Studying in Portugal
Universities in Portugal
Why study in Portugal?
Often referred to as Britain’s oldest ally, Portugal is also tied to the UK as part of the European Higher Education Area. Although Portugal was badly hit by the Eurozone crisis, its universities are highly regarded internationally. The downside for UK applicants is that there are very few English-taught courses.
- Portuguese universities have existed since 1290. The oldest, the University of Coimbra, was first established in Lisbon before moving to Coimbra in 1537.
- Fees are competitive, from €950–1,250 a year.
- Five of Portugal’s universities are ranked within the top 700 in the 2014–15 QS World University Rankings.
Entry and visa regulations
Students from within the EU, European Economic Area (EEA) or Switzerland do not need a visa to study in Portugal but must apply for an EU citizen residence card (Cartão de Residência para Cidadão Comunitário) preferably within four months of arriving in the country. EU students are charged a fee of €7.
- Proof of sufficient resources to support yourself financially throughout your stay in Portugal will be required – normally at least an amount equivalent to the minimum national wage, (€485 a month in 2011).
- Some non-EU students are required to apply for a residence visa (Visto para Residência) before entering Portugal at the Portuguese embassy or consulate in their home country. The residence visa allows entry Portuguese territory in order to apply for a residence permit.
- Nationals of some 38 countries outside the EU do not require a visa but must obtain a residence permit.
- A letter of acceptance for full-time studies.
- A copy of personal data pages from your passport.
- Three recent passport-sized photos.
- Police record of good conduct.
- A copy of a health insurance plan.
- A bank statement or copy of grant/scholarship showing evidence of ability to support yourself financially throughout your time as a student in Portugal.
The language of instruction at Portuguese universities is invariably Portuguese, and most require a minimum level corresponding to the B1/B2 level according to the European language passport.
- There are very few courses with English as the language of instruction. For these, applicants are required to prove a sufficient level of knowledge of English. Although the expected level of command of English may vary in line with the study programme or course, the minimum average English language requirement is 550 points (paper-based TOEFL test), or 213 points (computer-based TOEFL test), or 79-80 points (Internet-based TOEFL test), or 5.5-6.5 score in the IELTS test.
- Colleges and universities have specific language requirements for admission, though these generally vary significantly from one course to another. Contact the International Office or Admissions Office at the institution to check this information for specific courses.
The university system
Portugal’s university system has its origins in the 13th century but has been extensively modernised in line with the European Higher Education Area.
- There are 13 public universities, one public university institute, a public open university, and several private universities and university institutes.
- University courses are to be found in fields such as medicine, law, pharmaceutical sciences, natural sciences, economics, psychology, veterinary medicine, engineering, technology, management, education, agriculture, sports, and humanities.
- After selecting a course, applications for undergraduate study are made through the centralised online system (candidatura online). Applicants may choose up to six universities and study programmes. UK A-level grades can be converted into the Portuguese points system using this calculator.
- The closing date for normal applications is in February of the year of entry.
Tuition fees and funding your study
Public universities decide the level of tuition fees (propinas) but the Ministry of Education establishes a minimum fee equivalent to 1.3 times the minimum national wage rate.
- However fees are normally higher than the minimum recommendation.
- Full time students on bachelors and masters programmes pay an average of €950-1,250 a year.
Accommodation ranges from on-campus residencies to private rented accommodation.
- On campus accommodation can be scarce but a private sector provider, SPRU, has moved into the market.
Costs of living
Portugal has a comparatively low cost of living compared with the rest of the EU.
Some typical costs in Portugal (GBP, March 2015) include:
- Apartment rent, 1 bedroom: £207 - £281 per month
- Meal, inexpensive restaurant: £4.62
- Meal at McDonalds: £3.91
- Domestic beer (0.5 litre draught): £1.07
- Imported beer (0.33 litre bottle): £1.17
- Cappuccino: £0.77
- Coke/Pepsi (0.33 litre bottle): £0.81
- Water (0.33 litre bottle): £0.63
- Loaf of bread: £0.73
- Cigarettes: £3.06
- One-way ticket local transport: £1.14
- Cinema ticket: £4.34
Working while studying
All nationals from the EEA are free to take up employment in Portugal while studying but the economic crisis has impacted heavily on opportunities.
- Students from outside the EEA on recognised courses can to take up casual employment (up to 20 hours part-time work per week or full-time work during normal college vacation periods).
- All other work is prohibited.
Health and safety
EU/EEA students from other member states are entitled to the same benefits as Portuguese citizens in access to free or reduced-cost healthcare on production of their European Health Insurance Card.
- Students from outside the EU must hold medical insurance or be sure about appropriate medical coverage for the duration of their studies.
- Many students can benefit from Portugal’s bilateral agreements with other countries.
- Hotcourses Abroad
- Erasmuslisboa – Associação dos Estudantes Estrangeiros (Association of Foreign Students)
- Ministry of Science, Technology and Higher Education
- Direcção Geral do Ensino Superior
- SEF – Serviço de Estrangeiros e Fronteiras (Portuguese Immigration Authority)