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Portugal:National Reforms in Higher Education

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Overview Portugal


Portugal:Political, Social and Economic Background and Trends

Portugal:Historical Development

Portugal:Main Executive and Legislative Bodies

Portugal:Population: Demographic Situation, Languages and Religions

Portugal:Political and Economic Situation

Portugal:Organisation and Governance

Portugal:Fundamental Principles and National Policies

Portugal:Lifelong Learning Strategy

Portugal:Organisation of the Education System and of its Structure

Portugal:Organisation of Private Education

Portugal:National Qualifications Framework

Portugal:Administration and Governance at Central and/or Regional Level

Portugal:Administration and Governance at Local and/or Institutional Level

Portugal:Statistics on Organisation and Governance

Portugal:Funding in Education

Portugal:Early Childhood and School Education Funding

Portugal:Higher Education Funding

Portugal:Adult Education and Training Funding

Portugal:Early Childhood Education and Care

Portugal:Organisation of Programmes for Children under 3 years

Portugal:Teaching and Learning in Programmes for Children under 3 years

Portugal:Assessment in Programmes for Children under 3 years

Portugal:Organisation of Programmes for Children over 3 years

Portugal:Teaching and Learning in Programmes for Children over 3 years

Portugal:Assessment in Programmes for Children over 3 years

Portugal:Organisational Variations and Alternative Structures in Early Childhood Education and Care

Portugal:Single Structure Education (Integrated Primary and Lower Secondary Education)

Portugal:Organisation of Single Structure Education

Portugal:Teaching and Learning in Single Structure Education

Portugal:Assessment in Single Structure Education

Portugal:Organisational Variations and Alternative Structures in Single Structure Education

Portugal:Upper Secondary and Post-Secondary Non-Tertiary Education

Portugal:Organisation of General Upper Secondary Education

Portugal:Teaching and Learning in General Upper Secondary Education

Portugal:Assessment in General Upper Secondary Education

Portugal:Organisation of Vocational Upper Secondary Education

Portugal:Teaching and Learning in Vocational Upper Secondary Education

Portugal:Assessment in Vocational Upper Secondary Education

Portugal:Organisation of Post-Secondary Non-Tertiary Education

Portugal:Teaching and Learning in Post-Secondary Non-Tertiary Education

Portugal:Assessment in Post-Secondary Non-Tertiary Education

Portugal:Higher Education

Portugal:Types of Higher Education Institutions

Portugal:First Cycle Programmes


Portugal:Short-Cycle Higher Education

Portugal:Second Cycle Programmes

Portugal:Programmes outside the Bachelor and Master Structure

Portugal:Third Cycle (PhD) Programmes

Portugal:Adult Education and Training

Portugal:Distribution of Responsibilities

Portugal:Developments and Current Policy Priorities

Portugal:Main Providers

Portugal:Main Types of Provision

Portugal:Validation of Non-formal and Informal Learning

Portugal:Teachers and Education Staff

Portugal:Initial Education for Teachers Working in Early Childhood and School Education

Portugal:Conditions of Service for Teachers Working in Early Childhood and School Education

Portugal:Continuing Professional Development for Teachers Working in Early Childhood and School Education

Portugal:Initial Education for Academic Staff in Higher Education

Portugal:Conditions of Service for Academic Staff Working in Higher Education

Portugal:Continuing Professional Development for Academic Staff Working in Higher Education

Portugal:Initial Education for Teachers and Trainers Working in Adult Education and Training

Portugal:Conditions of Service for Teachers and Trainers Working in Adult Education and Training

Portugal:Continuing Professional Development for Teachers and Trainers Working in Adult Education and Training

Portugal:Management and Other Education Staff

Portugal:Management Staff for Early Childhood and School Education

Portugal:Staff Involved in Monitoring Educational Quality for Early Childhood and School Education

Portugal:Education Staff Responsible for Guidance in Early Childhood and School Education

Portugal:Other Education Staff or Staff Working with Schools

Portugal:Management Staff for Higher Education

Portugal:Other Education Staff or Staff Working in Higher Education

Portugal:Management Staff Working in Adult Education and Training

Portugal:Other Education Staff or Staff Working in Adult Education and Training

Portugal:Quality Assurance

Portugal:Quality Assurance in Early Childhood and School Education

Portugal:Quality Assurance in Higher Education

Portugal:Quality Assurance in Adult Education and Training

Portugal:Educational Support and Guidance

Portugal:Special Education Needs Provision within Mainstream Education

Portugal:Separate Special Education Needs Provision in Early Childhood and School Education

Portugal:Support Measures for Learners in Early Childhood and School Education

Portugal:Guidance and Counselling in Early Childhood and School Education

Portugal:Support Measures for Learners in Higher Education

Portugal:Guidance and Counselling in Higher Education

Portugal:Support Measures for Learners in Adult Education and Training

Portugal:Guidance and Counselling in a Lifelong Learning Approach

Portugal:Mobility and Internationalisation

Portugal:Mobility in Early Childhood and School Education

Portugal:Mobility in Higher Education

Portugal:Mobility in Adult Education and Training

Portugal:Other Dimensions of Internationalisation in Early Childhood and School Education

Portugal:Other Dimensions of Internationalisation in Higher Education

Portugal:Other Dimensions of Internationalisation in Adult Education and Training

Portugal:Bilateral Agreements and Worldwide Cooperation

Portugal:Ongoing Reforms and Policy Developments

Portugal:National Reforms in Early Childhood Education and Care

Portugal:National Reforms in School Education

Portugal:National Reforms in Vocational Education and Training and Adult Learning

Portugal:National Reforms in Higher Education

Portugal:National Reforms related to Transversal Skills and Employability

Portugal:European Perspective





Universidade Nova de Lisboa becomes a foundation

The Universidade Nova de Lisboa (UNL) will become a public foundation governed by private law from January 2017, which will grant greater autonomy in managing human and financial resources, such as its own revenues, which will have to be greater than 50% of the total budget.


Digital Repositories Directory

The Digital Repositories Directory reflects the Government's commitment to boosting national scientific production, promoting knowledge, and creating conditions for it to be more easily shared.

It is a platform that aims to become a common reference point for access to material in science and culture in Portugal, thus encouraging the use of digital repositories.


“Ciência Viva” Tours

Continuing its mission to promote scientific culture in Portuguese society, for all sections of the population, with special emphasis on youngsters and people at school, Ciência Viva - Agência Nacional para a Cultura Científica e Tecnológica launched the “Ciência Viva” Tours in February.

These tours aim to help people discover more about Portugal through the science and culture that surrounds the 20 Ciência Viva Centres in Portugal.


Scholarships in Higher Education become multi-year

The Ministry of Science, Technology and Higher Education has announced that scholarships for higher education students will be granted for the duration of the course, starting in the 2017-2018 academic year. Until now, students had to apply every year for the scholarship, which had a negative impact on many families, due to the uncertainty of approval.

Recognizing this situation as a problem for many disadvantaged families and students, the Government decided that, from now on, there will be only one application for scholarships at   the beginning of the study cycle and that the decision to grant the scholarship will remain valid for the duration of that cycle.


Interface Programme

The Interface Programme aims to enhance Portuguese products via innovation, increased productivity, value creation and the incorporation of technology in the productive processes of domestic companies. It also aims to speed up the transfer of technology from universities to companies, boost product certification, increasing the competitiveness of the Portuguese economy and companies in domestic and international markets.

The programme boasts four major initiatives:

  • Support for Technological Interface Centres (TICs): TICs are bodies that link higher education institutions and companies, focussing on improving products and services and technology transfer. This initiative aims to build the capacities of TICs and companies, especially SMEs, in the areas of R&D and innovation, strengthening the links between bodies within the innovation system and facilitating access to highly-qualified human resources, thus promoting scientific and qualified employment, and increasing access to knowledge;
  • Competitiveness Clusters: clusters knowledge and skills, made up of partnerships and networks that involve companies, business associations, public bodies and institutions, such as non-company research and innovation system bodies;
  • Collaborative Laboratories: The main objective of these laboratories is to define and implement research and innovation geared towards the creation of economic and social value, including the internationalisation of domestic scientific and technological capacity in important areas. It also aims to stimulate scientific employment and R&D activities to improve synergies with higher education institutions, particularly through specialised, vocational or advanced training programmes in close collaboration with social and economic partners;
  • Suppliers' Club: an initiative to help Portuguese companies, especially SMEs, to be part of international value chains, via cooperation with companies that play an important role in them, thus offering better access conditions to markets, technologies and skills.


Higher Education and Science

Presentation of the 2017 State Budget (SB) proposal, whose main priorities in the MCTES’ area are:

  1. Implementing the parliamentary agreement with universities and polytechnics, guaranteeing funding predictability mechanisms: the total budget for higher education increases by 10.5% in 2017, alongside an increase in general revenues (State Budget) for HEIs of 7 % compared to 2016, which totalled €1,072 million.
  2. Consolidating scientific and academic employment by boosting science and technology-based activities in universities and polytechnics, in close coordination with R&D institutions. The FCT's investment budget for scientific employment in 2017 is €55 million, plus funding for scientific institutions and higher education institutions (HEIs).
  3. Improving social support to broaden the potential student population for higher education. The budget for social support grants in ES in 2017 increases by 5% and totals €146 million.
  4. Continuing increased R&D support, which resumed in 2016 after a period in which the scientific system contracted. This includes support for “collaborative laboratories”, which stimulate R&D activity and scientific employment, diversifying and extending sources of funding in close inter-institutional cooperation, as well as the unprecedented launch of a participatory S&T budget that encourages close ties between scientific communities and citizens. The FCT's R&D investment budget totals €498 million in 2017, including €3 million in general revenue (SB) for the participatory S&T budget.

Approval of the +Superior Programme Regulation for the 2016-2017 academic year, which rejigs the programme so that it becomes exclusively for students from economically disadvantaged families, providing a supplement to benefits already guaranteed by direct social support. The programme’s territorial scope is extended, compared to the previous version, and includes NUTS II Algarve, the Autonomous Region of the Azores and the Autonomous Region of Madeira, as well as national funds, with students from these regions receiving mobility support which they were previously excluded from.

Signing the strategic partnership agreement for the creation of the Network of Public Institutions of Polytechnic Higher Education with tourism courses.

Approval of a Council of Ministers Resolution that approved the general guidelines for the internationalization of higher education and science and technology. Various initiatives have been approved that support international dissemination of higher education institutions, thus promoting Portugal as a higher education destination.

Launching public debate on the organization of the S&T system. This will include 10 debate sessions and aims, amongst other things, to discuss the basis for a new legal framework for science and technology institutions.

Launching the “Science and Culture in Higher Education” programme, which funds cultural activities, particularly scientific and technological culture, in conjunction with higher education institutions, R&D units, in order to promote scientific culture projects for students entering higher education.

New rules for Short Cycle Programs

As part of the Bologna Process, Portugal undertook to create an integrated short-cycle of higher education, something that occurred via specific legislation since 2005, namely Law no. 49/2005, 30th August and Decree-Law no. 74/2006, 24th March, subsequently amended  and republished by Decree-Law no. 115/2013, 7th August, which regulates higher education degrees and diplomas.

This legislation created a higher education short cycle within the first cycle, with the possibility of receiving a diploma for completing part of a “Licenciado” degree with at least 120 credits.

However, it was considered that Decree-Law no. 63/2014, 18th March, which regulates the Professional Higher Education Technical Programmes (Cursos Técnicos Superiores Profissionais), boasts characteristics that are not in line with the nature or vocation of a higher education programme and with the autonomy of the institutions that provide them.

Therefore, the Decree-Law no. 63/2016, 13th September, was recently published approving some changes, including:

  1. It is no longer possible to enrol on these programmes if students have only completed the 11th grade;
  2. Changes to the rules that regulate the curriculum organisation of these programmes, with a view to developing and stimulating practice-based research, particularly as a project, and allow internships,  which are never shorter than a semester, can be undertaken throughout the length of the programme;
  3. Changes to the rules that allow the creation of networks between polytechnics and schools that provide professional education at secondary level;
  4. Changes in the members of the follow-up commission of the programmes, which plays an important role in defining the criteria for the programme’s accreditation and assessment .

In addition to this, the new legislation reflects some proposals made in the auditing process, in order to improve some of the norms of the legal framework for degrees and diplomas, in particular:

  1. Clarification of the rules applicable to association courses and the award of degrees and academic title in this context;
  2. the amendment of the rules applicable to juries for the award of Master’s degrees and doctorates in relation to the participation of supervisors;
  3. extending the use of conference call for PhD jury meetings and respective public examination;
  4. improving certain provisions related to the accreditation of qualifications in light of experience of their application.

A small number of technical and terminological adjustments have been made that are essential to ensuring the internal coherence of the diploma after the inclusion of new standards, and its external coherence with the provisions of Law no. 62/2007, 10th September (legal status of higher education institutions) and the terminology adopted in this.

Given a better understanding of vocational training and the removal of artificial barriers to further study, and within the framework of Articles 15 and 16 of the LBSE (Education Act), Decree-Law no. 113/2014, 16th July was amended. This regulates the special access and admission systems to higher education, allowing polytechnics to fix the rules for admission in undergraduate courses of holders of non-higher education post-secondary qualifications and higher professional technical diplomas.

Finally, this legislation updates Decree -Law no. 64/2006, 21st March, as amended by Decree-Law 113/2014, 16th July, which regulates the specially adapted tests to assess the ability of students over 23 to attend higher education.

For this process, the Conselho de Reitores das Universidades Portuguesas (Portuguese University Rectors Council), the Conselho Coordenador dos Institutos Superiores Politécnicos (Polytechnic Coordination Board), the Associação Portuguesa do Ensino Superior Privado (Portuguese Private Higher Education Association) and student unions were all heard.


Stimulating scientific employment in Portugal

Fulfilling its role of investing in knowledge, the Ministry of Science, Technology and Knowledge (MCTES) has just published the Decree Law No. 57/2016, 29th August, which approves a recruitment scheme for PhD holders designed to stimulate scientific and technological employment in all knowledge areas.

In addition to this, within a situation of budgetary demands and restraint, the joint-responsibility of the scientific and academic community and institutions is promoted in the country’s development, particularly via the creation of consortia, encouraging sharing of resources of neighbouring institutions and the generation of revenue by academic and scientific institutions to facilitate the recruitment of young PhDs holders.

In this way, as part of the support for the progressive modernization of the higher education system and consolidating, improving and empowerment of polytechnic education, the aim is to contribute to research activities, emphasizing, among other things, practice-based research to help the country attract highly qualified young people.

The intention is, ultimately, to strengthen the current interface and knowledge transfer centres, including technology and engineering centres, or other types of "Collaborative Laboratories", created and developed to encourage cooperation between scientific and higher education institutions and the productive sector of R & D units.

Alongside the measures now taken, appropriate mechanisms to stimulate the inclusion of PhD holders in the productive sector will be developed as part of the National Reform Programme.


National Reforms Program

One of the Government’s objectives is to implement policies aiming at making Portugal a science, culture and knowledge country. Investment in these areas is envisaged as a collective project for the future of the country, essential to raise the skills of the Portuguese population up to the level of the most developed European countries.

Portugal doesn’t have too much graduates, instead it doesn’t have enough qualified jobs. For this reason, it is important to develop the necessary efforts so make sure that, in 2020, we will attain the goal of 40% of higher education graduates in the age group of 30-34 years old (Europe 2020 Strategy).

Such measures include:

  • Valorisation of the technical professional Higher Education courses («cursos técnicos superiores profissionais» corresponding to the short cycle linked to a first cycle of the Bologna Process), offered by the polytechnic Higher Education institutions, and the redefinition of their graduates admission conditions for first cycle courses;
  • Launching of a widely participated process about joint discussion on the admission system to higher education aiming at, namely, broadening the students’ recruitment base;
  • Encouragement and support for the transformation of public higher education institutions into public foundations under private law (Cf the recent transformation of Minho University (Decree-Law no. 4/2016, of January 13)
  • Approval of the “Commitment with Knowledge and Science: the Commitment with the Future” Agenda, for the years 2016 to 2019. This agenda is designed to create and ensure the maintenance of a system stimulating scientific employment in stable conditions and with professional dignity; for its implementation we foresee the elaboration of an objective-based stable financing framework and a multiannual planning;
  • Starting a Program for the Modernization and Valorisation of Polytechnic Institutes that comprises a stimulus to R&D activities in close cooperation with local partners at the level of (both initial and specialized) short-cycle training, focused on the productive and services sectors;
  • Development, with the higher education institutions, of a mechanism that supports the inclusion of refugees;
  • Implementation of a National Policy of Open Science, aiming at the public and open access to scientific publications and data that result from research financed by public funding;
  • Approval of a Scientific Employment Stimulus Program, including the phased replacement of post-doc scholarships by employment contracts and the renewal of the research staff;
  • Concerning a strategy of qualification reinforcement and scientific development in the area of health:
    • Creation of a National Council of the Clinical Academic Centres, with the purpose of stimulating and supporting the coordinated development of this Centres’ activity. The Clinical Academic Centres integrate medical teaching institutions, hospital centres and research units and have as their main purpose the advance and application of scientific knowledge and evidences in the improvement of health;
    • Creation of a work group for the designing of a development plan of clinical and translational research and of the biomedical research including the creation of a Clinical Research and Biomedical Innovation Agency;
  • Support and stimulus to the creation of consortiums in several fields; one was already created in the field of agricultural and food biotechnology and animal production, encompassing the upgrading and reinforcement of an agricultural research station through the cooperation between higher education institutions, research units and Public Laboratories.
  • Launching of the initiative “Public Participation Laboratories”, in narrow cooperation with the National Agency for Scientific and Technological Culture, Ciência Viva, with the purpose of stimulating public participation on the definition of research and innovation agendas and on the discussion of public policies for science and technology and for the dissemination of knowledge;
  • Restructuring of the assessment methodology of R&D units; the workgroup Evaluation of Science and Technology was created for this purpose, with the mission of identifying the guidelines for the principles and good practices in the evaluation of science and technology to be adopted by the Science and Technology Foundation within the evaluation program that will be undertaken in 2017;
  • Launching of a plan for administrative rationalization, bureaucracy removal and procedures simplification in all R&D and higher education institutions, integrated in the wider Simplex 2016 program;
  • Joint effort to launch a “Knowledge for Development Initiative”; this initiative has already relaunched the “GLOBAL Science” Program, which aims at facilitating national involvement in the capacitation of researchers from African Portuguese speaking countries.


Recognizing the importance of the population’s qualification levels for the country’s sustainable development, one of the government’s main objectives has been reducing rates of early school dropouts, improving education and training levels for young people and adults and to improve the workforce’s skills in Portugal.

Portugal has made efforts to change the skills profile of its workforce. The proportion of higher education graduates has more than doubled in the last 12 years, which is a good indication of the results obtained by Portugal as part of its education policy.

According to Eurostat data, the percentage of the population with higher education qualifications (or equivalent) in the 30-34 age group increased in 2013 to 30% (in 2000 it was 11.3% and in 2012 it was 27.2%).

The Government highlights its commitment to the Europe 2020 Strategy objectives to combat skills shortages in relation to its European partners.

In relation to higher education, a set of guidelines for the reform of higher education has been defined and presented to the Higher Education Institutions and public in general.