The Portuguese are increasingly willing to study in Poland. In the past five years, their number at Polish universities has increased twelve times.
For many decades, members of the Portuguese elite send their children to foreign universities. While once they were primarily choosing universities in France, Great Britain, the United States or Switzerland, today the Portuguese are more often turning to the countries of Central and Eastern Europe.
According to the Polish ambassador in Lisbon Bronisław Misztal, increasing number of students going to the east of Europe it is not only the result of the Portuguese elite expanding in recent years, but also the fact that the former communist block countries have become a very attractive destination.
“Educational offer prepared by the Czech Republic has been very popular in Portugal for a few years. Our southern neighbours actively recruit here for their universities, particularly medical and agricultural colleges” – ambassador Misztal told PAP.
Poland is currently one of the most popular study destinations for young people from Portugal. While in 2009/2010 only 23 citizens of this Iberian country studied in Poland, now there are already nearly 300.
President of the Educational Foundation “Perspektywy” Waldemar Siwiński reminded that, according to statistics, alongside the Spaniards and Turks, the Portuguese are today the fastest growing group of foreigners studying in Poland. He noted that the growing popularity of studying on the Vistula among the Portuguese may be due to the similarities between the two nations.
“It seems to me that we are similar to each other mentally. Our national identity draws from Catholicism, we both have an experience of the struggle for democracy and living in an authoritarian regime. In addition, the Portuguese know that in some way we are – like their country – a country on the periphery of the European Union. Perhaps for these reasons, they feel at home here, more than for example in France or Germany” – Siwiński told PAP.
In his opinion, there is also a relationship between the expansion of Portuguese companies to the Polish market and the growing popularity of studying in Poland.
“We are now better perceived by Portuguese students and their parents. They probably assume that since the Portuguese companies operating in Poland have managed to achieve great results, they too will have a chance to succeed. And this is actually within reach, because both Portuguese companies and other international companies are willing to hire students with experience in life in Eastern Europe” – added Siwiński.
Both experts and students themselves admit that the growing popularity of Poland among the Portuguese youth stems from its attractive aspects: proximity, low cost of living and relatively cheap educational offer.
“Students go to study abroad not only for education, but also to be able to explore and have an interesting life. Things young people take into account in their calculations include the cost of living and pleasures, even such trivial issues as the average price of alcohol. Poland is attractive in this respect. A Portuguese student arriving from western end of the continent is close to everywhere: London, Stockholm, Vienna or Berlin. Studying in Poland is easy to combined with travelling” – explained Bronisław Misztal.
Twenty years old Joao from Lisbon, who has already been in Poland on Erasmus program, shares this opinion.
“This time I plan to study medicine, a very popular field at Portuguese universities. From the initial search I know that for a month of full time studies at one of the Polish medical schools I will have to pay about a thousand euros. Getting accepted to this course in Poland is easier than in Portugal, where only the best have a chance” – the student told PAP.
The Portuguese are scattered among Polish universities. Their number is highest at the Wroclaw University of Technology (17 persons), Poznan University of Medical Sciences (15), Kozminski University (15) and Opole University of Technology (14).
Ambassador Misztal expects that before the new academic year the number of students from Portugal will significantly increase at Polish universities. This should be the outcome of great interest in the Polish stand during the March educational fair Futuralia in Lisbon.
“This year we were one of the biggest exhibitors at the event. We were represented by 13 universities, offering a good product, program in English. In Portugal, Poland today is a direct competitor of the Czech Republic. I believe that we can successfully recruit students here especially for technical universities, economic colleges, as well as traditional universities offering niche fields of study that have either been closed or never developed here” – said the ambassador.