Portugal is located in the southernmost part of Western Europe. It’s a country that has more than 800 years of history behind it. But Portugal is also a touristic place, a cultural epicenter and a study destination that is gaining popularity among international students upon the last few years. What to expect if you consider studying in Portugal: a lower study cost for a quality education and an affordable living cost in a beautiful, climatically diverse country. Here’s how to get admission at a university in Portugal.
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Education system and diploma courses in Portugal for international students
In Portugal, higher education is provided at universities and polytechnic universities, which both can be either public or private institutions. The difference between these types of institution lays in the admission process and the degrees they award.
Institutions that are operated by the Portuguese government apply a numerus clausus or enrollment restriction system when it comes to admit students. Applicants then must sit an entrance exam over specific subjects. And that will decide if they can or cannot apply to universities. Moreover, admission at a university is usually more competitive and more challenging than in a polytechnic institution in Portugal.
Furthermore, polytechnics offer students to study more professional subjects such as science, economics, medicine, or psychology. Lastly, to be able to operate any private and public higher education institution in Portugal must get a recognition from the country’s Ministry of Science, Technology and Higher Education.
Additionally, since Portugal is among the countries that have signed the Bologna Process, its institutions of higher education deliver degrees at the European standard. In this way, students can earn a “licenciatura” degree (bachelor’s) at the end of their first-cycle studies. It’s usually after completing 180 ECTS and 6 to 8 semesters of study.
At the end of the 2nd cycle, students access to the “mestrado” degree (master’s), which they can get either at a university or a polytechnic institution. It usually requires between 90 and 120 ECTS and 3 to 4 semesters to complete.
The 3rd cycle degree, the “Doutoramento” (doctorate), on the other hand, is a qualification that you can only earn at universities in Portugal.
How to apply to a university in Portugal?
Admission at higher education institutions in Portugal are quite competitive. And each year, the Portuguese ministry in charge of education publishes the number of spots available at public and private universities and polytechnics in the country.
Selection is then done based on their GPA to get access to these limited places. But the good news is that you can easily get your educational degrees recognized in Portugal. The institution you try to enroll in can then convert your grades and degrees following the Portuguese points system.
Moreover, the application process can sometimes be overwhelming. That’s why, we’ve broken down for you the best strategy to follow to get admission at a university or polytechnic in Portugal.
Admission for undergraduate candidates
Any international student who wishes to attend a university in Portugal will need a secondary school diploma or the equivalent of it. Usually, application to undergraduate studies is done through an official portal: the Candidatura Online. Applicants can then choose up to 6 institutions and study program, and apply in order of preference.
Application for graduate students
Prospective students who want to apply for a master or a PhD in Portugal can directly do it on the website of their university of choice. Just keep in mind that some institutions may request that you translate your documents in Portuguese.
Entrance exams at Portuguese universities
Admission at universities in Portugal involves entrance exams that you can take separately depending on your country or origin. EU students or international students who reside in Portugal for more than 2 years sit the exam during national sessions.
They can also replace the test with their final exams scores. This is under the condition that they can get them recognized at their Portuguese embassy. Non-EU international students on the other hand can take the exam at the local embassy of Portugal of their country.
What are the requirements to study in Portugal?
If you are an international student, who is non-European and haven’t resided in Portugal in the past 2 years, here are the requirements for university admission that apply to you.
For a bachelor’s degree
Students who seek to study a first-cycle degree program at universities and polytechnics in Portugal must comply to the following 3 conditions:
- Completion of an upper secondary education (high school)
- Passing the entrance examination at their home country
- Meeting the prerequisites of the study program. This includes language proficiency, or higher grades in essential subjects, enroll in some preparatory courses if needed.
For a master and a PhD degrees
For second and third-cycle programs, you are required to provide a relevant first-cycle and second-cycle diploma for your application.
General documents to provide
The documentation for university admission in Portugal usually include:
- A filled application form
- Your last certification/diploma
- Transcripts of your academic records
- A motivation letter or statement of purpose
- The proof of payment of the application fee (around €50)
- The scores at your entrance exam if you apply for a bachelor’s program
- A portfolio of your work for some degree programs
- Proof of proficiency in the course language
Any additional document depends on the university. So, make sure you check your institution’s website before you apply.
Read our overview of the best universities in Portugal and check out their official websites.
The language of instruction at institutions of higher education in Portugal is generally Portuguese. It’s the main language of bachelor’s degree courses, so you need to provide a proof of a good command of the Portuguese language.
Most institutions will require a minimum level of B1/B2. And as proof of your proficiency you need to present your results at school examinations or a Portuguese language course diploma.
Moreover, those who still need to improve their proficiency can take any of the language courses offered by universities and polytechnics for international students. You can check with the international office of your institution to get more details on the subject.
Additionally, Portuguese universities offer more and more programs in English at graduate and postgraduate levels. In this case, if your native language is not English, you’ll have to provide scores at your TOEFL, IELTS, PTE Academic, or CAE/CPE tests.
Portugal university admission deadline
There are generally 3 intakes of application for students who plan to study abroad in Portugal. Therefore, deadlines fall either in April-May, June-July or August-September each year, depending on the institution and on the study courses you applied to. So, make sure to check with your university on the subject.
Moreover, candidates receive a response from a university one or two months after the deadline. And courses begin either in the fall semester or the spring semester.