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The International Education Market in Portugal

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Executive Summary

Canada as a Study and Research Destination

Canada is becoming a popular study destination for Portuguese students, with approximately 440 students having held a valid study permit for 6 months or more in Canada as of December 31, 2017[1]. Canada is seen as a bilingual, multicultural, welcoming and safe country with a high standard of living. Portuguese also perceive Canada as a country with a stable economy, high quality education system and low unemployment rate.

People-to-people links between Canada and Portugal are vibrant and continue to underpin the bilateral relationship between both countries. The Portuguese community in Canada is estimated at approximately half a million, with a majority coming originally coming from the Azores.  Portuguese-Canadians live mainly in the greater Toronto and Montreal areas, with significant communities in Winnipeg, Vancouver and the Ottawa-Gatineau region. In fact, there are more than 20,000 dual nationals living in the Azores. An estimated 70% of the Azorean population has strong family ties within Canada.

Based on a large-scale mobility study[2] conducted by the European Union (EU), the most important considerations for Portuguese students to embark on an international study experience to live abroad and develop their soft skills.  However, the financial resources required to study overseas are also a crucial factor when it comes to decision-making. English and French are respectively the first and second most valued foreign languages in the Portuguese workplace. In comparison to other EU countries, Portuguese are known to have a strong understanding of foreign languages; English in particular.

Canada is regarded as an attractive destination in terms of employment prospects, with most international students making study abroad decisions based on the institution’s reputation and post-graduation employment opportunities. According to Portugal’s National Institute of Statistics, in the first trimester of 2018, the youth unemployment rate was 21.9%. Although it was still a high rate, it was recorded as the lowest figure since 2011. Portuguese students are cognisant of the fact that international student mobility programs can have a positive impact on their professional life and careers.

There are three main challenges for Portuguese students who may choose to study in Canada: geographical distance, visa requirements and higher tuition fees compared to other EU member-states. The majority of prospective Portuguese students looking to study abroad tend to select Western European countries as their study abroad destination based on significantly lower travel costs and tuition fees. In addition, there are no visa requirements to study within the EU.

The main influencers when determining an international study destination are normally the students themselves and their parents.

While the number of Portuguese students studying in Canada is relatively modest, it has shown moderate growth over recent years. International student numbers from Portugal went from 250 students in 2010 to 440 students in Canada as of December 31, 2017.

The various existing bilateral exchange programs between Canadian and Portuguese higher education institutions also play an important role in promoting Canada’s education offer to Portuguese, coupled with Canada’s favorable exchange rate. For instance, there are two successful student mobility programs between, McGill University and Universidade Católica de Lisboa and, Polytechnique Montréal and Instituto Superior Técnico de Lisboa, respectively. Under Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC)’s newly signed International Experience Canada program (May 2018), 2,000 Canadian and Portuguese youths between the ages of 18 and 35 are eligible to obtain a two year-long authorization to travel and gain work experience in each other’s country on an annual basis. The promotion of the program is expected to start at end of 2018.

For a full copy of the market profile, please contact the International Education Division at

[1] IRCC Study Permit Applications, CICEDW (EDW) as of December 2017

[2] The Erasmus Impact Study Regional Analysis

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