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EACEA National Policies Platform:Eurydice
Other dimensions of internationalisation in higher education


13.Mobility and internationalisation

13.5Other dimensions of internationalisation in higher education

Last update: 30 March 2024

European, global and intercultural dimension in curriculum development

Most Portuguese higher education institutions (HEIs), both public and private, have an international relations department (Gabinete de Relações Internacionais), which coordinates, monitors and supports the development of all initiatives related to internationalisation, in terms of academic cooperation and student/teacher mobility.

Bearing in mind the need to keep up with the development and modernisation of national and international HEIs, these institutions teach some of their 1st, 2nd and 3rd cycle courses in English. This attracts students from all over the world, facilitating the exchange of views and knowledge between them.

Some of these courses stem from protocols signed between Portuguese and foreign HEIs, and students may apply for programmes leading to a joint degree.

As for 1st cycle studies, some HEIs provide exchange programmes for one semester or one year, as well as summer courses.

The Erasmus+ Programme offers continuity to the Erasmus Mundus Programme via the Erasmus Mundus Joint Master’s Degrees, involving at least three HEIs from three different European countries. Doctorate programmes were transferred to Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions, Horizon Programme 2020.

It is also worth mentioning the European Universities networks pilot initiative, which is part of the Erasmus+ Programme. These innovative alliances promote a strengthened European identity, foster excellence and help make European higher education institutions more competitive by offering student-focussed, joint and "inter-university" campus programmes, as well as providing a joint response to current challenges. An important aspect is the mobility of students, teachers and researchers.

The results presented by the Commission for 2023 included seven new alliances between European universities.

In Portugal, there are five new HEIs involved, the Polytechnic Institute of Viseu, the Polytechnic Institute of Bragança, the Polytechnic Institute of Guarda, the Polytechnic Institute of Lisbon and the Catholic University, totalling 20 institutions in the European university alliances (for more information, see the section on the "European Universities" Initiative).

On these joint courses, students and doctoral candidates spend study periods at other HEIs and receive joint, multiple or double degrees at the end of the course. This challenge of creating joint courses has been key to the implementation of the European Higher Education Area and as part of the Bologna Process, namely in the cases where joint degrees/diplomas are issued.

These integrated courses are intercultural experiences, not only due to the involvement of different higher education systems, but also the diversity of students and scholars. The possibility of involving non-European institutions (e.g., Erasmus Mundus) is seen as another way of promoting the internationalisation of HEIs. Many of these courses are taught in English, as they receive students from all over the world, despite participants having access to learning at least two European languages.

Another important and effective measure taken was the creation of specific intercultural study centres. Most of these centres were founded on Portugal’s special relationship with Portuguese-speaking African countries (see, for example, Centro de Estudos Africanos) or with Brazil, giving rise to centres of African studies or Portuguese-Brazilian studies.

In addition to these, there are also centres of oriental studies (for example at the Universidade do Minho), which takes into account the Portuguese administration in Macau, centres of Iberian studies (for example. the Centre of Iberian studies) and even a centre of Jewish studies (at Universidade da Beira Interior).

Partnerships and networks

The existing information falls within the scope of higher education institutions competencies and autonomy.

There are multiple partnerships between Portuguese and foreign HEIs as part of the Erasmus student mobility programmes.

Portuguese HEIs are also part of multiple international and regional associations, such as: the European Universities Association (EUA), Associação das Universidades de Língua Portuguesa (AULP), Asociación Universitaria Iberoamericana de Postgrado (AUIP), Grupo de Coimbra, European Association for International Education (EAIE), Grupo de Coimbra de Universidades Brasileiras (GCUB), Rede Ibero-americana de Universidades de Pesquisa (RIDUP), Grupo Tordesillas, Utrecht Network (UN), Grupo Compostela de Universidades, Associação das Universidades Latino Americanas (AULA), Associação Colombus, Eurasian Universities Union (EURAS), European Association of Institutions in Higher Education (EURASHE), etc.

Designed to boost the internationalisation of Portuguese higher education and scientific and technological research, the Resolution of the Council of Ministers No 78/2016, 30 November, stipulates:

  • the dissemination of domestic HE provision, both in English and Portuguese.
  • the promotion of the “Study in Portugal” initiative and the participation of Portuguese institutions at international fairs, to boost the image and profile of Portuguese higher education internationally.
  • the promotion of the “Research in Portugal” initiative, to boost the image and profile of research and development (R&D) activities.
  • the implementation of a stimulus and follow-up policy regarding the international mobility of students, teachers, researchers and non-teaching staff.
  • the stimulation of higher education and science’s internationalisation.
  • the offer of scholarships to foreign students to attend higher education.
  • the international dissemination of higher education and science research networks.
  • the stimulation of Portuguese participation in international scientific organisations.
  • greater emphasis on the relationship with Portuguese academic and scientific communities abroad.
  • the promotion of scientific diplomacy, namely, national image and interests, knowledge opportunities, reciprocal communication between Portugal and other states.

Within the context of the internationalisation strategy for Portuguese higher education, Decree-Law No 36/2014 (meanwhile amended by Decree-Laws No 113/2014, 16 July and No 62/2018, 6 August) regulates the International Student Statute. This legislation establishes special forms of access and admission that allows Portuguese higher education to attract more international students for first cycle studies in Portugal. This will increase existing capacity and raise own revenues that boost quality and diversification of teaching, creating a true international environment.

This new regime does not cover EU students, who enjoy the same access conditions as Portuguese students, or scholarships holders from Portuguese-speaking African countries, who also have special access rules. Students with a diploma giving access to higher education in the country where it was obtained, or who have concluded Portuguese upper secondary education or an equivalent study cycle may apply.

Some of the most important achievements in this field include the Study & Research in Portugal initiative and the creation of a new portal for the promotion of Portuguese higher education and research.

In the first half of 2020, the Directorate-General for Higher Education (DGES) and the Science and Technology Foundation (FCT) conducted a full review of the Study & Research portal, updating all information relating to higher education and science in Portugal. At the same time, and in partnership with the Organization of Iberia-American States for Education, Science and Culture (OEI), a Spanish language version of the portal was developed from scratch, which is already fully functional.

The DGES and FCT created a trilingual page (Portuguese, Spanish and English) on the Study & Research portal dedicated to the "Portugal Open for Knowledge" initiative. To disseminate higher education and science more internationally, the DGES and FCT created trilingual flyers and e-cards in various digital formats for a variety of digital media (social networks, mailing lists, etc.).

In parallel, the European strategy for universities was created, aiming to strengthen universities as drivers of Europe's global role and leadership. This strategy is designed to help universities become more globally outward-looking and competitive, increasing Europe’s attractiveness not only as a study destination, but also as a good global partner for cooperation in education, research and innovation.

The European strategy for universities presents four key initiatives:

  • Further implementation of the European Universities Initiative, aiming to reach over 500 universities by mid-2024
  • Work towards a legal statute for alliances of universities by mid-2024
  • Examine options and necessary steps towards a joint European degree by mid-2024, to recognise the value of transnational experiences in higher education qualifications and reduce bureaucracy for the availability of joint programmes 
  • Scale up the European Student Card initiative by deploying a unique European Student Identifier available to all mobile students in 2022 and to all students in universities in Europe by mid-2024.