Universities in Portugal

Selecting the best Portuguese universities by region

Deciding which country and which university to study in is always tricky and can take time, effort, and careful research. In this article, we’ll provide you with everything you need to know about the higher education in Portugal, how to enroll, the best Portuguese universities for residence permit holders in different regions, tuition fees, and why it could be an excellent option for you to consider studying at a university in Portugal.

Portugal has 14 universities in the overall Times Higher Education World University Rankings, and four of the Portuguese universities are included in the top 500 universities in the world in terms of education quality, Besides, Portugal’s higher education system was ranked the 35th best in the world in the first edition of the QS Higher Education System Strength Rankings.

The higher education system in Portugal applies the standards of the European Bologna System, and it’s considered one of the most affordable higher education systems in the European Union. This is aside from the fact that you will be studying in a country that has long been a favorite with tourists, that boasts a Mediterranean climate alongside a beautiful coastline, and cities packed with historic and cultural interests.

Most Portuguese universities offer internships in foreign companies, as a part of their study, which enhances the students’ experience and gives them a chance to apply what they study in real life, which helps them to be prepared for a future job. 

If you’re an EU citizen, you can enjoy higher education in Portugal for free, and if you’re an EU residency holder, you’re also eligible to enroll and study in most Portuguese universities. 

The hardest part will be deciding which university is the right choice for you as there are many competitive universities in Portugal. Explore the universities of Portugal below – we’ve pulled together some vital information that you should know about the best universities in the country. 

University in Portugal

How the higher education system works in Portugal

Choosing Portugal for higher education is a great decision that you will never regret.

You should know that Portugal’s higher education system is divided into two subsystems: university education and non-university higher education (polytechnic education). The main difference between the two is that the universities have a greater focus on academic research, while the polytechnics are more focused on preparing students for a specific career path. Some subjects are only offered at either universities or polytechnics, but there’s also a lot of overlap. For example, universities and polytechnics offer engineering, management, and humanities degrees.

Students who graduate from the Portuguese polytechnic institutes will graduate with a “license” to practice a specific profession, while those who graduate from a Portuguese university get a Bachelor’s degree and they can continue studying and upgrading their certificate with a master’s and doctorate degrees. Let’s break them into pieces and tell you the difference between them. 

A bachelor’s or Licentiate’s degree (Licenciatura): 

Both university and polytechnic institutions grant the degree of Licenciado (bachelor, which takes between three to four years to complete. In some cases, such as studying Law or Medicine, this can take from five to six years. After this degree, the students will be able to do an internship in a professional company to apply what they studied, and this will be a good step for them to land a proper job and kickstart their career. 

A master’s degree (Mestrado):

This is a higher level for the university student who chooses to continue studying, and it typically takes one to two years. Specialties like Medicine and Law take five to six years. This phase ends with assigning a research project or a scientific work to the students. 

Doctorate (Duotoramento): 

This is the ultimate higher step, and, at this level, students for doctoral or Ph.D. degrees are allowed to take as much time as they need to prepare their projects and get ready for the exams. The country pays for some scholarships to future doctoral students for at least €1000 per year. 


The cost of higher education in Portugal

Keep in mind that the higher education system in Portugal is very competitive, whether you are targeting a public university or a private one. Your admission to any of the Portuguese universities depends on your exam results and the available places in the university you’re applying to. The rank of each university depends on its reputation. 

As stated previously, higher education in Portugal is free for EU citizens. However, there is a minimum annual administrative fee of around €700. 

Check the following list of the three cases where you will be eligible to free higher education in Portugal

1- EU citizen.

2- Applicants whose spouses or parents are EU citizens. 

3- Foreigners who have been legally living in Portugal for more than two years.

If you’re a foreigner who is considering studying in Portugal, great choice, you’re taking one of the most affordable routes to get an EU education. As a foreign student in Portugal, you can enroll in a fee-paying department of the university you choose. Tuition costs range from €3,000 to €12,000 per year. Keep in mind that the most expensive courses are the English ones, but graduating from a bilingual department will grant you a dual degree.
It is also worth mentioning that the cost of the most expensive higher education in Portugal, is still considered affordable when compared to many other European countries. Take the UK as an example, higher education varies from €17000 to €36000 per year. 

Not only is the cost of education affordable in Portugal, but also the cost of living as a student in Portugal is cheaper than the other European countries. Your expenses as a student in Portugal will be lower than in Germany and the UK, according to the Cost-of-Living Index by country 2022.

Living as a student in a dormitory room in Portugal will cost you around €200, and renting a whole studio for you will reach up to €500-600 per month, and maybe a little more if you’re choosing big cities like Lisbon or Porto. You will receive discounts on public transportation, cinemas, and theaters. 





Portugal offers grants and government-funded scholarships to both EU and non-EU/EEA students. In order to be eligible for a grant, you must apply to a university that is recognized by the Portuguese Ministry of Education.

One of the Portuguese universities that grant scholarships for the top students is the University of Coimbra which offers some discounts on tuition and accommodations for student hostels, as well as some coupons for free meals to students with an average performance of 18 points. 

And in case you’re considering the University of Porto, you still can receive some scholarships that may reach the same amount as an employee salary in Portugal. The Catholic University of Lisbon also gives discounts on tuition ranging from 50 to 75% on the academic year fees. 

In other cases, as an international student at the University of Aveiro, you may receive a discount of €1000 on the tuition fee if your average grade is 16 or higher. And, if you’re studying Science, Psychology, Law, or Technology at the University of Lisbon, and you came up in the top 29 students in your faculty, you will receive the Amadeu Diaz Scholarship.


Check out a few institutions offering scholarships or financing:

  • DGES – scholarships, including merit scholarships and student loans in both public and private universities
  • FCT – offers several funding opportunities to doctoral students
  • Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation – provides scholarship opportunities to graduate students pursuing research in Armenian studies and to students involved in research projects in the Portuguese language and culture.


How to prepare for admission to a Portuguese university

National and foreign students planning to apply for a Portuguese university through the general regime must fulfill the following conditions: 

  • Have completed a secondary course or a national or foreign qualification that is legally equivalent.
  • Have sat the entrance examinations required for the degree program the student wishes to attend and get the minimal mark required (there are higher education institutions that accept foreign tests or exams).
  • Have fulfilled the prerequisites for the higher education course the student wishes to attend if required.

Most Portuguese universities require applicants to have completed A-levels or an International Baccalaureate (IB) program

Portuguese universities also offer international applicants to enroll in the Foundation program, which lasts from six months to a year, as an alternative to A-levels or International Baccalaureate courses. The main goal is to help foreign students adapt to the new system of education and improve their level.


Enrollment process at a Portuguese university

As stated before, the Portuguese universities are very competitive and that’s why you should choose the university you’re targeting in advance and be ready before the admission time. 

As a student, whether you are a Portuguese national or a foreign citizen, your admission process to a Portuguese university starts when the universities publish the number of the available vacancies, terms and conditions for applicants, and different rules for EU and non-EU students. 

This process gets renewed every year, and every university will set its own deadline for accepting the students’ documents. Usually, there is enough time between the admission process and the start of the study to give the student enough time to send all the required documents if they are accepted.

As in many other European countries, the academic year in Portugal is divided into two semesters; the winter semester which lasts from September or October until the end of February, and the spring semester which lasts from March until the end of July. 

Foreign applicants will need to prove their knowledge of the Portuguese language at level B2. Universities can accept students with level B1 language certificates, only if they are willing to undertake classes to raise their level to B2 level. This is applicable in case of the course is taught in Portuguese, the same requirements are also applicable to the English language if the course is taught in English.


Documents required for admission

As mentioned, the admission process in Portugal is no different from most other European universities. To apply for a new academic year in a Portuguese university, applicants need to fill out an electronic form on the online portal of the selected faculty. Please note that universities take a commission for processing applicants, and this varies from one university to another. For example, the University of Lisbon takes a commission of €60, while the University of Aveiro’s commission is €50. 

Regarding the admission documents, applicants will need to fill out and send the following forms and documents: 

1- University application form. 

2- Scanned passport copy.

3- Scanned secondary education certificate or bachelor’s diploma. 

4- Scanned certificate in the Portuguese and English languages. 

You can check the website of the council of Europe and UNESCO on education and the recognition of international qualifications

Keep in mind that some universities will require you as an applicant to send your motivation letter explaining why you want to specifically study there and why you are motivated to take the course. In some cases, you may have a Skype interview with the university council.

If you already have your bachelor’s degree or diploma, and you’re applying for a new university, you will need to prepare almost the same list of required documents, in addition to a list of the subjects you already studied and the academic hours you spent in your previous study. 

Applied documents from foreign educational institutions must be apostilled, translated into Portuguese, and certified by the consulate. 


Top 5 universities in Portugal

Portugal’s universities are internationally well-known and they continue to offer very high-quality education in prestigious bachelor’s, Master’s, and Ph.D. programs. Think carefully and feel free to pick whatever university gives you the feeling of “This is the one!”. In the upcoming sector, we’ll give you some information about some of the most competitive degrees in the best universities in Portugal. 


1. The University of Porto



The University of Porto is one of the best universities in Europe, with a world ranking of 295 according to the QS World University Rankings in 2022. The university was founded in 1911, and it has a large community of over 31,000 students, including around 3,280 international students. It was created based on a polytechnic institute and specialized in applied sciences: Engineering, Construction, Architecture, Astrophysics, genetics, immunology, cell biology, and Marine ecology.

The university has three student campuses in different districts of Porto, and it offers more than 600 programs per year to students at 15 faculties. It also has 50 research units, dormitories, sports facilities, libraries, cafes, and shops. 

The main focus of the University of Porto is the rapid advancement of the students’ level and the ability to join the labor market with strong curriculums in accordance with the needs of the market. There are practical classes with constant interaction with professionals from various fields.

The University of Porto
Annual Tuition Fees  €3,500 – 8,000
QS World University Rankings 295
Ranking by Employability  201-250 
Academic Ranking of World Universities 301
Languages of Study Portuguese, English


Prestigious degrees

The University of Porto offers prestigious degrees in various fields to enlarge the options circle for national and foreign students. If you’re considering the University of Porto you can choose from the following: 

  • Architecture
  • Industrial Design
  • Graphic Design
  • Medicine
  • Dentistry
  • Pharmaceuticals
  • Exact sciences
  • Information System and Engineering
  • Jurisprudence
  • Economics and Business
  • Psychology
  • Nutrition
  • Human Kinetics
  • Pedagogy
  • Geography
  • Agronomy


 2. The University of Lisbon



The University of Lisbon ranked joint 356th in the World Top Universities Ranking. The University of Lisbon Universidade de Lisboa (ULisboa) is the largest and most prestigious university in Portugal and is one of Europe’s leading universities. It was formed by the merger of the former Technical University of Lisbon (UTL) and the University of Lisbon (UL) in 2013, with the main University in Lisbon originally founded in 1911.

The University consists of 18 faculties, schools, and institutes, and it has 19 dormitories, sports grounds, libraries, cafes, and shops. It is ranked as one of the top 100 of the QS World University Rankings by Subject 2017 for several subjects including art and design, mining engineering, and geography. It has a large research center that conducts research in the field of robotics, plasma physics, nanotechnology, telecommunication, and molecular medicine. More than 8000 foreign students choose the University of Lisbon each year. 

The University of Lisbon
Annual Tuition Fees  €3,000 – 12,500
QS World University Rankings 356
Ranking by Employability  181-190
Academic Ranking of World Universities 201
Languages of Study Portuguese, English


Prestigious degrees

  • Architecture and design
  • Art
  • Jurisprudence
  • Medicine
  • Dentistry
  • Pharmaceuticals 
  • Veterinary medicine 
  • Exact sciences 
  • Information systems and engineering 
  • Political science 
  • Psychology 
  • Human kinetics 
  • Social Sciences
  • Pedagogy
  • Geography
  • Agronomy

3. The new University of Lisbon (Universidade Nova de Lisboa)



The new university of Lisbon is the third highest-ranked Portuguese university, which ranks 361st in the world. Founded in 1973, and informally known as NOVA, this university has a student population of over 19,500 per year. 

The university offers the Lisbon MBA in partnership with the Catholic University in Lisbon Universidade Catolica Portuguesa.


The New University of Lisbon 
Annual Tuition Fees  €3,000 – 7,000
QS World University Rankings 431
Ranking by Employability  201-250
Academic Ranking of World Universities 601
Languages of Study Portuguese, English


Prestigious degrees

  • Cellular and Molecular Biology 
  • Biomedical Engineering 
  • Civil Engineering
  • Computer Science and Engineering
  • Chemical and Biological Engineering
  • Environmental Engineering
  • Exact Sciences
  • Politics
  • Jurisprudence
  • Economics and Business
  • Psychology
  • Communication Science 
  • Foreign Languages 
  • Anthropology
  • Geography
  • Archeology


4. The University of Coimbra 


University-of-Coimbra 1

The University of Coimbra is the oldest university in Portugal, which was established way back in 1290. This university ranks 455 in the QS World University Rankings and is located in the city of Coimbra (the former national capital). The student community at the University of Coimbra is almost 24,800 students. It consists of eight faculties, covering STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) subjects as well as arts and humanities. 


Several of the university’s buildings have been recognized by UNESCO as World Heritage Sites. There is a botanical garden near the university. 


The New University of Coimbra
Annual Tuition Fees  €7,000
QS World University Rankings 455
Ranking by Employability  251-300
Academic Ranking of World Universities 501
Languages of Study Portuguese, English


Prestigious degrees

  • Bioanalytic 
  • Biomedical Engineering 
  • Physics Engineering
  • Electrical and Computer Engineering
  • Biochemistry 
  • Environmental Engineering
  • Exact Sciences
  • Design and Multimedia 
  • Jurisprudence
  • Economics and Business 
  • Psychology
  • Journalism
  • Foreign Languages
  • Arts
  • Geography 
  • Archeology

5. The University of Aveiro



The University of Aveiro has its own global aims to make significant changes in the future for society and people. Students learn and apply knowledge through environmental research. 

Unlike other Portuguese universities, the University of Aveiro includes the oceans in its areas of research. The Department of Scientifics Oceanology teaches students how to preserve and manage the global resources of our planet. Students also learn the impact of the ocean on climate, the regulation of rain and drinking water, and also the different ways of obtaining food. 

The university has a library, sports grounds, dormitories, student cafes, and shops. 


The New University of Aveiro
Annual Tuition Fees  €4,000 – 5,500
QS World University Rankings 581
Ranking by Employability  251-300
Academic Ranking of World Universities 601
Languages of Study Portuguese, English


Prestigious degrees

  • Meteorology, Oceanology, and Geography 
  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Biomedical Science 
  • Electric and Computer Engineering
  • Biochemistry
  • Environmental Engineering
  • Exact Sciences
  • Marine Science
  • Accounting
  • Economics and Business
  • Psychology
  • Journalism
  • Foreign Languages
  • Publishing
  • Industrial Design
  • Speech Therapy


The best universities in Lisbon and Porto

Frankly speaking, Lisbon and Porto are the largest two cities in Portugal, and almost half of the country’s population is located there. Almost all the Portuguese universities are well-known and offer good education quality. However, Lisbon and Porto’s universities are the most famous ones. 

Lisbon comes first since it’s the capital of the country, with its beautiful coast on the Atlantic Ocean, and most of the national financial, trade, entertainment, and education institutions are located there. 

Then comes Porto, the second-largest city in Portugal, and the center of the industrial main offices of the country, where international corporations are located. The city also has a very rich historical heritage. 

Here is a summarized table with the best universities in Lisbon and Porto with the average of their tuition fees. 

The University Tuition fees
University of Lisbon (ULisboa) €3,000 – 12,500
New University of Lisbon €3,000 – 7,000
University of Porto €3,500 – 8,000
Catholic University (UCP) €5,385
University Institution of Lisbon (Iscte) €3,000 – 7,000


Top universities in Madeira


Located on the Atlantic Ocean to the southwest of Portugal, Madeira is an amazing touristic destination. This autonomous island is full of botanical gardens, beautiful beaches, and numerous schools for water sports including windsurfing and diving. 

The University of Madeira is one of the top 20 universities in Portugal. This public university was founded in 1988 in Funchal. It is now under the CMU/Portugal agreement in Computer Engineering, Human-Computer Interaction, and Entertainment Technology.

Students can choose to study at one of its scientific, engineering, medical, and humanitarian faculties. Courses are taught there in Portuguese and the annual tuition fee is about €1000. 


Top universities in the Algarve 


The Algarve has long been a favorite destination for tourists to enjoy their holidays next to the crystal-clear ocean. Since it’s a very big touristic destination, the Algarve has its own airport in Faro, and it provides quick access to many places, including Spain. Many people flock to the Algarve for its beauty and safety, as well as the high quality of the healthcare and education facilities.  

The University of Algarve welcomes almost 10,000 students every year, and it’s a member of the Association of European Universities

Students can study one of its various specialists, and the annual tuition fee is between €2.000- 4,000.



Top universities in other regions of Portugal

Lisbon and Porto are not the only available options for students who are looking to study in Portugal. There are many other high-quality options around the country.  From the north to the south of the country you will find options, depending on what you are looking to study, including the possibility to study on the autonomous islands of Madeira and the Azores. 

Every region in Portugal is special in its own way and each one of them has its own characteristics which make them good options for students to choose between. 


List of the best universities in other regions of Portugal

The University Tuition Fees
The University of Coimbra €7,000
The University of Aveiro  €4,000
The University of Minho  €4,500
The University of Évora €2,500
The University of the Azores €3,000


Selecting the right university

Portugal is one of the most popular destinations in Europe, and it offers a very high-quality education for people considering studying abroad. Portuguese universities are affordable and are highly focused on research and practical studies. 

Studying in one of the Portuguese universities will widen your skills and give you many opportunities to deal with students from different nationalities and from excellent professional teaching staff. Keep in mind, as a student, that the cost of living in Portugal is very affordable and you will be able to have a good quality of life, with fewer costs than in many other European countries. 

The Mediterranean climate in Portugal will make you never want to leave; hot summers and beautiful beaches — are all you need to relax after big exams. If you like exploring nature, Portugal’s natural beauty and unique sites are waiting to be explored. There are over 15 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, among many other places that are worth visiting. You should also know Portugal is a very small country so it is easy to get around and explore the different places. 

All you need to do is decide which university will match your requirements, and whatever city you choose to study in you are sure to enjoy your stay there. 

Higher education in Portugal is free for Portuguese and EU citizens, while residents can still enroll, but will have to pay fees. There are different ways to obtain a Portuguese resident permit, and after five years of living in the country, you can apply for a Portuguese passport. Check out those useful links: