Harmonising Approaches to Professional Higher Education in Europe


Stakeholder Survey Overview

As part of our research we carried out a survey of Education & Training stakeholders. Find the results of this survey below or download it..

Legislation & Policy Overview

The following section gives an overview of the national PHE environment within Portugal. The profile was completed by Conselho Coordenador dos Institutos Superiores Politécnicos.

Section A: General Profile of PHE

1. How is PHE defined in your country?

Public higher education polytechnic institutions provide training oriented towards professional life. Thus, the legislator saw fit that these institutions concentrate their efforts in the creation, transmission and dissemination of culture and professional expertise, as well as in the development of applied research. Therefore, educational offer in the polytechnic higher education subsystem encompasses namely the following areas: technologies, management, tourism, health, education, agriculture, sports and performative arts.  With regard to academic degrees, polytechnic institutions can award the licenciado (EQF Level 6) and master (EQF Level 7) degrees and are not allowed to award the PhD degree (EQF Level 8).

1.1 What is your nationally recognised definition of a PHE Institution?

PHE focusses particularly on vocational and advanced technical training that is professionally orientated.

1.2 Are there any specific requirements towards PHE Curriculum/Course?

In polytechnic education, the cycle of studies leading to the licenciado degree must place particular value upon training initiatives aimed at the practice of a professional activity, ensuring that it includes a component for applying acquired knowledge to the actual activities within the respective professional profile.  The cycle of studies leading to a master degree must ensure predominantly that the student acquires a high level professional specialization.

2. Which EQF Levels does PHE cover?

EQF Level 5 – Yes
EQF Level 6 – Yes
EQF Level 7 – Yes
EQF Level 8 – No

3. Which governmental bodies are responsible for governance of the PHE sector? Do these differ from the governance of AHE? Is there any engagement of any other public authorities and which, if so?

In Portugal the governmental bodies are the same for the PHE and AHE.
• Ministry of Education and Science;
• Directorate-General for Higher Education

4. Quality assurance: Please provide information on quality-related legislation (national QA/accreditation system, regulations concerning QA at institutional level etc.). Are there any specific QA criteria for PHE? If so, which (if necessary, refer to specific EQF levels or institutions)?

In Portugal, the quality assurance of programs is the responsibility of the “Agência de Avaliação e Acreditação do Ensino Superior” (Agency for Assessment and Accreditation of Higher Education – A3ES). This agency was created by the Decree-Law no. 369/2007 of 5th November with the mission of promoting and ensuring the quality of higher education. The Agency is independent in its decisions, without prejudice of the guidelines fixed by the State. Before starting new study cycles awarding academic titles, all HEI must submit them to the A3ES for the preliminary accreditation of study cycles in operation and posterior registration by the supervising Ministry of Education and Science, namely by DGES (Directorate-General for Higher Education). The assessment and accreditation regime to be developed by the Agency is defined in Law no. 38/2007 of 16th August.
The QA criteria for PHE have some differences from those used in AHE, particularly regarding some indicators that are imposed by legislation, namely concerning the staff qualifications.

5. Are there any specific funding mechanisms/principles/criteria for PHE, different from general HE principles?


6. Are there any formal requirements for stakeholders, in particular from the part of the professional sphere/employers’ representatives concerning their engagement in PHE steering and provisions? If so, in which areas (governance, quality assurance, curriculum development, students’ placement etc.)?


7. Are there any other legislative differences between PHE and other HE institutions (e.g. partnership with enterprises, regional involvement etc.)?


8. Is PHE limited to some specific branches and/or fields of study? If yes: Which ones?

No, in general, but regarding each specific field of study, yes. For instance, it is not allowed to have courses of medicine, architecture, psychology, philosophy, etc, in PHE (polytechnics) institutions.

Section B: Teaching & Staffing

1. Are there any formally set requirements for academic staff teaching at different levels in PHE (e.g their qualification, expertise, selection & appointment)? Are they different from AHE?

Basically, the main difference of PHE is that the law stipulates that, within the polytechnic teaching staff and the researchers involved in teaching or research work in any capacity within the institution, at least 15% must hold Doctorates and be employed on a full-time basis and at least 35% must hold the title of specialist and may also hold Doctorates. The title of specialist is exclusive of PHE and it proofs someone’s quality and particular relevance of recognized professional experience in a particular area.  On the other hand, at least half of the teaching staff of AHE must hold Doctorates.

2. Are there any specific requirements for PHE staff work (teaching/research) arrangements and workload? If so, which? How do they differ from AHE?

Yes. The main difference concerns the teaching hours. In PHE the upper limit is 12h/week and in the AHE the upper limit is 9h/week.

3. Are there requirements to include non-academia (professionals) to teach in PHE institutions? What qualifications must they have if any?

Yes. They must have at least a licenciado degree and 10 years of practical experience and must pass a public examination (to become a “specialist”).

Section C: Curriculum

1. Are there any specific requirements as regards contents/structure (e.g. percentage of practically oriented modules) as regards PHE? If so, which? What are the differences with respect to AHE?

In some study programs yes. Those which main professions are regulated by professional bodies like, for instance, nursing, education, etc. There are no differences with respect to AHE.

2. Are there any specific requirements as regards practical elements of PHE study programmes (e.g. work experience/Practical placements/Internships)? If so, which? What are the differences with respect to AHE?

In some study programs yes. Those which main professions are regulated by professional bodies like, for instance, nursing, education, etc. There are no differences with respect to AHE.

3. Are there any other legal requirements specific for PHE programs?


Section D: Research & Technology Transfer

1. What is the involvement of PHE in R&D&I&TT activities? Are there any formal differences at different levels/institutions of PHE?

The R&D&I activities are written in the carrier statutes of teaching staff for both HE subsystems. So there are R&D&I activities in PHE, with more focus in second level courses, but with no formal differences regarding institutions.

2. Are public research programs restricted to some types of HEIs (e.g. academic sector)? If so, what are the criteria?

Theoretically no, but in practice there is some difficulty for the PHE projects in obtaining finance support from the public research programs. There are no specific public research programs for PHE.  By law, PHE should do guided research and experimental development.

Section E: Recognition & Credit Transfer

1. Are there formal differences in the enrolment process into PHE and AHE?

No, it is the same.  The student must – have successfully completed a secondary course or a national or foreign qualification legally equivalent; – have set for the entrance examinations required for the degree programme the student wishes to attend and get the minimal mark required (there are higher education institutions that accept foreign tests or exams).

2. Are there formal paths for transfer from PHE into other HE programmes (for graduates, during the study)? Are there automatic transfers for students between PHE and AHE? Do students need bridging programmes or other means of transition?

The transfers are automatic.

3. Are there any specific regulations concerning employment of PHE graduates? Do you need to justify delivery of certain PHE studies? e.g provide evidence of labour market needs or collect data on employability of graduates).

From the 2012/2013 school year onwards, the Government created laws stating institutions would have to take into consideration the number of unemployed graduates in the area they want to open vacancies for.

Best Practices

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