Why You Should Study at Leiria Polytechnic

Why You Should Study at Leiria Polytechnic


A quick glance around the picturesque university campuses and the reasons to study at the Polytechnic Institute of Leiria become startlingly obvious - there are that many. From the facilities and exemplary standard of teaching, to the climate, landscape and opportunity to surf, the list really is exhaustive. It seems sensible, though, to start with the history-steeped city itself, Leiria, as it here that most of the university buildings are based, and it is here that you’ll probably end up spending most of your time.


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In this article:

The History

Situated in Portugal’s Beiras region, the city of Leiria has a fascinating history, acting in the Middle Ages as one of Christendom’s most southern frontiers. In 1135, King Afonso Henriques captured it from the Moors during the Reconquista. Strategically located, it was then utilised as a base from which further incursions into Muslim territory could be conducted. For the next 50 years it witnessed fierce fighting between Christian and Muslim forces, as the monotheisms vied for Iberian supremacy. The fortunes of the city’s famous castle characterise the time well, ransacked and rebuilt as it was, over and over. Dom Sancho I finally established Portuguese rule at the end of the 12th century, with the king awarding the town a charter in 1195, consolidating its colonisation. A period of relative stability then ensued, during which the city hosted a series of Cortes (feudal parliaments), marking the first time in Portuguese history that common people were given the opportunity to express opinion in a formalised political context - democracy was, rather timidly, beginning to stretch its legs.

The City

To this day, Leiria Castle remains the town’s focal point; keeping watch over the busied cobbled streets and Romanesque facades below. Its current aesthetic owes partial thanks to monarchs, Dom Dinis and Queen Isabel of Aragon, who chose it for their summer residence, sprucing it up in the process, and successor King João I who added the Gothic aspects still visible. Since then it has endured two more major constructions leaving it with a heterogeneous mixture of architectural styles that somehow integrate to make an absorbing and coherent whole - the city’s inimitable protector.

At the foot of the hill lies the much-adored town centre, a labyrinth of ancient, cobbled streets - the life-blood of the town - linking sights such as the church of São Pedro, built in the 12th century, and the town’s Cathedral, whose altar boasts artwork from the 17th century. At its heart is the Rodrigues Lobo Square, a medieval plaza offering the best of al fresco life, and probably worth a visit for its ornate pavement alone. Cafés, restaurants, and craft shops – the region is particularly well known for its glassworks – spill out onto the streets, and in the summer the square comes alive with celebratory cheer, hosting many of the region’s cultural events and shows.

In this sense, the city actually provides a healthy mix of new and old culture – perhaps unsurprising given its history – its castles and churches comfortably rubbing shoulders with cinemas, libraries and designer shops, all conveniently within walking distance from one another. Together they contribute to the city’s unusual atmosphere that is at once relaxing and slow-paced, whilst also feeling charged and stimulating - a seductive cocktail that will have you hooked after its first sip.

The Surrounding Area

Drift down the coast a little further and you’ll stumble into Caldas da Rainha, a thermal town that houses the School of Art and Design, and a place where imagination is celebrated as king. Creativity and irreverence pervade the city, which has been an artistic hub since the 19th century, and is still referred to as ‘the capital of Portuguese pottery’. Besides its mastery in ceramics, highlights include an array of impressive museums covering the arts, and a weekly farmer’s market that draws people from across the region.

A 20km drive west of Leiria and one encounters the Atlantic Ocean, myriad sandy beaches, and great surf. Closest to Leiria, is the serene cliffside town São Pedro de Moel, or, if you head an hour further south, you'll find Peniche. Both represent an easy and invigorating weekend away if being inland has got you yearning for some sea breeze.

The University

As university campuses go, you’ll do well to find something more idyllic than Leiria, such is its setting, climate and culture. But what of the actual university itself, it’s schools, and it’s courses? Well, its headquarters and three of its campuses lie in the capital - the School of Education and Social Sciences (ESECS), the School of Technology and Management (ESTG) and the School of Health (ESSLei). As mentioned, a little further south in the town of Caldas da Rainha, you’ll find the School of Arts and Design (ESAD.CR), and in Peniche - the most western city in Europe - the School of Tourism and Maritime Technology (ESTM) is located. Across the 5 campuses are more than 130 high tech laboratories - all equipped with the latest technology - and multiple state-of-the-art research units, like the CETEMARES and CDRS buildings. Together, these have allowed the  Leiria district to stay at the forefront of scientific research.

Between the three schools situated in the town of Leiria, programs as diverse as Engineering, Technology, Sports, and Legal Sciences are all on offer. Meaning, no matter your interest or academic background, the likelihood is that Leiria has something for you. Those with employment in mind will appreciate the vocational and multidisciplinary focus that runs through all of the degrees and makes them an ideal start to your career. And those requiring flexibility in their studies will also be reassured that many of the courses offer evening classes allowing one to work simultaneously.

The Costs

You’d be forgiven for thinking that all this would come at a price, maybe a prohibitive one, but it doesn’t. Leiria Polytechnic has, in fact, some of Portugal’s most affordable tuition fees, averaging just €1,150 per year, while elsewhere in the country fees can be up to €5,000. Living costs are also very affordable, one can survive easily on around €700 per month, a figure unimaginable in many other European countries. The Leiria region, too, is thriving, currently experiencing high levels of employability in engineering, tourism, fisheries, the biotech industry, and many other areas. Meaning, whether looking for light work during your studies, or a serious job after, Leiria has much to offer. The university itself has a number of high-profile industry partnerships, including with Cisco, Oracle, and Siemens, who offers diligent students the chance of work experience, and in some cases post-study employment


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