Higher Study in Portugal: Universities and Opportunities

There are several options if you are already wishing to study in Portugal. Seven universities in Portugal are included in the QS World University Rankings® 2023, with the highest-ranking institution being the University of Porto, which shares the 274th position globally. Portugal’s higher education system, renowned for its long-established universities, was ranked as the 35th best in the world according to the inaugural edition of the QS Higher Education System Strength Rankings.

In addition to prestigious universities, Portugal also boasts several well-regarded polytechnics. The main distinction between these two types of institutions lies in their primary focus: universities prioritize academic research, while polytechnics concentrate on equipping students for specific career paths. Although some subjects are exclusive to either universities or polytechnics, there is considerable overlap.

Since 2006, Portugal has implemented the Bologna Process across its universities and polytechnics, a European reform initiative aimed at establishing a standardized higher education structure throughout Europe. Within this framework, Portuguese universities provide three levels of degrees: bachelor’s (licenciatura), which typically takes three to four years to complete; master’s (mestrado), which takes one to two years; and doctorate (doutoramento), which typically requires three years of study.

Most courses, especially at the bachelor’s level, are taught in Portuguese. However, at the graduate level, it is more common to find programs taught in English, although proficiency in the national language is still advantageous. It is important to note that English proficiency cannot be assumed for everyone in Portugal.


Best Institutions to Study in Portugal

University of Porto
Situated in Porto, the University of Porto is a public university that achieved a joint ranking of 274th in the 2023 QS World University Rankings®. Since its establishment in 1911, it has fostered a substantial community of more than 31,000 students, with around 3,280 being international students. The University of Porto has made remarkable advancements in research and development, evident in its notable research outputs and the presence of esteemed research centers such as the Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology, the Institute of Molecular Pathology and Immunology, and the Research Institute of Computer Systems.

University of Lisbon
In 2023, the University of Lisbon attained a joint worldwide ranking of 335th. As the largest university in Portugal, it accommodates a student population of over 47,000 across 18 faculties. The university’s formation took place in 2013 when the former Technical University of Lisbon (UTL) and the University of Lisbon (UL) merged. The University of Lisbon was initially established in 1911 in the capital city. Currently, the university holds a position among the top 100 global institutions in various fields, including art and design, mining engineering, and geography, according to the QS World University Rankings by Subject 2023.

Universidade NOVA de Lisboa
Ranking as the third highest-rated Portuguese university, Universidade NOVA de Lisboa shares the 3619th position globally. Founded in 1973, this university, informally referred to as NOVA, has a student population exceeding 19,500. NOVA excels in specialized faculties with a particular emphasis on STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) and FAME (finance, accounting, management, and economics) subjects. The university also offers the Lisbon MBA in collaboration with Universidade Catolica Portuguesa.

University of Coimbra
The University of Coimbra, established in 1290 and recognized as the oldest university in Portugal, is ranked 438th in the QS World University Rankings 2023. Located in the city of Coimbra, which was once the national capital, it enrolls around 24,800 students. The university encompasses eight faculties, covering subjects in STEM fields as well as arts and humanities. It also attracts a significant number of international students.

Cost of Studying and Living in Portugal

Portugal employs the Euro (€) as its currency. The government provides substantial support to institutions in the country, resulting in lower tuition fees compared to some other European nations. Public institutions generally have lower fees than private ones. Monthly fees are typically applicable at private universities, while public universities usually charge annual tuition fees. Non-EU students should anticipate paying approximately €5,000 per year for bachelor’s and master’s degrees and around €3,000 for doctoral degrees. Scholarships may be available, so it is advisable to inquire with your institution.

For living expenses, budgeting between €8,000 and €10,500 per year is recommended. However, living costs tend to be higher in larger cities like Lisbon. University accommodation ranges from €150 to €250 per month, while private accommodations cost around €400 per month.

EU students are allowed to work up to 20 hours per week during term time and full-time during holidays, which may help supplement living costs. However, relying solely on employment to finance your studies is not recommended. If you seek employment, knowledge of the Portuguese language would be beneficial.

Portuguese Student Visas

Depending on your country of origin, you may be required to apply for a visa to study in Portugal. If you are from an EU/EEA country or Switzerland, you do not need a visa and only need to possess your ID card. It is important to have an EHIC card to access healthcare at the same rates as Portuguese citizens. If you don’t have an EHIC card, it is advisable to obtain one before traveling to Portugal to avoid having to purchase health insurance.

For students from countries other than the EU/EEA and Switzerland, a student visa is necessary. This can be obtained from the Portuguese embassy or consulate in your home country. To acquire a visa, you will need to submit various documents, including a valid passport, a completed application form, a letter of acceptance from a Portuguese institution, academic transcripts, passport photographs, proof of financial means, and a copy of your health insurance policy. If you do not have health insurance, it is essential to obtain one before applying for the visa. Your institution can provide recommendations for suitable insurance providers.


Portuguese is the official language of Portugal, with Mirandese recognized as a regional language. Most undergraduate programs are conducted in Portuguese, while postgraduate degrees are more commonly taught in English. If you choose to study in Portuguese and it is not your native language, you will be required to demonstrate proficiency. Portuguese language courses are available to enhance your language skills if needed. Similarly, if you opt for English-taught programs and English is not your native language, you will need to prove that your language skills meet the teaching requirements. Some institutions offer English language courses to assist you in improving your proficiency.

Even if you study in English, it is recommended to learn as much Portuguese as possible. This will make your daily life easier and more enjoyable, and it will also be a valuable addition to your CV/resume.

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