Portugal’s blurred binary line needs redrafting

EUA advises greater coordination for ‘confused’ system

February 28, 2013

Improved coordination between Portugal’s universities and polytechnics is needed to improve the country’s higher education system, a study advises.

A report by the European University Association, titled Portuguese Higher Education: A View from the Outside, highlights the country’s “confused” binary system of higher and vocational education providers as a key concern.

The report, which was requested by the Portuguese Rectors’ Conference, explains how the expansion of the country’s academy has been “rapid” and “ad hoc” since the Carnation Revolution of 1974 - “driven in many instances by local political considerations and uninformed by national strategy”.

During this time, some universities have partially merged with polytechnics to offer technical courses, while some polytechnics have offered highly advanced qualifications equivalent to some university courses.

There are also concerns that polytechnics are underfunded in comparison with universities.

“Portugal cannot be said to have a functional binary system, transparent in its dual mission, and attuned to individual and collective need,” says the report, which was published on 19 February.

“Academic employment statutes, funding differentials, contrasting degrees of research…and disparity of esteem - all these operate to keep the binary distinction alive without clearly specifying its content.”

The report recommends that polytechnics be given their own funding council, adding that overall higher education funding levels should rise. It also calls on the government to encourage the provision of short-term training courses at polytechnics, which could be used as pathways to degrees.

Such measures may help to reverse a national trend for falling student numbers by widening post-secondary participation and expanding lifelong learning.

The report also backs the continuing rationalisation of courses provided by Portuguese universities (which fell from about 5,200 in 2008 to 3,600 in 2010) to avoid duplication of provision.


You've reached your article limit.

Register to continue

Registration is free and only takes a moment. Once registered you can read a total of 3 articles each month, plus:

  • Sign up for the editor's highlights
  • Receive World University Rankings news first
  • Get job alerts, shortlist jobs and save job searches
  • Participate in reader discussions and post comments

Have your say

Log in or register to post comments

Featured Jobs

Assistant Recruitment - Human Resources Office

University Of Nottingham Ningbo China

Outreach Officer

Gsm London

Professorship in Geomatics

Norwegian University Of Science & Technology -ntnu

Professor of European History

Newcastle University

Head of Department

University Of Chichester
See all jobs

Most Commented

men in office with feet on desk. Vintage

Three-quarters of respondents are dissatisfied with the people running their institutions

students use laptops

Researchers say students who use computers score half a grade lower than those who write notes

Canal houses, Amsterdam, Netherlands

All three of England’s for-profit universities owned in Netherlands

As the country succeeds in attracting even more students from overseas, a mixture of demographics, ‘soft power’ concerns and local politics help explain its policy

sitting by statue

Institutions told they have a ‘culture of excluding postgraduates’ in wake of damning study