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Moving to Portugal for University

Portugal is known for its great education system at all levels, including university. So naturally, a lot of people choose to follow higher education here. If this is the case for you, then look no further than this article, where we’ll guide you through the entire process.

Frederik Pohl
Frederik Pohl, CEO
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Higher education in Portugal

More and more people are choosing Portugal to pursue university – in 2021, there was a 26% rise in international students’ applications. This is easy to understand, since the variety in Portugal is great. There are in total 123 universities and polytechnic institutes in the country, both public and private, offering all sorts of degrees, master’s, PHD and postgraduates (“pós-graduações”) courses. 

Analyze your conditions

All institutions are paid, although private establishments are obviously much more expensive. Monthly tuition at a public college is around €60 – universities are free to choose any amount, as long as it doesn’t surpass a total of 697€/year. In private faculties, the cost can range anywhere from 2350€ to 4600€ a year. These amounts get much higher when talking about master’s and PHD’s. 

Although bigger cities like Lisbon and Porto hold the most universities, there are institutions spread all throughout the country. Location should be one of the main factors in your decision of teaching institution, since it determines pretty much all extra costs, such as housing, transportation and basic necessities. The universities in the bigger cities are also the most prestigious, so a thorough search and evaluation of your conditions is absolutely recommended.

moving to portugal for university

What are the most prestigious universities in Portugal?

There are seven Portuguese institutions in the QS World University Rankings of 2022, a study conducted annually which evaluates the performance of universities all over the world.

How to apply for university in Portugal


When it comes to undergraduate degrees, you must apply online at DGES. The time period for application is usually a month long, between July and August – right after national exams results are out. This is the first phase, the second is in September, after first phase placements are revealed. For some programs, there’s an occasional third phase in October. 

You can choose six different degrees in order of your preference. Even if you’re sure you’re going to get into your first pick, we recommend that you still register the six options, just in case. 

Master’s, PHD and Post-graduations

If you’re a graduate student, you must check the universities’ websites for application deadlines. For most institutions, the first phase starts around February/March (the semester starts in late September/early October). If a program is particularly sought after, it usually fills up after the first phase. If not, the second phase starts around June/July. In the rare occasion of a third phase, it happens in September/October – sometimes even after the semester has already started.


Entry exams for Portuguese universities

The way to get into the different bachelor’s degrees is exams. Each study program requires one or more exams – Portuguese, Math, Philosophy, Biology & Geology, Chemistry & Physics and English. If you’re a EU citizen or you’re already living in Portugal, you can take these exams at a local school on their scheduled dates. But you can also replace them with the final exams from your own country – you just need to get them validated at the Portuguese embassy. 

If you’re from a non-EU country, you can either set up to take the Portuguese exams at the embassy of your home country or arrange for the recognition of your own final exams. Countries where moving to Portugal to pursue higher education is common (like Brazil) already have equivalences set up between them.

Applications for Master’s and PHD’s are much more personalised and depend entirely on your academic, professional and skill-related backgrounds. 

Language requirements 

Not all universities ask for a certificate of English proficiency, but some do. These are usually accepted:

Some institutions might also need you to prove your Portuguese proficiency, since most degrees are completely taught in the local language. Even if they don’t ask, you should definitely attempt to learn at least the basics before moving to the country. After you’re in, a lot of universities, like University of Porto, offer free Portuguese courses for international students. 

This is mostly true for undergraduate degrees, as it is easier to find master’s and PHD’s that are taught either partially or completely in English.

What documents do I need to apply for university in Portugal?
  • Valid ID 
  • Application form
  • A high school diploma
  • Entrance exams 
  • Portfolio (art degrees)
Master’s and PHD specific
  • Motivation letter
  • Curriculum 
  • Proof of application fee payment (usually 50€ for a master’s in public universities)
moving to portugal for university

Application for the student visa in Portugal

If you’re a EU or EEA citizen, you don’t need to worry about anything. However, if that’s not the case, you do need to apply for a D4 Study Visa. Right after you get accepted by the university of your choosing, you can go either to your local Portuguese Consulate, or to the VFS Global website (an official partner of the government). 

What do I need to apply for the D4 Visa?
  • Application form for the Visa
  • Portuguese NIF
  • Acceptance letter/e-mail from the university
  • A Portuguese address 
  • Passport
  • Criminal records from country of origin

After your application is accepted and you are already in the country, you will be asked to do an interview with the Immigration Service (SEF), where, if everything goes according to plan, you’ll get your Residence Permit. The cost of the entire process depends partly on your country of origin, but an average amount would be 170€.  

Finding accommodation

As previously stated, accommodation costs vary greatly from city to city. If you have the means, partnering up with a rental service like the one we at Pearls of Portugal offer is definitely a great option. If you want to look for a room, Facebook Groups and OLX are great platforms for that. Depending on your university, you can also apply for free/cheaper student accommodation; however, there are few vacancies. University dorms aren’t very popular in Portugal at all. 

A regular room in a city like Porto or Lisbon is around 350€, while other cities still practice cheaper prices, like 200€. The cost also depends on the property’s particularities, obviously. 

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