Do you want to study abroad? Know the best universities in Portugal, how to apply, costs and if doing higher education here is worth it.

Last Updated on November 8, 2023 by Maryam Siddiqui

The universities in Portugal are known for their tradition and history. Besides that, the country’s higher education institutions attract thousands of international students each year. High quality of education, low prices, and good quality of life are some of the factors that make Portugal a great place to go to college.

But what are the best universities in Portugal? What is student life like in the country? Do I need to get a visa in order to live there? This and much more you’ll see in the article. 

Know more about the 10 best universities in Portugal

There are many good universities in Portugal, but some of them stand out internationally for its quality. According to the Times Higher Education World University Ranking 2022, the 10 best universities in Portugal are:

  1. Catholic University of Portugal
  2. NOVA University of Lisbon
  3. UPorto – University of Porto
  4. ULisboa – University of Lisbon
  5. UBI – University of Beira Interior
  6. UC – University of Coimbra
  7. ISCTE – Lisbon University Institute
  8. UAlg – University of Algarve
  9. UA – University of Aveiro
  10. UMinho – University of Minho

Learn more about each of the best universities in Portugal by following the article below.

1. The Catholic University of Portugal

The Catholic University of Portugal has been voted the best in the country several times. Although it is not the oldest or a public institution, the Catholic is a teaching reference in all its areas.

With a presence both in Lisbon, Porto, Braga and Viseu, it offers Undergraduate, Masters, Doctorates, Post-Graduate and Executive Programs.

  • Ranking position: Between 351 and 400
  • Founded in: 1967
  • Most prestigious courses: Business Management, Finance, Marketing and Economics
  • Number of students: 11,233
  • Percentage of international students: 21%
  • Annual tuition fee (undergraduate): From €3,280 to €5,870

2. NOVA University of Lisbon

With a reputation already established in the center of the capital,  NOVA University of Lisbon is a modern private institution of higher education. NOVA has campuses in different areas throughout the Lisbon region, so it attracts many international students interested in enjoying the best of Portugal.

  • Ranking position: Between 401 and 500
  • Founded in: 1973
  • Most prestigious courses: Management, Economics, Finance, Law, Public Health
  • Number of students: 20,396
  • Percentage of international students: 21%
  • Annual tuition fee (undergraduate): From €3,500 to €7,500

3. University of Porto

The University of Porto, located in the capital of the northern region of Portugal, is the best public university in the country. In addition to being an object of desire for Portuguese students, UPorto also attracts thousands of international students.

The city of Porto is one of Portugal’s favorite expat destinations, and the university gives the city a dynamic and young audience.

  • Ranking position: Between 401 and 500
  • Founded in: 1911
  • Most prestigious courses: Management, Economics, Engineering, Architecture, Pharmacy
  • Number of students: 33,120
  • Percentage of international students: 19%
  • Annual tuition fee (undergraduate): From €3,500 to €8,000

4. University of Lisbon

Uniting some of the best higher education courses in the country is the University of Lisbon. Spread on campuses throughout the Portuguese capital, ULisboa is undoubtedly one of the main choices for international students. The public university is a favorite of the Portuguese, whose diploma makes their alumni proud.

  • Ranking position: Between 501 and 600
  • Founded in: 1911
  • Most prestigious courses: Architecture, Communication Sciences, Law, Dentistry, International Relations
  • Number of students: 49,198
  • Percentage of international students: 19%
  • Annual tuition fee (undergraduate): From €3,000 to €12,500

5. University of Beira Interior

Surpassing expectations in the ranking of the best universities in Portugal, appears the University of Beira Interior. The public educational institution is located in the central interior of Portugal, in a small and proud town near Serra da Estrela called Covilhã.

  • Ranking position: Between 601 and 800
  • Founded in: 1973
  • Most prestigious courses: Aeronautical Engineering, Medicine, Fashion Design and Biomedicine
  • Number of students: 7,417
  • Percentage of international students: 20%
  • Annual tuition fees (undergraduate): 5,000€

6. University of Coimbra

The oldest university in Portugal and one of the oldest in the world, the University of Coimbra is also one of the most prestigious places to study. It was founded in 1290 and since then has been a traditional reference in education in the country. The university is what makes the city of Coimbra famous.

In addition, those who study at the University of Coimbra are very proud of the tradition and symbolism that the institution’s name carries.

  • Ranking position: Between 601 and 800
  • Founded in: 1290
  • Most prestigious courses: Law, Economy, Civil Engineering, Electrical and Electronic Engineering, Pharmacy
  • Number of students: 21,845
  • Percentage of international students: 20%
  • Annual tuition fees (undergraduate): 7,000€

7. Lisbon University Institute (ISCTE)

Located in the heart of Lisbon, is the Lisbon University Institute (ISCTE), one of the main choices for higher education in Portugal. ISCTE is proud of its modernity and is divided into 4 schools: ISCTE Business School, School of Social and Human Sciences, School of Sociology and Public Policy, and the School of Technology and Architecture.

  • Ranking position: Between 601 and 800
  • Founded in: 1972
  • Most prestigious courses: Informatics Engineering, Marketing Management, Informatics and Business Management, and Data Science
  • Number of students: 9,118
  • Percentage of international students: 15%
  • Annual tuition fees (undergraduate): From 5,500€ to 7,000€

8. University of Algarve

Located in the city of Faro, the University of Algarve (UAlg) is the only university in the Southern region of Portugal. Famous for its beaches on summer holidays, the Algarve attracts many foreigners to spend quality time. Therefore, it’s not a surprise that UAlg’s motto is “Studying where you live well”. Studying here isn’t only good for your academic life, but also for your quality of life.

  • Ranking position: Between 801 and 1000
  • Founded in: 1979
  • Most prestigious courses: Marine biology, Tourism, Hotel management, Marketing
  • Number of students: 8,264
  • Percentage of international students: 21%
  • Annual tuition fees (undergraduate): From 3,000€ to 4,000€

See also our article Living in the Algarve: all about sunny southern Portugal for expats.

9. University of Aveiro

The University of Aveiro (UA) is one of the most dynamic and innovative universities in Portugal. It offers Undergraduates, Masters, and Doctorates in its 16 departments and 4 polytechnic schools. Located in the city of Aveiro, known as the Portuguese Venice, the UA is an important presence in the region, encouraging entrepreneurship, startups, and innovation in Portugal.

  • Ranking position: Between 801 and 1000
  • Founded in: 1973
  • Most prestigious courses: English Language and Literature, Computer Science and Information Systems, Medicine and Agriculture and Forestry
  • Number of students: 12,068
  • Percentage of international students: 10%
  • Annual tuition fees (undergraduate): From 4,000€ to 5,500€

10. University of Minho

Also, on the list of the best universities in Portugal comes the University of Minho. UMinho is located in Braga, Portugal’s 3rd biggest city and one of the most important for the country’s economy.

The university is traditionally a reference in the academic world and is divided into 11 schools from different fields of study, from Arts to Medicine. It’s in the region called Minho and is also the best educational institution there.

  • Ranking position: Between 801 and 1000
  • Founded in: 1973
  • Most prestigious courses: Criminology and Criminal Justice, Civil Engineering, Medicine.
  • Number of students: 19,246
  • Percentage of international students: 15%
  • Annual tuition fees (undergraduate): From 2,000€ to 6,500€

How can foreign students apply?

The different universities in Portugal have different enrolment procedures when it comes to international students. As you can see, some have more international students than others. Some also have much more expensive annual fees than what’s paid by national students.

You can apply for a course to take it entirely, the so-called Full-Degree, in the country, or just take part in an exchange scheme, the Mobility . There are several ways to do this, but it is recommended that you contact the university of interest for further details.

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It is up to the students themselves to research the courses and universities that suit them best before making a final choice.

Do I need to know how to speak Portuguese?

Not necessarily. Even though the majority of courses in universities in Portugal are taught in Portuguese, all of them offer specific courses in English aiming at the international public.

However, in cases of exchange programs, there may be some cases when the students are placed in a Portuguese lectured lesson. When this happens, the teachers must make sure everybody gets access to materials translated to their language.

Luckily, the Portuguese people are known for being one of the most welcoming people in Europe, so you will be well oriented.

Read also: Learning Portuguese: do expats in Portugal need to speak the language?

Mobility programs in universities in Portugal

Academic mobility is a wonderful experience in the life and curriculum of any university student. Portugal can be your ideal destination to learn in a culturally different and therefore challenging environment.

The immigrant population in Portugal increases year by year, and the country is recognized as one of the most welcoming in Europe.

In addition, an exchange in Portugal is a guarantee of recognition in the academic world and the possibility of great personal growth.

Cost of living for a university student in Portugal

While living in Portugal, the cost of living may vary greatly from city to city. However, the expenses for a student are pretty much the same. Take a look at the estimated monthly expenses of a university student in Portugal in the table below:

Shared room rental€150
Single room rental in a shared house€300
1-bedroom apartment rental€600
House bills€100
Phone and mobile internet plan€25
Please, have in mind that these are estimate values.

When thinking of relocating, you should have an emergency financial reserve of about 6 months.

If you’re interested in numbers, you must also read our full article Cost of living in Portugal: how much do you need compared to other countries?

Do I need a visa to study in Portugal

Any person who is not a citizen of an EU country must obtain a visa and then a temporary residence card for the period they will be in the country. The student visa is the most common name for the D4 visa.

But, if you do have the nationality of one of these countries, then you are a lucky person. In order to apply to the universities in Portugal, you may find easier ways.

If you speak Portuguese, you’ll get to compete for the same places as national students, paying the same fees. If you don’t speak Portuguese, the only difference is that you will have to pay attention to the courses that are taught in English in order to compete.

And don’t forget that the academic year in Portugal starts in September and the application period usually starts in March. That is, start planning the relocation at least a year before school starts.

Getting a student visa

In order to apply and obtain a student visa, the applicant must first compete and be accepted at a Portuguese university. See a list of steps to follow until you can apply for a student visa:

  1. Select a university and course that fits you best
  2. Compete, be accepted and enroll
  3. Prepare your finances for living in Portugal
  4. Find a place to live while studying
  5. Apply for a D4 visa in your local Portuguese consulate

When applying for a Student Visa, one must present the following:

  • Valid passport
  • Proof of enrollment at the educational institution
  • A proof of subsistence
  • Proof of accommodation
  • International travel or health insurance
  • Criminal records
  • Student visa form

Among the benefits of the D4 visa are the permission to bring your spouse and children to Portugal with you, the right to travel freely within the Schengen area without additional visas, and also to work in Portugal.

These and much more details you’ll find in our full article Everything you need to know to study in Portugal.

Is studying in the universities in Portugal worth it?

Quality education is always worth it. Portugal offers a fantastic environment for students to maximize their potentials, with safety and a low cost of living. So yes, going to college in Portugal is definitely worth it.

When I decided to come and study here, I had to research a lot about all the universities in Portugal before deciding where to live. I ended up choosing the Algarve, which was a beautiful setting for my education.

What I can recommend you is that you get to know your school choices ahead, consider the costs in each of them, and the recognition that the diploma will have in your professional curriculum.

And of course, don’t underestimate the importance of hands-on experience to make you stand out. After all, the quality of learning also depends on the student.

Are you ready to join the expat community in Portugal?

There are thousands of foreigners living in Portugal. The expat community grows every day, with people from all over the world. Join our Facebook group All About Portugal For Expats and share experiences with the community.

Also, if you need any help in any stage of your relocation process, you can count on Viv Europe’s professionals to guide you.

Contact us and share your plans and needs. Let’s make your Portugal project a reality.



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