world and the majority of courses are taught in the language. Fluency will help you settle into your new surroundings and a second language will look impressive on your CV.
Many institutions are located near the coast so the beach is a perfect place to relax and enjoy the sunshine after a hard day studying. The sporty type will be able to get involved with popular activities such as football and surfing.
The Portuguese education system
In recent years higher education in Portugal has undergone reform in order to comply with the Bologna Process. Higher education can be either public or private and is divided into two main bodies:
- Universities - teaching is traditionally based on theory and research, with degrees such as medicine, law, natural sciences, economics and psychology taught there.
- Polytechnics - provide vocational training that lead into a profession. Nursing, healthcare, accounting and teaching degrees are offered by polytechnic institutions.
Public institutions are made up of 14 universities, 20 polytechnics and six military/police academies, while the private higher education network comprises 33 universities and 54 polytechnics. For a list of all institutions, visit Study in Portugal.
Degrees on offer include:
- first cycle/Bachelors known as licenciado;
- second cycle/Masters known as mestre;
- third cycle/PhD known as doutor.
First and second cycle degrees can be studied at both university and polytechnic institutions, however, third cycle degrees can only be awarded at universities.
The Portuguese academic year is divided into two semesters - the first takes place between September and January, the second runs from February till June.
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Many universities in Portugal ask prospective students to sit an entrance examination; public universities use a national exam, whereas private institutions set their own.
For admission onto a Bachelors programme you must hold a Secondary School Leaving Certificate. Check with your individual institution whether there are any additional prerequisites for your course.
To study for a Masters or a PhD universities will require you to have minimum qualifications including an internationally recognised undergraduate degree and a recognised undergraduate and masters degree respectively. Entry requirements will differ depending on the institution and course, though, so check before you apply.
When applying to a higher education institution, it is worth contacting your chosen university's international office for advice on studying in Portugal. All the relevant application information should be available online.
While an increasing number of courses are being developed in foreign languages, mainly English, the majority of lectures will be conducted in Portuguese, so it is essential that you have a grasp of the language before you apply.
European Union (EU) citizens are entitled to attend university in Portugal or any EU country (this means the 27 member states plus Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway). The same conditions apply to all EU citizens whether a national of the country or not. You are not required to pay higher course fees and you are entitled to apply for any grants available to help with tuition fees.
While both public and private institutions charge tuition fees, the cost of study is still relatively low in comparison to other European countries. If you attend a public university fees are payable annually and at private institutions you pay every month.
There tends to be an average fee for Bachelors programmes with Masters and PhD costs slightly higher. To find out more about tuition fees contact your individual institution.
Funding to study in Portugal
EU students are eligible to apply for grants in the same way as Portuguese students. Grants will be available from individual institutions and, to be eligible, students must apply to a course or university that is recognised by the Portuguese Ministry of Education.
To search for grants by Portuguese region, head to Europa.
Portuguese exchanges and placements
Students attending UK universities can take part in the EU's education, training and youth support programme Erasmus+ . The scheme replaces its predecessor 'Erasmus' and offers study, training, work experience and voluntary placements to millions of young people, students and adults. Opportunities last from three months to one academic year.
Financial support is available through the Erasmus+ initiative to any UK public, private or not-for-profit organisation actively involved in education and training.
Your university must have a formal agreement with a partner university in Portugal. Check that your university is involved in the programme and offers the Erasmus+ scheme in your subject.
Speak to the Erasmus+ coordinator at your university about available opportunities.
Portugal is part of the Schengen Area, a group of 26 European countries which have eliminated boarder controls between each other. This means that many citizens of the EU and the European Economic Area (EEA), including Switzerland, only need an identify card in order to enter Portugal.
As an EU citizen, you are permitted to live in any EU country while studying as long as you:
- are studying for more than three months;
- are enrolled at an approved university/other institution;
- have sufficient income (from any source) to live without needing income support;
- have full health insurance cover.
Some countries require you to register with the local authority after three months. Find out how to register at Europa.