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Studying in Portugal

Studying in Portugal was not always easy. Although the Universidade de Coimbra (University of Coimbra), one of the best and most well-known universities in the world, was founded all the way back in 1290, it was only for the elite. Only in the 1960s was a modernization of the education system put in progress, but it wasn’t until the 2000s that Portugal caught up with the rest of the developed world’s studying practices and trends. Nowadays, Portugal has some of the best universities in Europe, like Universidade do Minho or Universidade Técnica de Lisboa, and adheres to the Bologna Process, making it easier for students who wish to study in Portugal to have their academic qualifications recognized – both the ones obtained before and after studying in Portugal.

As such, it becomes even easier for European students to study in Portugal, possibly by taking advantage of the ERASMUS programme. However, despite some programmes being designed specifically to attract more non-Portuguese speakers, the vast majority of courses are taught in Portuguese and, as such, most foreign students come from Portuguese-speaking countries. If your Portuguese language skills are not up to the requirements, some schools do offer language learning programmes. It should be noted that for longer stays, the student may have to show proof of being able to support themselves, and foreigners from outside the EU will need a visa, which may cost up to 170€ and take 2-3 months to be issued. Should a student need a visa to study in Portugal, the following are required:

  • Valid passport expiring no earlier than three months after your return home. At least one blank visa page.
  • Completed application form.
  • One passport size photograph in colour.
  • Copy of your travel itinerary with acceptance letter or confirmed reservation.
  • Valid ticket or other proof of departure arrangements.
  • Proof of sufficient financial means to support yourself during your stay.
  • Proof of health insurance coverage.

Other fees – besides housing, food, books, transportation, etc. -, include tuition, which may cost upwards of 1000€, although state-sponsored scholarships are available for some students. Private schools are usually much more expensive, as in most countries.

Despite the high fees, private schools are rigorously accredited by the Ministry of Education, just like the public schools. However, being private, these schools can choose to admit students according to broader criteria, sparking a debate about the low quality of private higher education compared to the more crowded, but higher-requirement public schools, ironic as it may be. Despite this, for postgraduate education, this trend is reversed. Also, not all schools conform to the Bologna Process.

After the first 9 mandatory years of study, a Portuguese student will usually have another 3 years of studying (secondary education), which may give him/her access to a public university – or a private one, should they so choose. There, they may acquire a Bachelor degree (“licenciatura”), a Master’s degree (“mestrado”) and a Doctorate (“doutoramento”), in that order.

Anyone wishing to study in Portugal and achieve any of these degrees there should direct their applications, regardless of programme, to the national body of entry: Direção-Geral do Ensino Superior, Direção de Serviços de Acesso ao Ensino Superior.

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