Skip to main content
European Commission logo
EACEA National Policies Platform:Eurydice


7.2. First-cycle programmes


Last update: 29 March 2024

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.
  • holders of first-cycle degree giving access to medicine.
  • international students.
  • holders of upper secondary dual certification course and specialised artistic courses.

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.

As part of the yearly process of setting the number of available places for new students in higher education (1st cycle), specific measures have been adopted to limit places at HEIs according to certain criteria.

After the revision of the system in 2023, higher education institutions gained greater autonomy regarding the management of access, without sacrificing the system’s fundamental principles.

The following measures were adopted with regard to managing and setting the number of student places:

a) Allow better planning by defining that places for the general access regime and all special applications will now be set in the first quarter of the year (normally in January). This is between 4 and 5 months earlier compared to the current calendar, ensuring that all applicants know the study cycles and places available in advance for all access routes.

b) Boost HEI autonomy and accountability by simplifying the order that establishes the guidelines and limits for setting places for the general regime and for special applications. This reduces the number of exceptional situations, with fewer criteria limiting HEI autonomy but with greater thoroughness and regulation regarding compliance with the limits of study cycle accreditation.

c) Stimulate diversification and differentiation of access by allocating places between two sets of places: (i) places via the general access regime and (ii) places via special applications and special access regimes. Institutions must keep their educational provision balanced via the general access regime, as a rule maintaining the maximum number of places set the previous year, and boost access routes aimed at more diverse audiences, encouraging capacity up to the maximum number of admissions.

d) Safeguard educational provision in terms of territorial cohesion, eliminating the legal possibility of transferring places from special applications to the general access regime (except in the case of medicine). This aims to guarantee the stability of the territorial allocation of places via the general access regime.

e) Promote greater stability and predictability in the rules via an order that establishes the guidelines and limits for setting places for the general regime and for the special applications. These will be in force every two years from 2024, allowing for multi-annual and anticipated management of places at each institution.

f) Recommend that A3ES moves the assessment and accreditation cycle for new study cycles to the April-December period (instead of October-June). This is done so that the setting of places occurs in the first quarter of the following year and with the provision of initial training study cycles fully stabilised. 

Specific criteria and objectives will continue to be set, 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.


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

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

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, such as in classrooms, laboratories or field work, and in individual tutorial sessions.

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

  • student workload 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 classroom and now includes guidance and support.
  • places of learning, libraries, laboratories, etc., are considered particularly important.
  • access to information – e.g. written, oral, internet – and the ability to select, organise and summarise becomes particularly important.
  • greater flexibility in the training pathways.

According to Decree-Law no. 133/2019, 3rd September, the legal regime for distance learning was approved, defining a clear framework of principles and rules for its accreditation, organisation and operations. This aimed to stimulate training capacity to train at least 50,000 adults by 2030 and supported by the Universidade Aberta (Open University) and other higher education institutions through networks and consortia and joint degree offers.

  • 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

HEI bodies are responsible for the rules related to students making the transition from year to year. They are also responsible for course requirements and determining the maximum time allowed to complete a 1st cycle degree.

Given that public higher education funding takes student academic success into account, enrolment is suspended for those who do not fulfil certain requirements.

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


As part of HEIs’ social responsibility, as stipulated in the legal framework governing their operation (Law no. 62/2007, 10th September), HEIs should support their graduates’ involvement in working life, collecting and disseminating information regarding 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 young graduates’ employment and entrepreneurship, 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.

Under Ordinance No 67-A/2024, 22 February, of Decree-Law No134/2023, 28 December 2023, a programme was launched for qualified young people, which seeks to reward recent graduates living in Portugal by giving them a financial incentive for study and work. 

These young graduates are entitled to 697 euros and master's graduates to 1,500 euros. If they have completed an integrated master's degree, the award is 697 euros for the period corresponding to the first cycle degree and 1,500 euros for the period corresponding to the master's degree. The sum will be paid annually, for the same number of years as that of the cycle of studies. 

The award applies to young workers resident in Portugal, up to the age of 35 at the time the award is bestowed and who have obtained a first cycle degree and/or master's degree from Portuguese higher education institutions (public or private) from the year 2023 (inclusive) onwards. 

The rules apply to the same academic degrees obtained abroad, provided they are recognised in Portugal.

For more information, consult the section Main objectives and current policies in the introduction of Chapter 7. 

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 classification.

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


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.