Portugal Best Colleges and Universities

Portugal Education Facts


The level of education in Portugal is low compared to other EU countries, despite the fact that a number of governments have been investing ever greater resources in education since the 1970s. Nowadays, almost all children start school, but the proportion of pupils who complete the first nine years is among the lowest in the EU.

In 2009, compulsory and toll-free schooling was introduced for twelve years, or until the pupil turns 18. Previously, compulsory schooling applied to children aged 6 to 15 years. The transition to the new system is carried out gradually.

  • COUNTRYAAH: Country facts of Portugal, including geography profile, population statistics, and business data.

The compulsory schooling is divided into four stages: a four-year low school, a two-year middle school, a three-year high school where students can choose between college preparatory studies and vocational education, and a three-year stage corresponding to the high school with different specializations.

The school system also includes a voluntary, free preschool for children between 3 and 6 years. At all levels there are both private and state schools.

In the early 1970s, almost a third of Portuguese were illiterate. In 2015, almost five percent of the population was still unable to read and write, especially for older women.

The shortcomings in the school system are large, especially in rural areas. Teacher salaries are low, the premises poor and the teaching material poor. There are not enough educated teachers. Students must pay for school supplies, school lunches and study visits.

In recent years, the government has tried to modernize and improve the quality of teaching. The curricula now provide greater scope for computer knowledge, English has become compulsory from the first class and national tests have been introduced at all levels.

There are about 50 universities and colleges in the country. The most important universities are in Lisbon, Coimbra (founded 1290) and Porto. The number of students has doubled since 1970, but the proportion of college students is still significantly lower than the average for the EU countries.

  • Andyeducation: Introduction to education system in Portugal, including compulsory schooling and higher education.


Proportion of children starting primary school

96.3 percent (2016)

Number of pupils per teacher in primary school

13 (2016)

Reading and writing skills

94.5 percent (2011)

Public expenditure on education as a percentage of GDP

10.1 percent (2015)

Public expenditure on education as a percentage of the state budget

10.1 percent (2015)



The first budget surplus of 45 years is expected in 2020

December 17

For the first time since democracy was reintroduced in Portugal, the government is proposing a budget that predicts a smaller surplus in state business of 0.2 percent of GDP. The budget includes a smaller tax cut for small businesses, tax relief for families with many children and higher tax on bullfighting events. According to the forecast, the deficit in the state budget will land at 0.1 percent of GDP. Portugal’s economy is expected to grow by just under 2 percent in 2019, and about as much by 2020, which is almost twice the average for EU countries.


An increase in the minimum wage is announced

November 13

From next year, the Portuguese government will raise the minimum wage to EUR 635 a month, which is 6 percent more than before. Nevertheless, it is the lowest minimum wage in Western Europe. Prime Minister António Costa has previously promised to raise it to 750 euros a month until 2023.


Review of golden visas is announced

December 28

The government announces a review of the so-called golden visas, which were introduced in connection with the debt crisis in 2012. According to this, citizens outside the EU can obtain a residence permit in Portugal against investing at least half a million euros in the country. As a result, around 8,000 people have been granted the right to settle in Portugal, plus their families. Up to 90 percent of the investments have gone to the real estate industry, and have helped to push up property prices, especially in Lisbon and Porto. Most people who have received such golden visas are Chinese, Brazilians and Turks. The review aims, among other things, to make investments more evenly spread across the country and to create new jobs. The system has, among other things, been criticized by Transparency Internationalto give people involved in corruption an opportunity to come to Europe and that it can be used for money laundering.

Costa promises height minimum wage

October 26th

Prime Minister António Costa promises to raise the Portuguese minimum wage by 25 percent by 2023 (it is currently around 600 euros). How much it should be increased each year is to be determined in negotiations with the social partners, but also depends on how the economy looks and the employment situation. At the same time, Costa promises to cut government debt to below 100 percent of GDP, from 119 percent today.

The Socialist Party (PS) forms a minority government

October 11

The Socialist Party (PS) will form a minority government and will not seek a formal settlement with the Left Bloc and the Communist Party as it did after the 2015 election. Prime Minister António Costa says he will instead seek to negotiate with different parties on various issues. The Left Bloc is prepared to support a PS government but on condition that the labor market laws introduced by the former bourgeois government should be scrapped (something that the EU and the IMF set as a condition for financial support for the then severely crisis-hit Portugal).

Costa wants to continue to cooperate with the left parties

October 8

President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa formally asks Prime Minister António Costa to form a new government. Costa says she wants to start talks to establish a new government as soon as possible, not least because of the EU summit on 17 and 18 October, when issues surrounding the UK’s exit from the EU can be decided. Costa intends to start talks with the opposition on October 10. He says he wants to continue the cooperation with the Left Bloc and the Communist Party, but is also expected to have discussions with People, animals and nature. Costa’s position has been strengthened by the fact that his Socialist Party has more mandates than the bourgeois parties together. A cloud of concern is that economic cycles are on the downward path, which can make all the agreements with the left parties difficult, which would hardly support any new cuts in social welfare.

The Socialist Party wins the parliamentary election

October 6

As expected, the Socialist Party (PS) will be the largest party in the parliamentary elections. When almost all the votes have been counted, PS has received just over 38 of the votes and gets at least 106 of the 230 seats in the National Assembly. The bourgeois Social Democratic Party (PSD) comes second with 29 percent of the vote, and probably 77 seats, while the Left Bloc gets 10 percent of the vote and 19 seats, the Democratic Unity Coalition, which includes the Greens, gets just under 7 percent and 12 seats. People, animals and nature (Pan) run from 1 to 4 seats, while the eco-socialist Free (Livre), the Liberal Initiative and the right-wing populist Chega (Nog) win 1 seat each. An additional 4 mandates shall be added when the votes cast abroad have been counted. The result means that PS strengthens its position, but the party still does not get its own majority in the House but needs continued support from several smaller parties. The turnout is 54.5 percent.


Convenient management for PS

September 16th

The ruling Socialist Party (PS) loses some ground before the parliamentary elections in October, but is still in a reassuring direction, according to opinion polls: just over 39 percent. The bourgeois Social Democratic Party (PDS) is in second place at just over 23 percent. PS is leading despite the party being hit by several scandals, including being accused of nepotism and having tried to obscure information about a theft from an army depot in Tancos June 2017 (see October 2018).


Support for the Socialist Party is growing

August 31st

The ruling Socialist Party (PS) is leading the polls ahead of the parliamentary elections on October 6, and looks to get almost 44 percent of the vote, far from the bourgeois Social Democratic Party (PSD), which stands at just over 20 percent. If this is up to the election, PS can win its own majority in the National Assembly. Since 2015, PS has ruled with the help of the Left Bloc and the Communist Party. António Costa has managed to grow the economy at the same time as it has been able to abolish some of the savings measures introduced during the economic crisis, while maintaining a balance in government spending.


Success for the Socialist Party in the EU elections

May 26

The ruling Socialist Party looks to win the EU elections in Portugal with 9 seats and just over 33 percent of the vote, while the Social Democrats get almost 22 percent and 6 seats and the Left Bloc just under 10 percent and 2 seats. Two mandates also go to the Democratic Unity Coalition (CDU), while the Democratic and Social Center People’s Party (CDS-PP) and People, Animals and Nature (Pan) appear to be given a mandate each. However, the result is not yet clear. The turnout is almost 51 percent.

The National Assembly votes against proposals for teacher salaries

May 10

The National Assembly votes against the proposal that the teachers should receive salary increases retroactively. Thus, a political crisis is averted, as Prime Minister António Costa had threatened to resign if the House approved the proposal.

Civil parties reverse teacher salaries

May 6

Portuguese Prime Minister António Costa wins a victory when the bourgeois Democratic and Social Center People’s Party (CDS-PP) backs away from the decision to raise teacher salaries retroactively, and thus does not appear to gain a majority in the National Assembly. The CDS-PP says in a statement that it was only intended to agree to the settlement if it would not harm the Portuguese economy. Even Rui Rio, leader of the Social Democratic Party (PSD) says that his party always intended that the decision on teacher salaries should only be adopted if it is economically justifiable. Both CDS-PP and PSD usually want to maintain a strict economic line, and assessors believe that their plans to raise teacher salaries are a strategic mistake on their part, especially as it would be with the help of the political left. But it is also pointed out that Costa can be seen to be defying responsibility by creating political unrest through his resignation claim. In addition, there is much to suggest that the Socialist Party will need to seek support on the left even after the fall elections.

Prime Minister Costa threatens to step down

May 3

Portuguese Prime Minister António Costa ends up collision course with his two support parties on the left, the Communist Party and the Left Bloc, ready to vote for teachers to receive previously granted salary increases retroactively, following a decision by the Education Committee. The Socialist Party Government fears that such a decision will lead to similar demands from other public servants, which would make it difficult for it to keep the budget. Costa has threatened to resign if the decision goes through. According to him, it will cost around € 800 million a year, but will not be charged to this year’s budget. The Socialist Party is leading the polls ahead of the election this fall, but does not appear to get its own majority then either, much as a result of accusations of nepotismwithin the government. Wages for all public servants were frozen during Portugal’s debt crisis, but now the economy is improving and several groups, including teachers, nurses, police and prison guards, have in recent months been striking with demands for higher wages and better working conditions.


Portugal receives a thousand refugees

March 8th

Portugal has signed an agreement with Greece where it undertakes to host 1,000 refugees and asylum seekers. In the first phase, 100 people, who are currently in Greek refugee camps, will be offered protection in Portugal.

President de Sousa visits Angola

6 March

President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa visits Angola in an attempt to repair contacts following the tensions created by previous corruption deals. Angola’s President João Lourenço visited Portugal in November for a similar purpose.


The government wins a vote of no confidence

February 20th

The government survives a vote of no confidence in the National Assembly. 115 members vote for the government, 103 against. It was the Conservative People’s Party (CDS-PP) who had made a declaration of confidence in the social government because of the recent strikes.

Low living standards despite good economic growth

February 19

According to a report from the OECD, Portugal’s economy is back at the same levels as before the crisis. The positive signs are that unemployment has fallen from over 16 percent to less than 7 percent, thanks in large part to the success of the export industry and increased tourism. But as far as living standards are concerned, many Portuguese people feel that they are worse off today than they were ten years ago, when even a large group with work falls below the poverty line.

Costa is re-furnishing the government for the EU elections

February 17th

Prime Minister António Costa re-furnishes in his government ahead of the EU elections in May. The biggest change is that Minister of Housing and Infrastructure Pedro Marques leaves the government to become the Socialist Party’s top candidate in the election.

Public servants strike for higher wages

February 15

Thousands of public servants go on strike to demand higher salaries. The strike affects, among other things, against hospitals, schools and cleaning. According to the union, wages have remained largely unchanged for the past ten years.

Portugal Best Colleges and Universities