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EACEA National Policies Platform:Eurydice
Higher education funding


3.Funding in education

3.2Higher education funding

Last update: 29 March 2024


The Science, Technology and Higher Education Budget Programme (Programa Orçamental Ciência, Tecnologia e Ensino Superior) is mainly funded by resources from the state budget (58.3 %), as well as from its own revenues.

These revenues (41.7 %) include student fees, European funds that stem from co-financed projects, donations and services provided.

The programme is designed to improve and widen access to higher education via better structuring of the network and higher education institution provision, broadening the social spectrum of recruitment, thus helping to increase the proportion of the Portuguese population attending higher education courses, as well as encouraging international competitiveness within the scientific community and better transfer of scientific and technological knowledge between research and development centres and business.

Financial autonomy and control

According to current legislation, public higher education institutions (HEI) enjoy autonomy in relation to the state in the areas of administration, finance and assets.

The management of each HEI’s finances and assets is controlled by a single supervisor, under the terms of the law. In addition to this control, the Institute for Financial Management of Education (Instituto de Gestão Financeira da Educação - IGeFE, I.P. ), which is the coordinating body for the budget programme, monitors the implementation of the HEIs budget, as well as ensuring efficient, effective and economical management of resources, and compliance with current legislation. It is also responsible for the overall assessment of the implementation of HEIs policies and results.

HEIs are subject to audits by the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Science, Technology and Higher Education and the Court of Auditors.

Fees within public higher education

Fees are intended to cover part of the operating costs and investments made by HEIs and are charged to all students. They are subject to a legal maximum.

The annual tuition fee, both for technical higher vocational courses and for 1st and 2nd cycle courses, which are a legal requirement for professional practice, is fixed by each higher education institution and range from EUR 495 to EUR 697 (2022/23). Higher education institutions teaching other study cycles are free to set their own tuition fees.

These amounts are charged only to Portuguese students, students coming from EU countries and third countries with bilateral agreements in the area. According to the International Student Statutes, students coming from countries other than these can be charged higher tuition fees that correspond to the real cost of the course.

Differences in the amounts collected in tuition fees depending on the courses/ institutions are decided by each HEI, and payment is made directly to the institution by the student.

For more information, see Chapter 7. Higher Education and the Eurydice Report National Student Fee and Support Systems in European Higher Education 2020-2021.

Financial support for learners' families

Tax benefits for households are provided through the deduction of educational expenses (e.g. tuition fees) regarding the assessment of the respective income tax due. The tax benefit is 30 % of all educational expenses up to a maximum of EUR 800 per year. There may be additional restrictions, depending on the family's total income (tax benefits decrease as total household income increases). On the other hand, there may be an increase in benefit in the case of extra spending on housing for students who live away from home and cannot find a place in a student hall of residence. The basic supplement to away-from-home housing from social support services increased in the academic year 2022/23 to EUR 221.60 (equivalent to 50 % of the social support index).

Since 2020/21, this basic level has been increased by 5% to 15%, depending on the average value per square metre for new rental contracts in the municipality where the higher education institution is located.

Family allowance is granted to families with offspring enrolled in higher education who are under 24 years old if the household income does not exceed 1.5 times the social support index multiplied by 14 (in 2022: EUR 9,307.20) and when family assets are less than 240 times the social support index (in 2022: EUR 106,368.00).

Financial support for learners

Student scholarships can be awarded for social reasons (underprivileged students) or for merit (students with exceptional results, regardless of income).

Eligibility for need based scholarships is determined by the income of the student and their family. These grants depend on tuition fees and vary between EUR 872 and EUR 5,573 per year for the 2022/23 academic year.  

Current policies (see Despatch No. 9276-A/2021, 20 September) broaden the social support base, raising the eligibility threshold, boosting the minimum grant and the away-from-home housing complement according to rents in each municipality, thus adjusting them to students’ real costs of living, extending the automatic award of a scholarship in the first year to beneficiaries of family income brackets 2 and 3, in addition to 1, and creating a new travel supplement for displaced students. In 2022/23, the annual amount of social support scholarships was higher that the previous year (2021/22). In 2022/23, 20 % of first cycle students and 15 % of second cycle students received a social support scholarship.

There are grants for underprivileged students and scholarships specially designed for students abroad. Additional support is given to students who travel to study in less populated regions of Portugal (see +Superior Programme 2022/23, below). Those students studying away from their usual place of residence may be entitled to housing benefit, which is worth up to EUR 221.60. That said, this allowance may reach EUR 288.08 in areas where rents are higher.

Some HEIs offer special support to students suffering financial difficulties resulting from changes to the family’s socioeconomic situation during an academic year. This type of support is not regulated at central level and each HEI decides if and under what conditions it is conceded.

Educational expenses are partially deductible in terms of IRS (income tax) if the student is no longer considered a dependant, applying the same tax deduction rules relevant to families.  

For students with special educational needs who receive a social action scholarship, in addition to regular housing support, there are supplements for specific expenses regarding products and services. There are also attendance grants for students with disabilities equal to or greater than 60 %, which are not means tested and match the cost of attendance fees, to a maximum set by law.

During the academic year 2022/23 the financial support granted to these students totalled the attendance fees paid, up to a maximum of EUR 2 750 per year.

For the 2022/23 academic year, merit grants are set at EUR 3,525 per year. The number of merit scholarships that each institution can award is previously determined as one scholarship for every 500 students. To be eligible, students must have completed all the academic requirements of the previous year and achieved good results (more than 16 on a scale of 0-20).

+Superior 2022/2023 Programme

By providing mobility grants, the +Superior Programme aims to encourage and support higher education attendance in regions of the country with lower take-up and less demographic pressure by economically deprived students, who usually reside in other regions.

The programme regulations for the academic year 2022/23 (approved by Despatch No 9726-A/2022 (2.ª Série), 5 August) extends the programme to all eligible students, without the need for selection, and no longer establishes the number of new grants available per region.

In total, the programme involves 16 public higher education institutions and their initial training courses (higher vocational technical courses, undergraduate study cycles and integrated master's degree cycles).

Each +Superior Programme scholarship is EUR 1,700 (amount allocated annually).

For students in higher vocational technical courses, and those applying for the special system to attend higher education for those over 23 years of age, the scholarship awarded is 15 % more.

The following regions and HEIs are covered: Alentejo region (Universidade de Évora; Instituto Politécnico de Portalegre; Instituto Politécnico de Beja; Instituto Politécnico de Santarém); Algarve region (Universidade do Algarve); Centro region (Instituto Politécnico de Castelo Branco; Instituto Politécnico da Guarda; Universidade da Beira Interior; Instituto Politécnico de Tomar; Instituto Politécnico de Viseu); Norte region (Instituto Politécnico de Viana do Castelo; Universidade de Trás-os-Montes e Alto Douro; Instituto Politécnico de Bragança); Azores autonomous region (Universidade dos Açores); Madeira autonomous region (Universidade da Madeira).

For more information, see Cubchapter 3.3 Higher Education Funding.

More detailed information regarding student support can be found on the Directorate-General for Higher Education (Direção-Geral do Ensino Superior - DGES) website.

National Higher Education Accommodation Plan (PNAES)

The National Higher Education Accommodation Plan (PNAES) is one of the ongoing higher education reforms associated with recovery and resilience funds. It involves several bodies with important roles in science and higher education, such as local authorities, governing bodies and higher education institutions. In addition to facilitating practical and logistical issues, for entities and students alike, the plan aims to:

- promote access to higher education

- ensure students continue to study once in the higher education system

The government body responsible for this plan provides specific support to cover accommodation expenses to all displaced students in public and private higher education whose families earn the national minimum wage.

The National Higher Education Accommodation Plan is the largest investment ever in student accommodation and the largest investment in higher education buildings in recent decades. The initial allocation of €375 million was boosted with another €72 million for construction and building renovation that will house over 18,000 beds. In 2026 there will be more than 26,000 beds for students. Comparing 2021 and 2026, the number of residences will increase from 157 to 246, and the number of beds from 15,073 to 26,868, an increase of 78% on current capacity.

Student loans

The loan system consists of a line of credit with mutual guarantees for higher education students. It was launched in 2007, suspended in 2015 due to financial constraints, and reactivated in late 2018.

This loan is designed to fund the academic expenses of students who attend or are going to attend higher technical vocational, degree, master's or doctorate courses in Portugal.

The state acts as guarantor and banking institutions are prevented from requesting any other type of complementary/personal/asset guarantee. However, if the amount requested exceeds EUR 15,000, the institution may demand a promissory note, which is equivalent of a promise of payment by the student.

The amount financed varies between EUR 1,000 and EUR 5,000 per course year and cannot exceed EUR 30,000 in total. It is paid in monthly, quarterly, semi-annual, or annual instalments for the duration of the course. After the first year, the grant is dependent on the student’s good use, which is proven via a document issued by the HEI and submitted to the bank.

Other features of higher education student loans:

  • lower interest rates than consumer credit.
  • exemption from certain commissions.
  • longer repayment terms.
  • the student only pays interest during the course, postponing capital repayment.
  • interest is made up of the Euribor swap rate, plus a maximum spread of 1.25 %.
  • no administration or early repayment commissions are charged.
  • lower credit use stamp duty (0.6 % for contracts over five years instead of 2.4 %).

To access this state line of credit, students must prove they have enrolled on a higher education course and sign a declaration committing themselves to continue their studies successfully during the length of the financing contract.

When completing the course (a maximum period of six years), students can opt for an additional grace period of (up to) two more years, during which they only pay interest. After these two phases, students begin to amortise the loan capital during a period that can last up to ten years.

In Portugal, protocols are then signed between the Human Capital Operational Programme (European Social Fund) and domestic banks for loans to students enrolled at different levels of higher education.

Number of loans by education and training level and ISCED for the 2021/2022 academic year

Course/study cycle 2021/2022 ISCED
Short cycle (higher vocational technical course) 19 526  5
First cycle (licenciaturas and specialisations) 271 363  6
Second cycle (master 2nd cycle, integrated master and integrated end master) 117 712  7

Source: Banco Português do Fomento 26/10/2022

Private education

Scholarships for private education students

Private institutions are free to define the allocation of resources within their budgets. A student in private higher education can apply for a scholarship at the HEI they are attending. Any decision is made by the department responsible for social support, usually called social support offices.

Some HEIs have special funds to help students who are ineligible for scholarships. This support may be provided in exchange for the student performing tasks at the institution.

The Directorate-General for Higher Education provides information on the body that analyses grant applications for each private higher education institution.

In addition to the support provided by the state and HEIs, there are some private, not-for-profit institutions that provide scholarships, such as the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation and the Camões Institute.