Portugal is a country west of the Iberian Peninsula known for its rich culture and satisfying Mediterranean climate. It is a top exporter of quality textile and wood products, and its national language, Portuguese, is the sixth most spoken language in the world. Moreover, it is the 3rd safest country in the world according to the Global Peace Index 2020.

Portugal is one of the most attractive destinations in Europe, and some of the attractive tourist spots include the historic buildings of Lisbon, the world-famous wine of Porto, and the surfing spots of the Algarve. During the day, people also adore the soulful “fado” music as well as the contemporary nightlife. In this article, we will go over the best universities in Portugal for international students.

Is Portugal Good for International Students to Study In?

Higher education in Portugal is both research-oriented and profession-oriented provided by time-honored universities and innovative polytechnics respectively. Most programs are taught in Portuguese, but several are in English, especially at the graduate level.

Even with a high-quality education system, universities remain modest with their fees. It is around EUR €1,250 (USD $1,400) per year in public institutions, while private ones go up to €4,000 ($4,520). There are many such affordable institutions in Portugal, which you might be interested in. The Portuguese government offers grants and scholarships to both EU and non-EU nationals.

The living cost in Portugal is one of the cheapest in Europe since you would only need about €500 ~ €800 ($570 ~ $900) per month. Students can find affordable accommodation in their university’s very own residence halls or culturally rich cities. The student cities Lisbon, Porto, and Coimbra mixes a vibrant lifestyle with the country’s historical architecture and makes an exciting environment for students.

Check Also: Programs in Europe for International Students

Can International Students Work in Portugal While Studying?

International students are allowed to work in Portugal as long as it does not interfere with their studies. EU/EEA nationals are allowed to work in Portugal without any limit as long as it is reasonable.

For non-EU nationals, they must first secure a Portuguese student visa and a residence permit. In addition, they must have a contract with an employer and be enrolled in social security. Once permits are secured, they are allowed to work 20 hours per week during the semester and full-time during breaks. If you’re in Portugal as a researcher, for training or internships, you must additionally provide proof of scholarship or any academic activity.

Can International Students Stay in Portugal After Graduation?

After graduation, international students can stay in Portugal for employment. EU nationals are free to work, but they still need to apply for a residence card. Non-EU nationals must secure a residence permit, employment contract, and authorization from the SEF. The residence permit this time differs for an employed worker, a researcher, a self-employed worker, and a qualified professional, and please note that the SEF has permit guidelines for each.

The work permit is valid for one year and twice renewable for two years – which totals to five years. After which, both EU and non-EU nationals are eligible for a permanent permit which is renewable for five years. Highly qualified workers can apply for an EU Blue Card which allows mobility in the countries that have joined the European Union.

Most universities have their own job boards and platforms coordinated with the community’s needs. There are also employment centers in every city.

Best Universities in Portugal for International Students

1. University of Lisbon (ULisboa)

The University of Lisbon is one of the best universities in Portugal for international students. In 2013, the old University of Lisbon merged with the Technical University of Lisbon, and the name of the former was retained. This institution boasts high-quality education in its 18 schools and research units. The university excels in several areas of study, but mostly in engineering and technology, computer sciences, physics, and mathematics.

With its slogan, “a university from Lisbon to the world,” ULisboa couldn’t be more international. It’s a people-oriented university that provides a great academic and living experience for international students. When it comes to the prime location, the campus is situated in Lisboa, the cosmopolitan capital city of Portugal. It also has the largest academic sports complex in Lisbon, plus museums, cultural sites, botanical gardens, and many unique facilities.

2. University of Porto (UP)

The second-largest university in Portugal is the University of Porto, and this institution is a public university most noted for its research outputs. Its Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology and Research Institute of Computer Systems is well-known for its contributions to its respective fields.

It has 13 faculties, a Biomedical Institute, and a Post-Grad Business School. The academic programs offered at the University of Porto are the most diverse in Portugal and provide students with practical skills for employment. Moreover, UP consistently ranks among the top 100 universities in Europe.

This top university in Portugal has the largest student population in Portuguese universities, and 13% of the student body is made up of international students. Aside from diverse programs, the institution includes arts, music, sports, and culture in the academic experience. Presently, their historic campus is being modernized for quality equipment and infrastructure, especially research centers and sports facilities.

3. NOVA University Lisbon (NOVA)

Founded in 1973, NOVA University Lisbon is one of the new universities in Portugal, and this university is a first-rate institution included in the top 100 Young University Rankings 2020. The academic programs offered at NOVA University especially excels in Social Science, Engineering & Technology, and Clinical and Health.

An entrepreneurial mindset is also cultivated among its students. Moreover, NOVA commits to the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and develops its initiatives towards its 9 academic units. Since NOVA values mutual knowledge, understanding, and respect, they encourage a close relationship among students and teachers.

Student associations are a big part of university life, which is very hospitable to international students. When it comes to prospective international students, NOVA has established a Pre-University Degree, which helps foreign students transition to the Portuguese education system.

4. Catholic University of Portugal (Católica/UCP)

The Catholic University of Portugal, one of the best universities in Portugal, started as a philosophy faculty in 1967. It is a concordat of the Catholic Church and recognized by the state as a free and autonomous university. The Catholica University of Portugal employs a university system with regional centers in Lisbon, Porto, Braga, and Viseu. In addition, the mission of Católica is to provide teaching and research without neglect of social responsibility and the common good.

Católica’s faculties include education sciences, economics, arts and humanities, bioengineering, and biosciences. Being the highlight of UCP, the School of Arts in the Porto campus is multi-awarded in the industry. UCP participates in international academic events and programs like Erasmus, and due to its international programs, its student body is comprised of 17% international students with over 90 nationalities.

5. University of Aveiro (UAveiro)

The University of Aveiro is a public university that also provides polytechnic education. Founded in 1973, this institution has since been teaching in several fields of knowledge. Its most renowned programs are in the areas of fundamental and applied math, telecommunications, materials, and robotics, and the 16 departments and 4 polytechnics of UAveiro initiate knowledge-sharing between practical teaching and research.

The UAveiro is one of the most innovative universities in Portugal, integrating a circular economy in the campus itself. In their sustainable campus, you will find modern buildings, green spaces, a médiatèque, and multisports facilities. In addition, this university is located in the city center of Aveiro where you can marvel at the Portuguese coastline.

6. University of Beira Interior (UBI)

The University of Beira Interior is a top university in Portugal for international students. It is named after the most interior area of the historical Beira region, and this institution has diverse academic degrees for teaching and research in the areas of mathematics, medicine, engineering science, arts, and humanities.

In addition, UBI is a leading institution when it comes to innovation and entrepreneurship. Through its five research centers, the institution provides a network for scientists and the community to collaborate on practical matters. Examples of their centers are Optics Center and Computer Center.

UBI renovated former textile factories in Covilhã into well-equipped laboratories, libraries, and research centers, and these buildings also became places for student leisure, extra-curricular activities, social services, etc. Once every year, UBI hosts a Zero Year, a preparatory program to help foreign students adapt to the Portuguese higher education system.

7. University of Coimbra (UC)

This institution offers an innovative academic system in a World Heritage University. This unique experience is what you’ll get at the University of Coimbra since this institution values knowledge transfer for the benefit of society and well-being. In combining tradition and contemporaneity, UC became world-leading in merely all fields of study, and they are especially notable in Environmental Law and Civil Engineering.

In addition, UC also has the best enterprise incubator in the world, which is called the IPN Incubator. Not only does it have high-tech research equipment on campus, but the University of Coimbra is also a consistent placer in university world rankings, about 20% of UC students are foreign.

8. ISCTE – University Institute of Lisbon (ISCTE)

ISCTE – University Insitute of Lisbon became a fully-fledged public research university just last 2009, and it is renowned for several MBA accreditations such as from the Association of MBAs. ISCTE is known for its foundational nature and community service activities, and it also educates qualified professionals to contribute towards local and global sustainable development.

Through its academic programs, they cultivate transferable competencies such as strong communication, problem-solving, and a positive attitude. Aside from internationally recognized research centers, ISCTE has a wide range of study areas like business, social sciences, and technology. Due to its high quality of teaching, the employment rate of its graduates is quite high.

9. University of Algarve (UAlg)

The University of Algarve believes in “people and synergies,” encouraging a closer education and more collaboration. UAlg provides high-quality teaching in many fields, and standing out in rankings are areas of Health Science and Technology, Management & Tourism, and Natural Science. Its research focus is developed around marine science, BioMed, arts and communication, and social science. Basically, it’s about protecting the environment and enriching culture.

This top university in Portugal for international students admits 2000 foreign students in 80 nationalities per year, and you will be greeted with a modern learning environment on its campus in Faro and Portimão. Its proximity to Faro International Airport strengthens its international status, establishing it as a gateway to Portuguese education.

10. University of Minho (UMinho)

The University of Minho, one of the best universities in Portugal for international students, is a vibrant, young institution founded in 1973. It is the major development agent in Minho’s much larger younger population, and it consistently improves in rank in the top universities under 50 years old. The institution offers degrees and specialized training courses in many areas, which are the programs in the Sciences, Education, Architecture, and Psychology.

The university encourages interdisciplinary approaches and a close professor-student relationship. For international students, UMinho has a Preparation Course to prepare them for their degrees. Its three campuses in the historical cities of Braga and Guimaraes provide various cultural and sports activities, medical and psychological support, and living and mobility facilities.


We hope that this article on the best universities in Portugal for international students was helpful. Make sure to also check out the Programs in Europe for International Students to know more!

About the Author: Hyun Lee

Hyun is the founder at Global Scholarships. He has received a full-tuition scholarship at Birmingham-Southern College as well as $1,000 Burger King Scholarship for his undergraduate degree and has been offered a fully funded scholarship consisting of tuition, living stipend, and health insurance for computer science Ph.D. program at North Carolina State University. Read more about his scholarship journey here.

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