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Education System of Portugal

Portugal is located in south-west Europe, and its territory comprise of archipelagos of the Madeira and Azores, in the Atlantic Ocean. The education in Portugal is administered by the state through the Ministry of Education, Higher Education and Science. Public and private educational institutions are available at all educational levels. The higher education system of Portugal is completely integrated into the European Higher Education Area.

Portuguese Educational Background

The first medieval educational institutions were associated with Catholics. In 1290, first medieval university was founded.  Since 1920, Portuguese universities have been in existence. The oldest university, the University of Coimbra was founded in Lisbon, though now in Coimbra. In 1837, two polytechnic schools were established in Porto and Lisbon. They were afterwards amalgamated into Universities of Porto and Lisbon formed in 1911. In 1852, industrial institutes were established.

Since 1960, public education was accessible to children aged 6-12 and many commercial technical and industrial schools were set up for skilled workers education.  In 1971, the Portuguese Catholic University was established and by 1973 many public universities were established. The period from 1960 to 1974 experienced a growth in Portuguese education system. After 1974, higher education institutions, basic and secondary schools were increased. 
During 1970 and 1980s, the Polytechnic institutes were established.

Modernization of basic and secondary schools took place in mid-2000s. Since the adoption of the Bologna process in 2006, the higher education system of Portugal has been transformed. It led to new reforms in the higher education system of Portugal 

Education Profile of Portugal

The Portuguese education system comprises of the following educational levels:
  • Pre-school education
  • Basic Education
  • Secondary education
  • Higher education

Pre-primary Education

Children aged between 3 and 5 years attend pre-primary schools in Portugal. The pre-primary education is imparted by public, private and co-operative nursery schools, as well as kindergarten. This educational level is not compulsory.

Compulsory Education

In Portugal, education is free and mandatory until the age of 18.

Basic Education

In Portugal, basic education is mandatory to attend and is free. The basic education lasts for 9 years and is split up into 3 cycles:

1st Ciclo (1st cycle): This cycle lasts for 4 years and one single teacher is responsible for teaching students

2nd Ciclo (2nd cycle): This cycle lasts for 2 years and different teachers are responsible for teaching a wide range of subjects 

3rd Ciclo (3rd cycle): This cycle lasts for 3 years and one teacher is responsible for teaching the given subjects area. This cycle covers vocational studies also. At the end of this cycle, a diploma/certificate is awarded. 

Secondary Education

Secondary education in Portugal is compulsory. This educational level enhances the knowledge and skills gained in basic educational level, and additionally prepare students for higher education or job market. The secondary education lasts for 3 years and to gain admittance into this level, students must hold a certificate of basic school education. 
This educational level comprises of general courses, artistic and vocational or technical courses. 

Other Secondary Education Courses 

In Portugal, there are vocational secondary courses, adult education and special arts secondary courses. 

Vocational Secondary Education

The vocational secondary courses comprises of three components: socio-cultural, scientific and technical components. The socio-cultural and scientific study components are common to all courses, while the technical, technological, and artistic training components vary depending on the course. Upon successful completion of the vocational course, students are awarded a level III vocational qualification. Pupils who graduate from vocational institutions can go for higher education.  

Adult Education

The adult education system provides an opportunity to pursue basic and secondary school education. This opportunity is for individuals aged 15 or above for basic education courses, and 18 or above for secondary education courses.  The adult education course consists of 3 elements: general education undertaken by all pupils, scientific education and technical training. 

Arts Courses

The arts courses are offered in the basic education-all three cycles, secondary education and higher education level. Special arts courses are provided in the following fields: visual arts, dance and music.

Higher Education

Higher education in Portugal is divided into two main educational systems: 

University system: This system is the oldest and is research-oriented. It focuses on theoretical education and training, and comprises of 13 public universities, 1 public university institute, public Open University and many private university and university institutes. 

Non-university education: This system started in 1980s when the former commercial and industrial educational institutions were transformed into administration and engineering higher education institutions. This higher educational system is profession-oriented and lays emphasis on practical education and training. There are many state-run polytechnic institutes, public and private non-integrated polytechnic institutions in Portugal.

Higher Education Institutions: At a Glance

Higher education in Portugal is provided by public universities, private universities, public and private university institutes, polytechnic institutes, and other higher education institutions. Following are the higher education institutions in Portugal:

University: University in Portugal offers bachelors, masters and doctor degrees. These higher education institutions focus on theoretical education and research. 

Polytechnics: Polytechnic institutes in Portugal offer undergraduate and master degree programmes. They offer education and training in a specific field. 

Higher Education Qualifications: A Quick Look

Following are the higher education qualifications conferred in Portugal: 

Licenciado: This degree generally lasts for 3 years and is offered by both university and polytechnic institutes

Master’s degree (Mestrado): This degree lasts for 1-2 years and is offered by both university and polytechnics in Portugal.

Doctorate (Doutoramento): This degree is awarded by universities in Portugal after passing of a doctorate exam and public defense of a doctoral thesis. A title of doctor is given after the successful completion of this degree programme. Students must hold a degree of a master’s degree or its equivalent to gain admittance into the doctorate programme. 

Aggregation (Agregacao): This is the highest qualification given to the candidates who possess the doctor degree. This qualification requires candidates to take up a research in a particular field. This is used in front of holder's name: “Professor Doutor”

To know in detail about the Portuguese higher education qualifications, click here.

Admission Requirements

Students must hold a secondary education completion certificate (Diploma de Ensino Secundario) in oder to gain admittance into the higher education first cycle studies. An extraordinary exam procedure is accessible to individuals whose age is 23 or above. Admittance to private higher education institutions is at the total discretion of each institution. 

To know more about the admission requirements and procedure, click here

Study Visa

International students from EU/EEA and Switzerland do not require visa to enter Portugal. For stays up to 90 days, a visa is not required, whereas for stays above 90 days, a student visa is needed. To know about whether you need a student visa or not, read the post “Study Visa for Portugal”. 

Tuition Fees

Tuition fees vary depending upon the institution of higher learning and course of study. The tuition fee for private higher education institutions is considerably higher than the tuition fees of public higher education institutions. 
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