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Picture of Davis Gouveia, Education and University Specialist

Davis Gouveia

Education and University Specialist

Jan 10, 2024

What is the Cost of Studying in Portugal Compared to the US?

Portugal has a good selection of both public and private higher education schools. And just like in the United States, there is a competitive process for enrollment in the more prestigious schools, which is based on a variety of factors, and there are scholarships are available for academic excellence.

There is one major difference between higher education in the United States and that of Portugal - and that is the cost. We’ll take a look at both the costs and the quality of Portugal’s public and private universities, and compare them to similar universities in the United States.

Students at desks in a classroom working on laptops

Technical Institutes vs. Universities in Portugal

Higher education studies in Portugal are divided into two types of schools; polytechnic institutes and universities.

Polytechnic institutes in Portugal provide a range of specialized educational programs, catering to various professional fields. They offer Higher Professional Technical Courses (Cursos Técnicos Superiores Profissionais - CTeSPs), which are unique to polytechnics, alongside traditional degrees like licenses, bachelor's, and master's degrees that prepare students for specific professions upon graduation. Since 2023, these institutes have also been authorized to offer PhD degrees.

The curriculum at polytechnic institutes is notably specific and focused, targeting professions in fields such as education, technology, health sciences, and agriculture. In addition to these, they also offer programs in the arts, journalism, hospitality services, and sports, providing a comprehensive range of options for students seeking practical, career-oriented education.

Universities offer bachelor, masters, and PhD degrees in law, medicine, architecture and economics, among many other subjects. There are also research-based programs in the higher sciences and other more theoretical studies. In this article, we focus specifically on the best universities in Portugal rather than the polytechnic institutes, and compare how they stand up against universities in the United States.

A picture of universidade nova de lisboa

The Real Cost of Studying in Portugal

If you have lived in Portugal for over two years with a legal visa, then you and your family members who also have obtained a visa, are eligible to study at a public university as a resident, which means your fees would be lower.

Foreigners wishing to study in Portugal can obtain a student visa to study in public or private universities, though fees differ for non-EU/EEA students.

A picture of Coimbra University, the oldest university in Portugal and one of the oldest in the world.

Costs of Studying in Portugal vs. the US

There are both public and private universities in Portugal, and they all require an administration fee, which costs about €700. The annual administrative fee is higher for Master’s degrees and PhD students, averaging approximately €2,500 to €3,000 per year. This fee does not include textbooks, which must be purchased by the student.

Public universities have affordable tuition fees, and they range from €1,000 to €2,000 per year for EU/EEA students. For non-EU/EEA students, this tends to be slightly higher, between €3,000 and €5000 per academic year. While most courses at public universities in Portugal are taught in Portuguese, there are a growing number of degree programs in English, particularly in the fields of management and economics.

For private universities in Portugal, tuition fees can cost between €3,000 to €12,500 per academic year for both EU/EEA and non-EU/EEA students. Some private universities in Portugal offer courses in English.

Local Portuguese students can still find it difficult to attend university if they have to pay for their own housing and food, but they do get discounts for public transportation. Some students take up part-time work in order to cover rent and basic needs, though many choose to live at home while attending university.

Comparing this to the US, the costs for a university degree in the United States continues to rise each year and has doubled since the year 2000. For a four-year degree from a public college, the cost averaged $25,707 for one year, with out-of-state students paying significantly more. For a private American university, the average tuition fee is $37,641. As for Ivy League schools, the average cost is $56,746 per year.

What Are the Best Universities in Portugal

The University of Porto

Ranked 253rd among over 1,500 universities worldwide in 2024 by QS Top Universities, the University of Porto stands out with its diverse offerings. Spread across three campuses in the city of Porto, the university provides more than 600 programs. These include studies in fields like astrophysics, architecture, engineering, and marine ecology, among others.

The University of Lisbon

Rated 266th, this University has over 8,000 foreign students enrolled annually. Coursework is taught in Portuguese and English. The campus is composed of 18 departments, which teach a variety of advanced degrees, including medicine, dentistry, jurisprudence, political science, and much more. There is also a research center that conducts studies in robotics, plasma physics, nanotechnology, molecular science, and telecommunications.

The New University of Lisbon

The youngest of the higher-rated universities in Portugal, this university scores 400th in the world and is among the top five in Portugal. Over 20% of the students are international students. The New University of Lisbon offers many prestigious science and engineering degrees, as well as degrees in anthropology, geography, archaeology, and politics.

University of Minho in Braga

One of the most prestigious universities in Portugal, the University of Minho is located in the historical city of Braga. Established in 1973, it is known as an innovative hub for research and technological advances, and offers excellent programs for engineering, social sciences, and health sciences. Its infrastructure consists of modern, state-of-the-art facilities, allowing students to study in an enriching environment.

Conclusion: Studying in Portugal vs. the US

While the United States boasts many elite universities, they are often accompanied by high costs. Conversely, Portugal offers world-class universities that are accessible to both foreigners and expats, including families residing in Portugal for at least two years, with significantly lower costs for residents. The country presents a wide array of study programs to explore.

To navigate this landscape, we offer comprehensive services, including an overview and assessment to help define your educational path, whether in Portugal or abroad. This includes understanding the higher education system in Portugal, requirements for university registration, and analyzing admission grades. Additionally, our entry support service ensures a smooth transition into Portuguese higher education. We guide you through document preparation, budgeting, selecting courses and universities that align with your profile, assisting in the enrolment process, and monitoring admission results.

For more information on pursuing higher education in Portugal and to take advantage of our tailored services, please contact us today. You can also explore further details about education on our website.

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