Portugal is one of the oldest nations in Europe. The nation has maintained its independence and national boundaries since the 13th century. Historically, Portugal was a pioneer of worldwide exploration, renowned for discovery of the ocean routes to India, Brazil, China and Japan. Settlements were founded on both the east and west coasts of Africa and throughout South America. Portuguese is currently one of the world's most-spoken languages, as Brazil, Angola, Mozambique and other former Portuguese territories that total more than 200 million speakers.
Lisbon, one of the Europe's greatest harbors and Portugal’s capital city, offers a blend of architecture, culture and history in an unpretentious cityscape. The Alfama, a densely populated medieval neighborhood, is crowned by the Castle of São Jorge, the royal residence until the 16th century. From the mountainous North Portugal to the plains of South Portugal, the sea is never far. And because of its cosmopolitan nature, it is filled with top-notch universities staffed by impressive faculty. A land of extraordinary variety and culture, Portugal is arguably one of the most rewarding travel and study abroad destinations in Europe.
Speaking of medieval history, Portugal boasts one of the world's oldest universities, the University of Coimbra, founded in 1290. More than seven centuries on, there are 15 public universities including the University of Porto which is Portugal's largest with 28,000 enrolled students, and several private universities.
The Portuguese higher education system is relatively uncomplicated, divided as it is into universities, polytechnics and higher education institutions, and there are public and private versions of each. The universities tend to offer theoretical and research-based courses such as medicine, law and economics, while both universities and polytechnics offer more practical courses such as engineering, education and humanities. Nursing and accountancy are among those only offered in polytechnics.