Access to Educational System

Useful Information

Access Education
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​Educational System

The Portuguese education system is divided into different levels. It begins with pre-school education (optional) and continues with primary and lower secondary education (compulsory), upper secondary education and higher education. Primary and lower secondary education consists of three sequential stages of 4, 2 and 3 years duration. Upper secondary education consists of three-year period, with specialised or vocational science and humanities, technology and art courses, followed by higher education, or a specialised technology course (CET – non-higher education). Higher education is structured along the lines of the Bologna principles and aims to ensure a solid scientific, cultural, artistic and technological foundation with the skills required to perform professional and cultural activities and to develop the ability to conceive, innovate and analyse critically. In Portugal, the system is organised under a binary format: university education and polytechnic education administered by public, private and cooperative higher education institutions.

For further information on the Portuguese Educational System go to:

Access by foreign citizens to education

Any child or young person of non-Portuguese nationality has equal access to education.

To study in Portugal, it is essential to obtain information from the Portuguese embassy or consulate in your country of origin concerning the documents that are required. To attend a Portuguese school, a student visa is necessary. To find out about the procedure to obtain this visa, you can also consult the Foreign Nationals and Borders Service (Serviço de Estrangeiros e Fronteiras) ( and the ACIDI (e-mail or phone the Immigrant SOS Hotline (linha SOS imigrante)).

  • Immigrant SOS Hotline
    Tel. 808 257 257 (valid in Portugal)
    Tel. +351 218 106 191 (mobile network and from abroad)
    Mon-Sat – 08:30-20:30

Higher education

The Portuguese higher education system does not have a special application procedure for EU citizens. Access is subject to the same rules applied to Portuguese citizens, namely as regards the general entrance exam and other specific requirements stipulated by the establishment and the course selected.

To apply for undergraduate studies leading to a degree via the Portuguese application process, students must comply with the following conditions:

  • Have successfully completed a secondary education course or have a recognised equivalent qualification;
  • Have taken the required entrance exams for the course applied for and obtained a grade equal to or above the minimum necessary;
  • Comply with the required prerequisites (where applicable) for the course applied for.

Besides the general application procedure, special higher education access procedures exist for:

  • Scholarship students who are nationals of Portuguese-speaking African countries, within the framework of cooperation agreements signed by the Portuguese state;
  • Foreign employees in the diplomatic service accredited in Portugal and their family members resident here on a reciprocal basis;
  • Applicants who already hold a medium or higher education qualification;
  • Students who have already attended a course in higher education in Portugal or overseas;

Admission to any institute of higher education is subject to numerus clausus.

For information on the higher education courses available and their respective requirements, see:

Academic equivalence requirement

Primary/lower secondary and upper secondary education

To obtain equivalence, accreditation or recognition of qualifications, studies and certificates from foreign educational systems in primary/lower secondary and upper secondary education with qualifications from the Portuguese educational system, required by the establishment you wish to enrol at, you must submit school certificates mentioning qualifications (in a foreign language):

  • Certified by the Portuguese consular services or embassy in the country which the qualification refers to, or by the consular services or embassy of the foreign countries in Portugal, or a Hague Apostille for countries which are parties to the Hague Convention;
  • Translated into the Portuguese language;
  • Indicating number of year(s) of school attendance, the school year the student is in, or successfully completed course and the respective final grades.

The respective requirement, in Portuguese, is available at:

Further information about academic equivalence can be obtained from:

  • Direção-Geral da Educação (General Board for Education)
    Tue, Thu 10:30-12:30; Wed 14:30-16:30
    T. +351 213934500
    Fax. +351 213934685

Higher education

Granting equivalence at the higher education level is the entire responsibility of the public institutes of higher education and the Portuguese Catholic University (Universidade Católica Portuguesa).
In the case of requests for recognition and equivalence of master's degrees or PhDs, the request and all necessary documentation must be submitted to the rectory of the chosen establishment. In other cases, the request must be submitted to the Scientific Council (Conselho Cientifico) or Academic Services (Serviços Académicos) of the institutions from which you wish to obtain equivalence.

The National Academic Recognition Information Centre (NARIC) network is a European Commission initiative whose aim is to facilitate contacts between Member States concerning the exchange of reliable and up-to-date information on certificates, institutions and education systems. Further information about recognition of certificates can be obtained from the Portuguese branch of the NARIC, under ther Directorate General for Higher Education (Direcção-Geral do Ensino Superior), at:

Study and Training Grants

​To attend higher education, students must pay course fees (propinas) at public institutions and monthly fees (mensalidades) at private and cooperative institutions.

EU students and students from non-EU countries with cooperation agreements with Portugal may apply for a grant. Applications are submitted directly to the student support services (Serviços de Apoio ao Estudante) at the school or university at which the student has enrolled.

If you wish to apply for a study grant, you should examine the prospects in your country of origin. However, there are various organisations which provide funding to foreign students living in Portugal:

Further information at:

It also provides grants to students from the Países de Língua Oficial Portuguesa to attend university and polytechnic in the aim of training young professionals in priority areas for the development of their country of origin. Applications must be submitted to the competent local authorities in the country of origin.

Further information at:

Support and further information


Published 22-05-2013