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EACEA National Policies Platform:Eurydice
First-cycle programmes


7.Higher education

7.2 First-cycle programmes

Last update: 7 February 2024

The first cycle of higher education in Portugal includes two types of programmes:

• bachelor programmes (licenciatura), which normally last between three and four years (six to eight semesters); and

• short-cycle higher education programmes (short cycle linked to a first cycle) called vocational and technical higher education and polytechnic courses, which normally last two years (or four semesters).

These two types of programmes lead to different levels of qualification.

Bachelor programmes

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

It is awarded to those students who demonstrate:

  • the knowledge and capacity to understand a specific area of education to a level that:
  • building on upper secondary education level knowledge, allows the student to develop it in greater depth.
  • allows the student to use advanced learning materials.
  • allows the student to have cutting-edge knowledge in related fields.
  • the ability to apply the acquired knowledge and understanding, clearly demonstrating a professional approach to the work undertaken in their vocational area.
  • a capacity for problem solving within their field and the ability to build and justify their own arguments.
  • the ability to collect, select and interpret the relevant information, particularly in their area, which enables them to justify the solutions they recommend and their critical judgment, including relevant social, scientific and ethical aspects.
  • skills that allow them to communicate information, ideas, problems and solutions, both to specialists and non-specialists.
  • Learning skills to enable lifelong learning with a high degree of autonomy.

In polytechnic education, a bachelor’s degree has 180 ECTS credits and normally lasts six semesters or, exceptionally, 240 ECTS credits in seven or eight semesters.

In university education, a bachelor’s degree has 180 to 240 ECTS credits and normally lasts between six and eight semesters. Similar figures are used to benchmark institutions of this type of education in Europe in the same scientific areas.

Bachelor’s degrees are granted to those who have obtained the established number of credits after passing all the respective parts that make up the course.

The creation of study cycles that confer academic degrees is the responsibility of higher education institutions but require accreditation from the Agency for Assessment and Accreditation of Higher Education and registration with the Directorate-General for Higher Education.

For further information, please see Subchapter 7.2.1. Bachelor's Degree.

Short-cycle higher education programmes

In 2014, vocational and technical higher education courses (CTeSP) were created to achieve the objectives of higher education short cycles that are linked to HE first cycles, as stated in clause 1 of article 15 of the Education Act.

Regulated by Decree-Law no. 74/2006, 24th March, in the wording of Decree-Law no. 65/2018, 16th August, these courses operate as short cycle higher education courses linked to a first cycle (bachelor’s degree).

Vocational and technical higher education courses (CTeSP) last two academic years and correspond to 120 ECTS. They do not confer an academic degree.

This diploma is granted to students who prove, among other aspects, to:

a) have the knowledge and ability to understand a specific subject area, which may form the basis for professional practice, personal development and further studies, concluding a study cycle that leads to a bachelor’s degree.

b) apply the acquired knowledge within a professional setting;

c) have the skills to pursue an academic path with some degree of autonomy.

For further information, see Subchapter 7.2.2. Short-cycle higher education programmes.