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Universities for Expats in Portugal

Submitted: July 2014

There are over 70 universities and colleges in Portugal. There is a world university ranking site here showing how Portuguese universities rank globally. While there is a mixture of public and private institutions, it is the public ones that have the highest reputations, and hence fiercest competition for available places. Public universities and polytechnics are supported by the state. Approximately 50% of the universities are public. Public universities charge tuition fees, however they are cheap by UK standards at around €1,000 to €1,500 per year. Private universities charge fees, which vary, but are generally around €400 per month.

Entry into university or polytechnic is decided on the basis of the overall mark achieved in the student’s Diploma de Ensino Secundário, and their performance in the university entrance exam (Concurso nacional). Each student can apply to six universities. Each university sets a number of places for each course (numerous clausus), and the applicants with the highest marks are admitted. In addition there is a separate admission system for anyone over the age of 23 who does not have a Diploma de Ensino Secundário. Under this system admission is on the basis of several factors, including an examination, the candidates CV and a lengthy interview process. There is a webpage here which provides the Portuguese equivalent of UK ‘A’ level grades. Generally to get into the top universities in Portugal, you will need to have scored 16-18 points in each ‘A’ level.

As an expat, you should be aware that many classes are conducted in Portuguese, so fluency or near fluency in the language is often prerequisite for attending university in Portugal. Holding a CAPLE diploma at B1 or B2 level (Centro de Avaliação de Português Língua Estrangeira) will improve your chances of acceptance onto a course.

Undergraduate degrees at Portuguese universities and polytechnics take three to four years to complete, depending on the subject chosen. There are three types:

Postgraduate courses (pós-graduação) at Portuguese universities take anything from one to four years to complete, depending on the type of degree and the subject chosen. There are three types:



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