Portugal - Country Commercial Guide
Education and Training
Last published date: 2022-03-29

Capital:  Lisbon

Population: 10.3 million (July 2021 est.)

GDP (Purchasing Power Parity):  $331.6 billion (2020 est., in 2017 dollars)

Currency:  Euro (EUR/€)

Language:  Portuguese (official)


UNESCO Student Mobility Number

Portugal has 20,633 students studying abroad according to UNESCO.

CIA World Factbook

24.52% of the population in Portugal is under 25 years old.



The education system in Portugal has undergone significant changes since it became regulated in 1986.  The last major reform was the redefining of the degree system according to the Bologna Process, of which Portugal is a signatory nation.  The Portuguese higher education system is currently a three-cycle system, with a network of more than 40 public and 92 private higher education institutions.

According to the 2021 Institute of International Education Open Doors Report, there were 791 students from Portugal studying in the United States during the academic year 2020-2021, a decrease of -15.3 percent compared with the previous year.  Prior to 2020, the number of students in the U.S. from Portugal had been increasing, although the proportion of the Portuguese population between the ages of 15-24 years has been declining over the past ten years.

In the 2020-2021 academic year, 412 students from Portugal enrolled in the United States at the undergraduate level, followed by the graduate level with 238 students.  Optional Practical Training (OPT) followed with 122 students and, lastly, only 19 students enrolled in non-degree programs, such as English language or short-term studies.

Portuguese students are actively seeking study abroad opportunities, and many take full advantage of the European Union’s Erasmus program for exchanges within Europe.  Portuguese students highly value educational opportunities in non-EU countries, namely the United States.



  • U.S. – Portuguese university student exchange programs
  • High school exchange programs
  • ESL – English as a Second Language intensive short-term programs
  • Distance and e-learning


Portuguese students are primarily interested in the following types of programs in the U.S.:

  • U.S. universities and community colleges
  • Undergraduate, graduate, and master’s degree programs
  • Summer camps
  • Online programs
  • Boarding schools
  • Optional Practical Training (OPT)

To effectively enter the Portuguese market, it is highly recommended that U.S. schools consider the following strategies:

1.  Seek partnerships or agreements with public or private universities to facilitate joint programs and exchange programs for students and faculty.

2.  Participate in local recruitment fairs, trade missions, and outreach events, as well as meet face-to-face with school counselors and other stakeholders.

3.  Identify local agents/distributors/partners.

U.S. schools should also provide clear and in-depth information about programs and the application process, as well as describe opportunities for scholarships and financial aid.  Due to the current conditions of Portugal’s economy and the fact that tuition fees in Portugal and in Europe are generally lower than in the United States, fully- or partially funded scholarships are the best way to attract Portuguese students.



  Study Abroad Portugal
Lisbon and Porto, Portugal
March 2022

  Lisbon, Portugal
  April 2022





Ana Vila, Commercial Specialist

U.S. Commercial Service – Lisbon, Portugal

Phone: +351 21 770 2532

Email: Ana.Vila@trade.gov