Saturday, October 16, 2021

Information about Higher Education and Universities in Portugal.

Secondary School (Ensino Secundário)

This is the equivalent of 6th Form or College in The UK.

There are 2 categories for Secondary Education at the moment in Portugal.

  1. 1. If your child is in years 5 - 9 then they still have a choice whether to continue their education in Secondary School.
  2. 2. If your child started school in year 1 during or after 2006 then Secondary School is now compulsory.

After successfully completing their compulsory nine years of education children can complete secondary education, either as preparation for higher education or for more vocational/technical education. Students at Secondary School at the moment have to pay for insurance and tuition, as well as for their textbooks and other materials, although financial assistance may be available. 

Secondary school is from years 10 – 12 (age 15 – 18)

There are 2 types of courses.

Normal School lessons and subject based around a Topic, like Languages & Humanities or Maths & Sciences.

Professional and Technical courses that are based more around a vocation, like Car Mechanic or COmputer Programming.


In Secondary schooling there are two type of assessment – internal and external. Internal assessment consists of a general written test in every subject at the end of year 10 and 11 and in some subjects at the end of year 12. Based on a general test plus continuous assessment the Class Council decides whether the student should advance to the next class or repeat the year. External assessment takes the form of final written examinations in year 12 in most of the subjects. In order to pass, students must achieve a pass mark in every one of their course subjects.

On successfully completing their secondary education students are awarded a certificate (diploma de estudos secundários) indicating the courses and the final marks obtained. Those who complete a professional or technical course will also receive a level III vocational training certificate (diploma de qualificação profissional de nivel III).

Higher Education/University (Ensino superiorlisbon uni

The higher education system consists of public universities (universidades), polytechnics (escolas politécnicas), and a number of private or cooperative institutions of higher education.

Students who have a secondary school diploma, or legally equivalent qualification, may apply. Depending on what type of higher educational establishment they apply to, students may also have to pass either a national examination organised by the Directorate-General of Higher Educacao (Direcção – Geral do Ensino Superior), or an entry examination set by the institution.

Graduate qualifications may be a bachelor degree (bacharelado), which requires three years of study, or licentiate (licenciatura) degree, needing four to six years.

Higher Education is paid for by the student and parents. There is a Government means-tested grant scheme and since 2008 Student Loans are also available.


All lessons are taught in Portuguese in state schools, only in International schools will the lessons be in English. If your children are teenagers or above they will find it much harder to integrate and learn the language so it is important you try to get them some language tuition before moving to Portugal. If you can speak basic Portuguese they will find it much easier to fit into school..don’t forget we are talking about teenagers here!

International Schools

There are a number of International Schools throughout Portugal. They are well-attended, with a mixture of international and Portuguese pupils. Pupils may study on the International Baccalaureate (I.B.) program, or for the British A Level examination systems. Term dates and school holidays may differ from those of Portuguese schools.

International Schools are private so you will have to pay. Contact different schools and get their prospectus as soon as possible.

More links

Ministry of Education – Responsible for the Education System within Portugal from Pre-school to University (site in Portuguese)

European Youth Portal – University Education, Training and more, in Europe