Portugal

RegionSouthern Europe
CapitalLisbon
LanguagePortuguese
Population10,276,617
Expenditure on higher education1,8 %
Unemployment7,7 %
EuroUniversities in top 1001
EuroUniversities in top 2504
EuroUniversities in top 50011
EuroUniversities in top 100028
Students376,010
Foreigner students7,9 %
Enrollment rate in higher education64,2 %

Portugal is a country located mostly on the Iberian Peninsula, in southwestern Europe. One of the 21st Government’s objectives is to implement policies that make Portugal a science, culture and knowledge society. Investment in these areas is envisaged as a collective project for the future of the country, essential to improve the Portuguese population’s skills to the level of the most developed European countries.

Such measures include:

  • Promotion of vocational and technical higher education courses (cursos técnicos superiores profissionais – CTeSP), which correspond to a short cycle linked to a first cycle of the Bologna Process), offered by the polytechnic higher education institutions (HEIs), and the redefinition of graduate admission criteria for first cycle courses;
  • Launch of a widely-participated process regarding joint discussion on the higher education admission system to broaden the student recruitment base;
  • Approval of the “Commitment to Knowledge and Science: Commitment to the Future” Agenda, between 2016 and 2019. This agenda is designed to create and maintain a system that encourages stable scientific employment with proper working conditions;
  • Start of a Programme for the Modernisation and Promotion of Polytechnic Institutes, which comprises a stimulus to R&D activities in close cooperation with local partners at the level of (both initial and specialised) short-cycle training, focussed on the productive and services sectors;
  • Development of a mechanism that supports the inclusion of refugees with the aid of higher education institutions;
  • Implementation of a National Policy of Open Science that focusses on public and open access to scientific publications and data resulting from research financed by public funding;
  • Approval of a Scientific Employment Stimulus Programme, including the phased replacement of post-doc scholarships with employment contracts and the rejuvenation of research staff;
  • A strategy to improve qualifications and scientific development in the area of health:
    • ​Creation of a National Council of Clinical Academic Centres to stimulate and support the coordinated development of their work;
    • Creation of a working group to design a development plan for clinical and translational research, as well as biomedical research, including the creation of a Clinical Research and Biomedical Innovation Agency;
  • Support and creation of consortiums in several fields via cooperation between higher education institutions, research units and public laboratories;
  • Launch of “Public Participation Laboratories” initiative, in close cooperation with the National Agency for Scientific and Technological Culture, Ciência Viva;
  • Restructuring of assessment methodology used for R&D units. The Evaluation of Science and Technology working group was created for this purpose, identifying guidelines to be adopted by the Science and Technology Foundation as part of the 2017 assessment programme (principles and good practices);
  • Launch of a plan to rationalise administrative, reduce bureaucracy and simplify procedures in all R&D and higher education institutions;
  • A joint effort to launch a “Knowledge for Development Initiative”, which is in the process of rebooting “GLOBAL Science”. This programme facilitates national involvement in boosting the skills of researchers from Portuguese-speaking countries in Africa.

Organization of the higher education system

Portuguese higher education includes the university and polytechnic systems.

The  Education Act (Law No. 46/86, 14th October), amended by Laws 115/97, 19th September49/2005, 30th August and 85/2009, 27th August, establishes, via the 2005 amendment, the adoption of the three study cycle model that leads to three types of academic degrees – Licenciatura (1st Cycle degree programme) Mestrado (2nd Cycle degree programme) and Doutoramento (3rd Cycle degree programme).

It also establishes the need to create conditions that provides access to lifelong learning for all citizens.

In pursuit of those goals, the legal system for higher education degrees and diplomas was approved by Decree-Law No. 74/2006, 24th March, and later amended by Decrees-Law No. 107/2008, 25th JuneNo. 230/2009, 14th September and No. 115/2013, 7th August and Decree-Law No. 65/2018, 16th August.

The adoption of tools for the creation of the European Higher Education Area, in particular the ECTS credit system and the Diploma Supplement, had been established with the approval of Decree-Law 42/2005, 22nd February, later amended by Decree Law No. 107/2008, 25th June.

According to this legislation, the academic year can be organised into years, semesters, terms or another form.

In any of these cases, a full-time academic year is between 1,500 and 1,680 hours, which is the equivalent to between 36 and 40 weeks.

Institutions are autonomous and decide all teaching and holiday periods.

Typically, the first semester begins in the second or third week of September and ends in the second or third week of December; the second semester starts in the second week of February and finishes at the end of May. The second semester typically has a two- to four-day interruption for Carnival (usually at the end of February) and a one-week interruption for Easter (mid-April).

The assessment calendar is set by the legal body provided for in the statutes, after consultation with the scientific or technical-scientific council and the pedagogical council. Normally there are two examinations periods: the first between the end of December and the first week of February; the second between the beginning of June and the end of July.

As a complement to Decree-Law No. 74/2006, the Agency for Assessment and Accreditation of Higher Education (Agência de Avaliação e Acreditação do Ensino Superior – A3ES) was created via Decree-Law No. 369/2007, 5th November and is an independent body responsible for assessing and accrediting higher education institutions and their study cycles as part of higher education quality assurance system.

The legal framework for higher education assessment applied by the A3ES is approved by Law No. 38/2007, 16th August.

The study cycles leading to academic degrees lacks accreditation by the Agency for Assessment and Accreditation of Higher Education and subsequent registration with the Directorate General for Higher Education. This registration implies general validity of the degree(s) granted.

Law No. 62/2007, 10th September, establishes the legal framework for higher education institutions, regulating their creation, duties and organization, the operation and responsibilities of their different bodies and even the overseeing and supervision by the State, as part of its autonomy.

The general access and enrolment system in higher education is established by Decree-Law No. 296-A / 98, 25th September, in the wording of Decree-Law No. 90/2008, 30th May, amended by Declaration of Rectification No. 32-C / 2008, 16th June.

There are special enrolment processes regulated by Decree-Law No. 113/2014, 16th July, amended by Decree-Law No. 63/2016, 13th September, which are designed for candidates with particular academic achievement profiles, such as:

• Students who have passed exams ministered to assess the ability to attend higher education of those students over 23;

• Holders of a technological specialisation diploma;

• Holders of a Technical Higher Education diploma;

• Holders of other higher education qualifications.

Law No. 37/2003, 22nd August, establishes the funding basis of higher education, which is based in a three-way relationship between State and the HEIs, the Students and HEIs, and the State and the Students. This Law was altered by Law No. 49/2005, 30th August, by Law No. 62/2007, 10th September, by Law No. 7-A / 2016 of 30th March, by Law No. 42/2016 of 28th December, by Law No. 68/2017 of 9th August, by Law No. 114 / 2017, of 29th December, and by Law No. 75/2019, of 2nd September.

As part of the amendment of Decree-Law No. 74/2006, 24th March, by Decree-Law No. 63/2016, 13th September, the rules governing vocational and technical higher education were incorporated into the legal framework for higher education degrees and diplomas. This is because the technical higher education diploma granted by these courses is a higher education diploma.

Foreign student statute

International students can access undergraduate studies and integrated Master’s studies  through a special access application (Decree-Law no. 36/2014, 10th March, amended and republished by Decree-Law No. 62/2018, 6th August).

The current International Student Statute, which facilitates access to Portuguese higher education for foreign students, enables HEIs to charge fees above the threshold fixed by law for Portuguese students.

These students will be admitted exclusively through the above mentioned special application. Candidates can apply if they have a diploma that allows access to higher education in the country where it was obtained, or if they have completed Portuguese upper-secondary education or an equivalent study cycle.

Students admitted in this new application will not be considered for state higher education funding. However, in accordance with the laws governing the financing of higher education, state institutions may set different fees, taking into account the actual cost of the training course.

The approval of this legislation does not affect the special arrangements for access and admission to higher education for scholarship students from African Portuguese-speaking countries, within the framework of cooperation agreements signed by the Portuguese State.

It is important to note that this legislation is part of the strategy of internationalization of higher education.

For further information about ongoing reforms on Higher Education see Subchapter 14.4 National Reforms in Higher Education.

Bachelor

Bachelor’s degree

Branches of study

The bachelor’s degree (licenciado) is awarded at universities and polytechnics and corresponds to level 6 of the National Qualifications Framework (Quadro Nacional de Qualificações – QNQ) and the European Qualifications Framework.

In university education, the study cycle leading to a licenciado degree has 180 to 240 ECTS credits and normally lasts between six and eight semesters. When establishing the number of credits, similar figures are used to benchmark institutions of this type of education in Europe in the same scientific areas.

In university education, the scientific areas that have more licenciado degrees are social sciences, business and law, arts and humanities and the sciences, mathematics and computer science, while polytechnics tend to offer studies in the areas of health and social work, followed by social sciences, as well as engineering, manufacturing and construction.

In polytechnic education, this cycle of studies has 180 credits and normally lasts six semesters or, exceptionally, when it is mandatory to grant access to a specific professional activity, 240 credits and a time span of up to seven or eight semesters.

In polytechnic education the study cycle that leads to a licenciado degree should emphasise training focussed on professional practice.

Admission requirements

Admission to the licenciado degree study cycle requires that candidates satisfy the following conditions:

  • Having passed a upper secondary education course or legally equivalent domestic or foreign qualification;
  • having passed the entrance exams required for the course with a grade equal or higher than the established minimum (generally, these exams can be substituted for foreign upper secondary education exams);
  • satisfying the pre-requisites for the course applied for (only applicable in certain study areas, such as the arts or health);
  • not to be covered by international student status.

In addition to the general access system, there is also a special application for candidates with specific characteristics that allow new sections of the population to have access higher education, extending the rationale of lifelong learning to such institutions:

  • Adults over 23 years old who have passed exams attesting to their capacity to attend higher education;
  • holders of a technical higher education diploma;
  • holders of a technological specialisation diploma;
  • holders of other HE diplomas.

The number of places available for each course is established annually by higher education institutions (HEIs).

Applications for public higher education via the general access system occurs annually through a national application system organised by the Directorate-General for Higher Education.

Applications for private higher education via the general access system occur through institutional applications organised by each HEI.

The application procedure for higher education (selection criteria, evaluation of capacity to attend, and ranking of applicants for higher education) is monitored by the National Commission on Access to Higher Education (Comissão Nacional de Acesso ao Ensino Superior – CNAES).

Within the established legal limits their own procedures, HEIs credit the following aspects for degree courses:

  • education provided in other HE cycles or non-degree courses in domestic or foreign HEIs;
  • education acquired on specialised technological courses;
  • stand-alone courses;
  • duly proven professional experience and other training.

Within the yearly process of setting the number of available places for new students in higher education (1st cycle), specific guidelines have been rendered in order to achieve the above-mentioned objectives, namely the limitations of places in HEIs.

These guidelines constrain the number of available places in 1st cycle courses for which demand has been extremely reduced in the previous 2 years and which have been shown to lead to limited employment opportunities.

Specific criteria and objectives will continue to be set for the funding of higher education, which will impact the drawing up of curricula and the development of innovative content. These will lead to a shorter gap between what graduates can offer and the demands and needs of the country, in turn leading to better levels of employability.

Curriculum

HEIs have the scientific and pedagogical autonomy to create their own study cycles, draft the respective curricula and define the subject of course units.

For the study cycle leading to a bachelor’s (licenciado) degree in basic education, the training components are legally established, as are the aims and the relative weight of each.

The study cycles leading to a licenciado degree in the areas of nursing, health technologies and non-conventional therapies are also bound to a particular structure and legally established content.

The education provided, in terms of scientific level, is one of the parameters of the quality assessment process regarding the study cycles applied by the Agency for Assessment and Accreditation of Higher Education.

HEIs can decide to use foreign languages, partially or entirely, in the teaching of their study cycles, as well as for writing project work and internship reports.

Teaching methods

HEIs, as part of their pedagogical autonomy, are competent to determine the teaching methods used in the cycle of studies that leads to the degree of Licenciado.

With the implementation of the legal regime pursuant to the Bologna Process there has been a transition from an education system based on the transmission of knowledge, to a system based on the development of student competences, where the experimental components or project work, among others, and the acquisition of multi-purpose competences, play decisive roles.

The number of students’ working hours includes various forms of work such as contact hours and hours dedicated to internships, projects, field work, studies and evaluations. Contact hours include the time used in collective training sessions, namely in classrooms, laboratories or field work, and in private tutorial sessions.

Since the implementation of ECTS credit system, there have been several changes, such as:

  • The workload of the students in this system is the time required to complete all planned learning activities such as lectures, seminars, individual study, preparation of projects, examinations, etc.;
  • the teacher’s role goes beyond the physical space of the classroom and starts to assume functions of guiding, supporting and supportive;
  • libraries, laboratories, etc., are considered excellent places for learning;
  • access to information – written, oral, internet, …– and the ability to select, organize and synthesize, assumes a great importance;
  • allows flexibility in the training pathways.

Progression of students

Passing the year, the precedence and validity system in the study cycle that leads to a Licenciado degree are the responsibility of the relevant bodies of the HEI.

In public higher education, given that institution’s financing takes into account the academic success of its students, the right to enrol on public higher education courses is suspended for a period of time for those who do not fulfil certain requirements of educational attainment.

HEIs allow their students to enrol and attend their study cycles on a part-time basis and are responsible for regulations regarding conditions for enrolment, the fee system and the validity regime, which should result in proportional application of general rules.

Employability

Within the context of social responsibility, as stipulated in the legal framework governing their operation, HEIs should support their graduates’ entry into working life, collecting and disseminating information on the employment of its graduates, in addition to information on their career paths.

HEIs use a variety of strategies to do this, often via the creation of career guidance offices, focussing primarily on the employment and entrepreneurship of young graduates, thus creating a network connected to the world of work.

Every year, HEIs draft and publish a report which details, amongst other aspects, the employability of their graduates.

The level of employability of the graduates is one of the parameters of the quality assessment process of the study cycles considered by the Agency for Assessment and Accreditation of Higher Education.

Student assessment

The rules regarding the assessment system are approved by the HEIs’ competent bodies, as part of their pedagogic autonomy.

There are several types of student assessment, used in isolation or combined, for example: oral and/or written essays; examinations; tests; theses; reports on traineeships/ and/or fieldwork, ongoing assessment, with the possibility of quantitative or qualitative notation.

Assessment processes, as a parameter of quality assessment of study cycles, are presented to Agency for Assessment and Accreditation of Higher Education regarding accreditation.

Certification

The bachelor (licenciado) degree is awarded to those who have obtained the fixed number of credits, after concluding all the units that are part of the licenciatura course.

The degree has a final classification between 10 and 20 (pass) on a numerical scale of 0 to 20, as well as its equivalent in the European scale of comparability of classifications.

The final grade is the weighted arithmetic mean of the classifications obtained on the course units.

The degree awarded is registered by the relevant HEI body, the holder certified and a certificate issued. For students who request it, a course certificate (carta de curso) may be issued by the HEI.

Documents that certify an academic degree may be multilingual, although the reference to degrees and diplomas must be made in Portuguese.

The diploma is issued alongside a bilingual diploma supplement in Portuguese and English.

Second Cycle Programmes

Branches of study

The Master’s degree is awarded by universities and polytechnics and corresponds to level 7 of the National Qualifications Framework (Quadro Nacional de Qualificações – QNQ) and the European Qualifications Framework.

The degree of Mestre is conferred in a specific area that may, when necessary, be unfolded in areas of specialization.

The study cycle leading to a Master’s degree includes between 90 to 120 ECTS and normally lasts between three and four semesters, or exceptionally, two semesters that include 60 ECTS, following a stable and internationally consolidated practice.

The cycle of studies leading to a Master’s degree consists of:

  • a specialization course, consisting of an organized set of curricular units, known as a Mestrado, which correspond to a minimum of 50% of the total number of credits of the cycle of study;
  • a scientific dissertation/thesis or an original work project, specifically carried out for this purpose, or a professional work placement which is to be concluded with a final report, under the terms established by the respective regulating standards and which correspond to a minimum of 30 credits.

In Polytechnic Education, the cycle of studies leading to a Master’s degree must ensure predominantly that the student purchases a professional specialisation.

In University Education, the cycle of studies leading to a Master´s degree must ensure that the student acquires an academic specialisation using research activity, innovation or deepening of professional competences.

Admission requirements

Those who meet any of the following conditions may apply to the cycle of studies leading to a Master’s degree:

  • Holders of a Bachelor (Licenciado) degree or legal equivalent;
  • holders of a foreign academic degree awarded after following a 1st cycle of studies organized according to the principles of the Bologna Process by a State that is a participant in this Process;
  • holders of a foreign Higher Education academic degree that is recognized as meeting the goals of the bachelor’s degree by the relevant HEI body;
  • holders of academic, scientific or professional curriculum vitae that is recognised as demonstrating the capacity to carry out this study cycle by the relevant HEI body.

The specific rules regarding enrolment in a study cycle leading to a Master’s degree, such as application conditions and rules, deadlines, the selection and sorting criteria and the publishing of the number of vacancies, are defined by each HEI.

For the pursuit of studies that lead to an academic degree, within the established legal limits, Higher Education institutions, according to the procedures established by its bodies, credit:

  • The training given in cycles of Higher Education or non-degree courses in domestic or foreign Higher Education institutions, whether obtained via the organizational structure resulting from the Bologna Process or before;
  • the training given as part of Technological Specialisation Courses;
  • stand-alone courses;
  • duly verified professional experience and other training.

Curriculum

Higher Education institutions have the scientific and pedagogical autonomy to create their own study cycles, draft the respective curricula and define the purpose of courses.

For the study cycles leading to a Master’s degree in the area of teacher training basic education, the training components are legally established, as are the objectives and the relative weight of each.

The education taught, including its scientific level, is one of the parameters of the quality assessment process of the study cycles applied by the Agency for Assessment and Accreditation of Higher Education.

Higher Education institutions can use of foreign languages, partially or wholly, in the teaching of their study cycles, as well as in the drafting of dissertations, project work and Master’s internship reports.

Teaching methods

Higher Education institutions, within their pedagogical autonomy, are competent to determine the teaching methods used in the cycle of studies that leads to a Master’s degree.

With the implementation of the legal regime pursuant to the Bologna Process there has been a transition from an education system based on the transmission of knowledge, to a system based on the development of student competences, where the experimental components or project work, among others, and the acquisition of multi-purpose competences, play decisive roles.

As such, the number of students’ working hours includes not only contact hours (i.e., in classrooms, laboratories, individual tuitions), but also time dedicated to internships, projects, field work, studies and assessments.

Progression of students

Passing the year and precedence in the study cycle that leads to a Master’s degree are the responsibility of the relevant bodies of the HEI.

HEIs allow their students to enrol and attend their study cycles on a part-time basis and are responsible for regulations regarding conditions for enrolment, the fee system and the validity regime, which should result in proportional application of general rules.

Employability

Within the context of social responsibility, as stipulated in the legal framework governing their operation, HEIs should support their graduates’ entry into working life, collecting and disseminating information on their career paths. Every year, HEIs draft and publish a report which details, amongst other aspects, the employability of their graduates.

The integration of graduates in the labour market is one of the parameters of the quality assessment process of the study cycles considered by the Agency for Assessment and Accreditation of Higher Education.

Student assessment

The rules regarding the knowledge assessment system, rules regarding the defence of dissertations, project work or internship reports are approved by the relevant HEI bodies, as part of their pedagogic autonomy.

Assessment processes, as a parameter of quality assessment of study cycles, are presented to the Agency for Assessment and Accreditation of Higher Education regarding accreditation.

Certification

The Master’s degree is awarded to those who, after successfully completing all curriculum units on the Master’s course, the defence of their dissertation, project work or internship reports, have obtained the number of stipulated credits.

The Master’s degree is classified between 10 and 20 (pass) on a scale of 0 to 20, as well as its equivalent on the European scale grade comparability.

The degree award is registered by the relevant body of the respective HEI, and the holder of the degree certified, generally designated as a diploma, and also a course letter for those students who require one.

A diploma can also be awarded for the conclusion of the curricular component of the Master’s course, provided it is no lower than 60 credits. This diploma does not confer a degree.

The award of the diploma is issued alongside a bilingual diploma supplement in Portuguese and English.

Third Cycle (PhD) Programmes

Organisation of doctoral studies

The Doctoral (Doutorado) degree (3rd cycle) is awarded only by universities and university institutes, and corresponds to Level 8 of the National Qualifications Framework (Quadro Nacional de Qualificações – QNQ) and the European Qualifications framework.

Although the length of this study cycle is not defined, it is frequent to last for six to eight semesters.

The Doctoral degree is conferred in a given field of knowledge or in one of its expertise subjects.

The cycle of studies that leads to the Doctoral degree includes:

  • The development of an original thesis specially written for that purpose which is appropriate to the nature of the field of knowledge or expertise, and subjected to public defence, or the compilation of a coherent and relevant research, or in the Arts, either an art piece or a set of art pieces accompanied by written state reasons;
  • the possible undertaking of curricular units aimed at research training whenever permitted by the respective regulating standards foresee that.

Admission requirements

The following individual may apply for admission to a third cycle of studies leading to a Doctoral degree:

  • holders of a Master’s degree or a legal equivalent;
  • holders of a Bachelor degree who have a particularly relevant academic or scientific curriculum vitae which demonstrates an ability to carry out this third cycle of studies and which is recognised by the competent scientific body of the University where they intend to be admitted;
  • holders of an academic, scientific or professional curriculum vitae which demonstrates an ability to carry out this third cycle of studies and which is recognised by the competent scientific body of the University where they intend to be admitted.

Admission requirements to this study cycle, particularly academic and curriculum conditions, application rules and selection criteria are the responsibility of the relevant body of each higher education institution (HEI).

Those who meet the required conditions for access to the study cycle leading to the Doctoral degree may request to publicly defend a thesis, or any other alternative work, without enrolling in the cycle of studies or choosing a supervisor, with the scientific body of the university deciding upon the request, after analysing the applicant’s curriculum vitae and the relevance of the thesis.

Status of doctoral students/candidates

The student of the study cycle that leads to a Doctoral degree has no specific status.

Supervision arrangements

The process of choosing a supervisor(s), the conditions necessary for co-supervision to be admitted and the rules applicable to the supervision are set by the relevant bodies of the HEI, within the framework of its scientific and pedagogical autonomy.

Employability

Within the context of social responsibility, as stipulated in the legal framework governing their operation, HEIs should support their graduates’ entry into working life, collecting and disseminating information on the employment of its graduates, in addition to information on their career paths.

Every year, HEIs draft and publish a report which details, amongst other aspects, the employability of their graduates.

The integration of graduates in the labour market is one of the parameters of the quality assessment process of the study cycles considered by the Agency for Assessment and Accreditation of Higher Education.

Assessment

The rules regarding the public defence of thesis or other work and the award of a final grade are regulated by HEIs as part of their pedagogic autonomy.

Assessment processes, as a parameter of quality assessment of study cycles, are presented to Agency for Assessment and Accreditation of Higher Education regarding accreditation.

Certification

The Doctoral degree is awarded to those who have successfully defended their thesis in public, or a compilation of a relevant and coherent ensemble of research, or in the field of the arts to those who submit a work or several works that is innovative.

The Doctoral degree contains the final classification according to the terms established by the applicable regulations.

The qualification is attributed by the panel assessing the public defence, taking into consideration the classifications obtained in the curricular units of the Doctorate programme, when relevant, and the merit of the thesis or other work analysed during its public defence.

The degree award is registered by the relevant body of the respective HEI, and the holder of the degree certified.

A diploma can also be awarded for the conclusion of the Doctorate course, provided it is no lower than 30 credits. This diploma does not confer a Doctoral degree.

The award of the diploma is issued alongside a bilingual diploma supplement in Portuguese and English.

Mobility in Higher Education

Student mobility

It is the firm conviction of the Portuguese government policy that student mobility is a great opportunity and therefore aims to enable most students to have access to at least a short period of mobility, not only by experience and ability to benefit from an education system different, but also for all the soft skills (soft skills) that can be acquired. For this reason there has been a conscious effort to remove obstacles to mobility, invest in the modernization and internationalization of higher education institutions (HEIs) implement the Bologna Process and develop quality assurance through a system of evaluation and accreditation. Given this priority, have been implemented and promoted various programs and initiatives, both nationally and internationally.

Regarding the obstacles to student mobility, both for those who want to enter and for those who wish to leave, one of the many difficulties may be of economic constraints. 

As previously stated, there is state support for disadvantaged students on vocational and technical higher education courses and in 1st and 2nd cycles, to help pay for tuition, housing, meals, books, etc. These ‘social grants’ are transferable and exist for both public and private HEIs. Although no student can survive on the subsidy alone, this represents substantial financial aid.

Dispatch no. 10973-D/2014 (2nd series), 27th August, created a mobility supplement for scholarship students who are beneficiaries of the Erasmus+ programme. This measure’s main objective is to facilitate access to the programme, and specifically to assist mobility in higher education for learning/internships for students who find participation difficult for economic reasons. 

In the 3rd cycle and the level of post-doctoral , is given a significant percentage of scholarships to students enrolled in foreign universities or joint research programs, including through scientific research grants and other grants awarded by the Science and Technology Foundation.

The need to obtain entry visa can also be considered another of the obstacles to mobility, particularly for students / teachers in third countries. However , in 2007 a new Immigration Law (Law No. 23/2007, 4th July, later amended, whose latest version is Law no. 28/2019, 29th March) was adopted in Portugal, which transposed into national law various EU Directives , in particular policies on visas for students and researchers from third countries (2004/114/EC and 2005/71/EC). This measure made it easier and quicker to issue visas for these categories. Additionally, Ordinance No. 208/2008, 27th February, establishes a procedure for expeditious issue of visas for students from third countries participating in European programs or students of the Community of Portuguese-Speaking Countries. Most recently, Regulatory Decree no. 9/2018, 11th September, streamlined and simplified the visa process and residence permits for those aiming to study in higher education.

These measures have facilitated the participation in programs involving students from outside the EU, such as International Credit Mobility (ICM), Erasmus Mundus and other bilateral cooperation modalities, insofar as they allow the process of obtaining a visa to be completed in 30 days.

Portugal adopted the European Quality Charter for Mobility (Erasmus Student Charter), reinforcing the Erasmus Charter for Higher Education – (ECHE ). Therefore, Erasmus+ student mobility for studies (SMS) and/or traineeship (SMT), centerpieces of Erasmus + Programme (for higher education), provides additional quality assurance.

Key Action 1 allows students of national HEIs to take advantage of an integrated period of study abroad (between 3 and 12 months) or traineeship abroad (between 2 and 12 months, or at least a whole term) without any academic obstacle for returning to their HEI regarding the validation or recognition of study periods abroad. Responsibility for recognition through the ECTS in the case of SMS, or by other means in the case of SMT, is the responsibility of the HEIs involved.

However, in addition to exchange programmes and cooperation agreements, students can also take advantage of an experiment of autonomous mobility, considering the fact that national HEIs have adopted the Bologna process. 

Student and professional mobility has also been facilitated with the revision of national legislation on foreign higher education degree and diploma recognition (Decree-Law no. 66/2018, 16th August 2018).

Participation in EU programmes

Erasmus+

Portugal participates in the Erasmus Programme since its implementation by the European Commission (in 1987). In Portugal, the Erasmus Programme (currently part of Erasmus +) has expanded with increasing access to higher education, becoming the main source of funding for the transnational mobility of students, teachers and staff for the internationalisation of HEIs.

All grantees with special needs selected by their  HEI for Erasmus+ mobility may also apply for an additional grant, supported by EU funds. Despite this support, the mobility of students with special needs is very limited. 

The Erasmus Charter for Higher Education – ECHE is a pre-requisite for HEIs that wish to participate in the Erasmus+ Programme, regardless of the type of Action: student and new graduates mobility; teaching staff or other staff of the institution (included in Key Action 1 – Learning Mobility of individuals); or strategic partnerships and knowledge alliances (Key Action 2 – Cooperation for innovation and the exchange of good practices and knowledge alliances (centralised Action). Between 2014 and 2019, there were over 63,000 examples of mobility as part of Key Action 1 (KA103); as part of Key Action 2, strategic partnerships, over 7,290 participants were involved (KA203).

Accreditation occurs annually in order to reach a growing number of HEIs throughout Europe and so that those institutions with positive monitoring they can benefit from simplified procedures.

In Portugal, there are approximately 90 HEIs involved with Erasmus+ every year. In 2013, 95 institutions obtained the Erasmus/ECHE Charter (71.4% of HEIs, both public and private).

Every year, on average, over 9,000 people in Europe are mobile in higher education (students and HEI staff). In the case of students, for a period of study (SMS) or a period of training (SMT), and in the case of staff, for a teaching assignment (STA) or training (STT).

Under students’ mobility for study (SMS) implemented by HEIs, student exchanges within the European area are promoted in order to enable mobility to study at partner HEI for a period of 3 to 12 months. This dimension specifically meets the programme’s aim to support the creation of a European Higher Education Area. The SMS seeks to:

  • contribute to the development of quality lifelong learning and the opportunities it affords;
  • consolidate personal fulfilment, social cohesion, active citizenship and European citizenship;
  • promote creativity, competitiveness and employability;
  • increase participation in lifelong learning;
  • promote learning and linguistic diversity;
  • explore the results, innovative processes and products.

Under the Students Mobility for Traineeships (SMT), the exchange of students in the european area is supported for periods between 2 to 12 months, for traineeship in the workplace in enterprises that signed protocols. These SMT aims to:

  • help students adapt to the demands of the EU labour market;
  • allow students to develop competences, like knowledge of a new language and improve knowledge about the economic, social and cultural situation of a country within the context of acquiring work experience;
  • promote cooperation between HEIs and enterprises;
  • contribute to the development of a group of future, international-class professionals who are well-qualified, experienced and open-minded.

As part of the Erasmus+ Programme, the implementation of Students Mobility for Traineeships (SMT) also includes new graduates (up to 12 months after the conclusion of their degree). This mobility that has to be undertaken via the HEI where academic cycle was concluded.

The Erasmus+ Programme has also made it possible for students to enjoy up to 12 months of mobility by study cycle, combining mobility for studies and for traineeships up to one year after course completion, with no limit to the number of times that they can undertake the same type of mobility and provided that the established minimum number of months (3 months mobility for studies and 2 months for traineeships) is respected.

In the case of further studies, if the student decides to attend a second or third cycle of studies, once again they will be able to be mobile for another 12 months.

Aiming at guaranteeing better cooperation between HEIs and businesses and improving employability amongst higher education graduates, institutions can participate in the programme individually and/or within a national consortium.

The Erasmus Consortia (of HEIs) include all types of mobility, namely for the purpose of studies, traineeships, teaching assignments and teaching and non-teaching staff training as part of the Programme. In Portugal, the Consortia have proved a success with a significant proportion of HEIs, companies and students.

The number of students who benefit from the Erasmus+ experience every year reflects how important this programme is to the student population’s academic path, as well as an active expression of European citizenship.

HEIs are responsible for the management of Erasmus+ grants allocated to them annually (via an application) and, in addition to the academic and institutional responsibilities, such responsibility includes the selection of candidates, the organization and completion of application processes, the transfer of funds to students, monitoring of mobility, as well as information and dissemination activities. The implementation of these activities is reported to National Agency, responsible for management and supervision of the programme at national level.

In the validation and recognition process of mobility periods for learning (formal or non-formal), guaranteed transparency is a pre-requisite for obtaining qualifications within the European context, placing value on experience and learning in the context of mobility. As such, the certification of periods of study and/or traineeship is particularly important within the context of mobility. This principle, which was already in force in the previous programmes, applies to Erasmus+ (2014-2020), continuing to ensure the recognition of mobility periods by allocating a number of previously defined ECTS in the case of mobility for studies or traineeships, and the record of mobility competencies and knowledge via Europass (Mobility and Diploma Supplement), in the case of extracurricular traineeships or post-graduate courses.

In the Erasmus+ program, the student mobility for studies and/or traineeships during the study period and one year after the completion of a degree are contextualized by Key Action 1 (KA1 – Learning Mobility of Individuals). This aims to develop competences, broaden understanding on practices and policies in different countries, enhance learning quality, encourage modernisation and internationalisation of the HEIs involved, promote the mobility of students, teachers and other staff working in HEIs.

Erasmus Mundus (Joint Master Degrees)

Portugal has been extremely active in the Erasmus Mundus since the implementation of the first phase (2004-2008).  Through these joint programmes and legislation regulating joint degrees (Decree Law No. 67/2005, 25th March, and Decree Law No. 74/2006, 24th March, amended by Decree-Law No. 107/2008, 25th JuneNo. 230/2009, 4th September, and No. 115/2013, 7th August) this programme has also helped to implement the Bologna Process and to internationalise Portuguese higher education, through integrated partnerships.

Within the Erasmus+ Programme, for any type of mobility, any student with special needs chosen by its institution to participate in any mobility programme can apply for an EU-funded financial supplement, which will cover all the effective costs necessary to ensure mobility.

European Universities Initiative 

In 2019, the first 17 European Universities were selected through a pilot initiative funded by Erasmus+, with a second phase launched to select a further 24 in 2020. These innovative EU University networks (at least 3 from 3 different countries) will enable new joint training, as well as the testing and development of original pedagogies and curricula, allowing students to obtain a degree via the combination of studies in different EU countries and contribute to European HEIs’ international competitiveness. This flagship initiative has been a great success and has seen its budget increased, contributing to the creation of a European Education Area. 

 

National programmes

The Camões – Institute for Cooperation and Language, IP, abbreviated to Camões, I.P., under the competence of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, has a scholarship programme for students from Portuguese speaking African countries and East Timor, to study in Portugal. Camões, IP, offers important opportunities for students from these countries, awarding them scholarships for Bachelor (licenciatura) degrees, for a period of 12 months that may be renewed for the number of years of the course, and also at post-graduate levels, for Master’s (mestrado) and Doctorate (doutoramento) degrees. These scholarships for post-graduates are also granted for periods of 12 months, in the case of masters (2nd cycle) they may be renewed for an equal period, but only once; for doctorates (3rd cycle) they are granted for a period of 12 months that can be renewed for equal periods, and a maximum of 2 times. Other areas of studies, like military studies, police studies and law studies are also covered by special scholarships and programmes. The main goals of these programmes are to: train young graduates in priority areas of development for their country of origin; give priority to applications for non-existent courses in local schools; give priority to scholarships for postgraduate studies.

Camões, I.P., is the national body responsible for implementing external cultural and educational policies, promoting Portuguese culture and language abroad, namely at higher education level. Camões, IP awards scholarships for students and researchers of third countries with the goal of supporting the study and research of the Portuguese language and culture, scientific and professional training of Portuguese as a non mother tongue and training in the field of translation.

Camões, I.P. provides scholarships for summer courses, annual courses, and research scholarships as follows:

  • Scholarships awarded under the programme for attendance of summer courses, for a period of 1 month, non-renewable, in Portuguese language and culture, taught in Portuguese universities or other institutions recognised by Camões, I.P., are intended for students, both foreign and Portuguese, residing abroad and wishing to improve their linguistic competences. Applications must be proposed by the respective teachers of Portuguese, in the context of protocols of cooperation signed with Camões, I.P., in which the number of scholarships available is specifically accounted for;
  • Scholarships awarded under the programme for attendance of annual courses, for a period of 8 months, non-renewable, in Portuguese language and culture, taught in Portuguese HEIs or institutions recognised by Camões, I.P., are intended for students, both foreign and Portuguese, residing abroad and wishing to improve their linguistic competences;
  • Scholarships awarded under the Fernão Mendes Pinto Programme, for a maximum period of 12 months, that may be renewed, are aimed at graduate or undergraduate students, in their final year, both foreign and Portuguese, who are involved in projects of scientific or professional training in the field of Portuguese as a foreign language, through the Camões, IP Centres of Portuguese Language, lectureships of the Camões, IP in foreign HEIs and foreign HEIs and institutions with protocols with Camões, I.P.;
  • Scholarships awarded under the Programme Vieira, for a variable period and may be renewed, are intended for graduates, both Portuguese and foreign, residing abroad and involved in projects of training and/or improvement in the fields of translation and conference interpretation;
  • Scholarships awarded under the Protocol with the Fulbright Commission involve two types of programmes: Programme A aimed at Portuguese PhD and teachers/researchers who wish to pursue academic activities in North American Universities, for a period between 3 to 12 months; Programme B aimed at American students (masters or PhD) who wish to pursue their studies in a Portuguese university, for a period of 8 months.

Given the historical and cultural links with China, in 1989, the Instituto Português do Oriente (IPOR) was created, and established in Macau. This Institute has the objective of promoting and preserving Portuguese language and culture in Asia. It also disseminates oriental culture in order to foster intercultural dialogue and encourage East-West relations. The Institute awards scholarships for nationals of the Asia and Pacific region to learn Portuguese at summer courses as well as one year language courses at one of the Portuguese HEIs.

The Luso-American Development Foundation, hereafter referred as FLAD  (Fundação Luso-Americana para o Desenvolvimento) is a Portuguese institution and was founded by Decree-Law No. 168/85, of May 20. Its main goal is to contribute towards economic and social development in Portugal by fostering cooperation between Portugal and the United States in the fields of business, education, science, technology and culture. In order to accomplish the goals related with education, FLAD has several scholarhsips and mobility schemes. Further information on these can be found on the respective website.

Distance Learning

Regarding internationalisation of higher education, the development of distance learning in Portugal has also been a priority. This issue is important, taking into account that new forms of learning (e-learning and b-learning), supporting the more traditional learning system, allow virtual mobility of learners and of academics of several countries, as well as improve the accessibility of higher education through openness to new target groups.

Academic staff mobility

European programmes

Erasmus+: Key Action 1 – Learning Mobility of Individuals

Higher education staff mobility within the Erasmus Programme has seen gradual growth over the years in Portugal via Key Action 1 (KA1- Learning Mobility of Individuals). Between 2014 and 2019, there were 11,500 examples of staff mobility, as part of Key Action 1 (KA103).

Like students, all ‘beneficiaries’ with special needs selected for their HEI to attend an Erasmus mobility can apply for a financial supplement, which is funded by the EU. 

Individual grants are awarded by the home institution based on the regulations issued by the European Commission regarding the funding contract and its respective annexes. Mobility grants are a contribution to expenses (travel and board) that are incurred during the scholarship for education and/or training of personnel in a foreign country.

The education and training assignments undertaken by teaching and non- teaching staff as part of Erasmus are not yet formally recognized, although they can involve experience recognized in an academic context. It is important to invest in the general recognition of these missions, either as part of curriculum assessment, in the case of teachers, or within the context of performance evaluation, when talking about non-teaching staff.

Erasmus+ : Key Action 2  – Cooperation for innovation and the exchange of good practices

It is important to highlight Key action 2 (KA2 – Cooperation for innovation and exchange of good practices – Strategic Partnerships), whose applications must be submitted annually to the National Agency for Erasmus+ Education & Training. This Key Action facilitates projects between HEIs in the field of cooperation for innovation.

All participating HEIs must hold the Erasmus Charter for Higher Education (ECHE).

HEIs are responsible for managing the funds allocated, in addition to the academic and institutional responsibilities; such an undertaking includes the selection of candidates, organization of processes, and information/dissemination activities. The performance of these activities is reported to the National Agency for Erasmus+ Education and Training, which is responsible for the management and oversight of programme performance at national level.

Jean Monnet Actions

The Jean Monnet Actions aim at stimulating teaching, research and reflection in the field of European integration studies at the level of higher education institutions within and outside the European Community.

Since 2007 the Jean Monnet  Actions have formed part of the new Lifelong Learning Programme 2007-2013, being continued under the current Erasmus + Program, and the shares centrally managed by DG EAC.

Amongst others, this programme is designed for:

  • Students and researchers who focus on the theme of European integration within the context of any higher education system within the EU or outside of it;
  • Higher education institutions located in the EU or outside of it and recognised as such in their own countries;
  • Teachers or other staff from those institutions.

Erasmus Mundus – Joint Master Degrees

As already mentioned, Portuguese HEIs have been taking part in the different actions of the Erasmus Mundus Programme since the beginning. The Erasmus Mundus Master courses or Erasmus Mundus Joint Master Degrees (JMD) have received academics from third countries, but also, when third country institutions are involved, European academics have done research or teaching periods in third countries. These joint courses have also implied mobility periods between the participant European HEIs, as well as intensification of cooperation, exchange of good practices and knowledge, and development of distance learning. In Portugal, promotion and support for this programme, both for institutions and individual participants, is provided by the National Agency for Erasmus+ Education and Training, as a contact point for the Programme’s centralised management. 

National programmes

In recent years, Portugal has invested and promoted the mobility of academic staff and researchers, not only through the participation in the previously mentioned European and international programmes, but also through national initiatives and policies, such as contracting PhD holders (Portuguese and foreign) to work in Portuguese HEIs and research centres and the creation of Visiting Professor posts. 

The National Foundation for Science and Technology (FCT), the main governmental agency for financing research in Portugal, regularly offers several mobility schemes for academic and scientific cooperation that can be viewed on their website. Additionally, the FCT funds doctoral and traineship fellowships and grants, both in Portugal and abroad, through annual calls for applications.

The Portuguese Council of Rectors (Conselho de Reitores das Universidades Portuguesas – CRUP), also holds the management of several co-operation programmes, called “Ações Integradas”, which basically are R&D projects oriented to encourage scientific projects and post-graduation studies involving research teams and teaching staff from partner institutions, namely from France and Germany.

Camões, I.P. also awards scholarships for researchers and teachers, regularly announced in their website.

The Luso-American Development Foundation (FLAD), among other programs, offers grants and scholarships for scientific activities in the United States of America, as announced in their own webpage. 

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European Higher Education Organization is a public organization carrying out academic, educational and information activities on higher education in Europe.

The EHEO general plan stresses that:

  • Higher education systems require adequate funding and, as an investment in economic growth, public spending in higher education should be protected.
  • The challenges faced by higher education require more flexible governance and funding systems, which balance greater autonomy for education institutions with accountability to stakeholders.

Thus, EHEO plans:

  • improve academic and scientific interaction of universities;
  • protect the interests of universities;
  • interact more closely with public authorities of European countries;
  • popularize European higher education in the world;
  • develop academic mobility;
  • seek funding for European universities.