8 Cheapest Universities in Portugal for International Students

With its reputation for being one of the most popular tourist destinations as well as the coveted location for year-abroad degrees for foreign students, Portugal is certainly a country that any person would be familiar with.

The country’s history dates back to over a thousand years but it is mostly known for its rich tapestry of traditions and culture which also includes stunning landscapes.

The glorious countryside, inspiring beaches, metropolitan cities, and relatively mild climate are a few of the most attractive features of this beautiful country. However, this does not include all of the pretty strong and tempting features that Portugal has to provide to any of its prospective students.

The majority of institutions of higher education in Portugal offer a comprehensive education so students gain opportunities to study in various courses and fields of study. Students interested in further technological studies also have the option of choosing a more focused institution for their studies.

When considering the country’s stunning environment that ranges from the mountain ranges to the coastal belt, the rich culture that the cities offer as well as the mild Mediterranean climate, prospective foreign students have the opportunity to have an exciting experience during their academic pursuits.

Over the past few decades, the country has gone through a strong boost in economic development as well. The government of Portugal itself has committed to increasing its international student population over the next decade.

In terms of exchange, Portuguese institutions also utilize the ACTS (European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System) option which helps students to study across more than one European university or institute of higher education if they are interested.

In this article, a list of universities in Portugal that offer the best in terms of tuition fees alongside strong academic potential has been compiled. Finances are something that any student can worry about but fear not! We trust the information in this article will give you a clear view of what Portuguese universities have to offer.

How many universities are there in Portugal?

Portuguese universities have existed since the early 13th century. However, as of 2019, the country is home to around 20 public institutions of higher education as well as several private and polytechnic universities.

Can I study in Portugal using only English?

Portuguese is the main language of instruction in Portuguese universities. However, several universities offer English-taught programs as well so it is simply a matter of looking through the university prospectus and finding out the relevant courses.

Studying in Portugal can be a difficult process for international students. To help international students with this process, we’ve prepared a guide on How to Study in Portugal for International Students. This guide contains info on the required materials, application process, and student visa application, so check it out if you are interested!

What are the costs of living to study in a Portuguese university?

Generally, tuition fees and cost of living in Portugal are considered to be much lower than most European countries since there are many cheap universities in Portugal for international students. As an average figure, a single university’s academic year tuition is around $1500 USD whereas the cost of living is a maximum of $900 USD per month.

There are many ways that international students can study for free in Portugal. If you are interested, read about How to Study in Portugal for Free (9 Steps).

Are international students eligible to work in Portugal?

As is the case with most European universities (particularly in EU member states), EU/EEA foreign students can work without any restrictions. However, students outside the EU/EEA can follow casual part-time work for up to 20 hours on a weekly basis.


Affordable Universities in Countries Near Portugal

There are some great universities that provide an excellent education at affordable prices. Check these out!


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Cheap Universities in Portugal for International Students

1. University of Porto

The University of Porto is a public research university that was first established in 1911. Located in the beautiful city of Porto, this elite institution is classified as the second-largest university in the country as it provides education for a student enrolment of over 30,000.

The academic profile of the university includes 15 schools of study with additional academic sub-departments which are collectively spread across 3 main campuses.

Through these faculties, the university offers more than 600 courses and degrees of study that are provided at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels. The university further focuses strongly only on research and development-based work which has given the campus facilities a high scientific edge.

This cheap university in Portugal is now home to over 50 world-class research institutions that massively contribute to the potential. Additionally, the international excellence of the university continues to increase with each year.

Of the current student cohort, approximately 15% consists of international students who come from over 100 different countries outside of Portugal.

With its outstanding academic potential, the university has been constantly ranked among the top 10 Portuguese institutions of higher education as well as being in the top 300 best universities in the world (according to the ARU Rankings).

2. University of Lisbon

Based in the capital city of Lisbon, the University of Lisbon is a public research university that currently holds grounds as the largest institution of higher education in the country.

The university was established in 2013 as a merger between the original University of Lisbon with the Technical University of Lisbon, but its history can be traced back several centuries back to the late 13th century.

The academic organization consists of over 18 major faculties and institutes of study that focus on a wide range of disciplines from law to science, and medicine to geography, and economy all the way up to pharmaceutical studies. Collectively through these institutes, the university offers a series of over 400 majors and courses of study for the student population.

As of 2019, this elite institution consists of over 45,000 students which is partly one factor as to why this is classified as the largest university in the country. An additional factor that draws in international students is the major availability of English-taught degree programs.

With the university’s location in the capital city, students have a great exposure to the Portuguese culture and friendly society as well as unique opportunities in comparison to other universities.


3. University Institute of Lisbon

Our next university in this list of cheapest universities in Portugal is the University Institute of Lisbon (Institute Universitario de Lisboa or the ISCTE). A relatively recent establishment in the Portuguese higher education system, the institute was established in 1972 but has evolved into a diverse and powerful educational hub that has a student enrolment of over 9000.

It was originally established as an institute that specialized in providing education in business studies and labor sciences. It is currently separated into 4 academic schools including the business school, the social and human sciences school, the sociology and public policy school, and the school of technology and architecture.

The campus is based in the Cidade Universitaria municipality in conjunction with other institutions such as the University of Lisbon. Additional research facilities with cutting-edge qualities include the Portuguese Business Research Institute and the Institute of Telecommunications.

With its increasing dominance in academics and research, the ISCTE has grown into a fully-fledged research institution that is among the finest of its kind in the country. Degrees of study are further offered by the institute at all levels including undergraduate, postgraduate, doctoral, and short-term courses.


4. University of Minho

The University of Minho is a public university that has its campus bases spread across the northern regions of the country.

Founded in 1973, the university was recently established to introduce the concept of ‘new universities’ in the country. This period was a turning point for the higher education system in Portugal as a wave of institutions were built across the country.

However, through tumultuous events, the administration decided to break the campus into sub-campuses and so, this fine institution has its locations predominantly in Braga and Guimaraes.

With a student population of over 20,000 (as of 2019), this cheap university in Portugal is also one of the largest institutions in the northern regions.

Despite its recent founding, the university has evolved into a world-class institution and has consistently been ranked among the top 100 universities that are under the age of 50. The Times Higher Education system has further been ranked among the top 500 universities in the world.

Academically, the university is comprised of several schools that cover fields such as architecture, social sciences, engineering, law, medicine, sciences, and psychology. Collectively, over 100 degrees are offered through the university for its student population.


5. University of the Azores

Located in the islands of the Azores, the University of the Azores is the only public research university that is based outside the Portuguese mainland. This university was founded in 1976 shortly after the Carnation Revolution of Portugal and was built as the government’s aim to improve sustainable development and higher education in the country.

With a student enrolment of over 5000, it is categorically comprised of 3 main campuses that are based in three separate areas of the Azores. The unique location of this establishment makes the university an interesting study experience but it continues to draw in large numbers of international students on an annual basis through the many exchange programs that it operates.

Academically, the university is separated into several schools and departments of study. The main language of instruction is Portuguese but the university continues to focus on providing several courses in English for the benefit of international students.

6. University of Algarve

The University of Algarve is a public research institution of higher education that is based in the municipality of Faro in southern Portugal, with additional campuses in Portimao. Founded in 1979, the university was established as part of the new generation of Portuguese universities.

It has since expanded into an internationally recognized institution that has a student enrolment of over 8000. Of this student cohort, approximately 20% consists of foreign students who come from over 70 different countries.

The main focus of this affordable university in Portugal tends to be in ”Sea, Health, Food & Wellbeing, Arts & Heritage & Tourism” but its academic studies tend to be of high quality in general.


7. University of Coimbra

With its founding in 1290, the University of Coimbra has a reputation for being among the oldest universities in the world that still remain in constant operation.

Nevertheless, it is an elite public university that originally had its campus in Lisbon before it was shifted to Coimbra. The city is known for being one of the most diverse and colorful out of Lisbon with a burst of traditions that its students have access to.

Currently, the university has a student population of over 25,000 students who have access to some of the most comprehensive education systems in the country. Academically comprised of 8 different faculties, the fields include humanities, medicine, law, engineering, social science, technology, and sports.

The university strives to maintain a strong international focus with over 12% of its student cohort coming from outside of the country. Despite its high standards of academics, a benefit of the university is the cheaper tuition fees which are why it’s definitely worth considering applying to this institution.


8. Catholic University of Lisbon

We end our list of affordable universities in Portugal with the Catholic University of Lisbon, a public university based in the capital of Lisbon. It is the only university in the country that is operated by the government in conjunction with the Catholic Church.

Established in 1967 with an original focus on Philosophy education, the university now has a student population of over 11,000. It is further academically comprised of 18 faculties of study and is home to prominent schools such as the Catolica Lisbon School of Business and Economics.

The university also takes pride in being one of the most international universities in the country with around 50% of the student consisting of students who come from outside the country.


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