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Second-cycle programmes


7.Higher education

7.3Second-cycle programmes

Last update: 29 March 2024

Branches of study

A master’s degree is awarded by universities and polytechnics and corresponds to level 7 of the National Qualifications Framework (Quadro Nacional de Qualificações - QNQ) and the European Qualifications Framework.

The Mestre degree is conferred in a specific area that may, when necessary, be divided into areas of specialisation.

The study cycle leading to a master’s degree includes between 90 and 120 ECTS and normally lasts between three and four semesters, or exceptionally, two semesters that include 60 ECTS, following stable and internationally consolidated practice.

The cycle of studies leading to a master's degree consists of:

  • a specialisation course, consisting of an organised set of units, known as a mestrado, which correspond to a minimum of 50% of the total number of study cycle credits.
  • an original scientific dissertation or project, or a work placement with a final report, according to the terms established by the respective norms and which correspond to a minimum of 30 credits.

In polytechnic education, the cycle of studies leading to a master's degree must ensure that students acquire a professional specialisation.

In university education, the cycle of studies leading to a master´s degree must ensure that students acquire an academic specialisation via research activity, innovation or improved professional skills.

Admission requirements

The following candidates can apply for the study cycle leading to a master's degree:

  • holders of a bachelor’s (Licenciado) degree or legal equivalent.
  • holders of a foreign higher education academic degree awarded after first cycle studies organised according to the principles of the Bologna Process.
  • holders of a foreign higher education academic degree recognised as meeting the bachelor’s degree objectives by the relevant HEI body.
  • those with an academic, scientific or professional curriculum vitae that demonstrates the capacity to be successful at this study cycle by the relevant HEI body.

Each HEI establishes the specific rules regarding enrolment in a study cycle leading to a master’s degree, such as application conditions and rules, deadlines, the selection and sorting criteria and the publication of the number of places.

To pursue degree studies, in accordance with the procedures established by their competent bodies, higher education institutions credit, within the legally established limits:

  • the training given in other higher education or non-degree course cycles in domestic or foreign higher education institutions, whether obtained via the organisational structure resulting from the Bologna Process or before.
  • the training given as part of technological specialisation courses.
  • stand-alone courses.
  • duly verified professional experience and other training.


HEIs have the scientific and pedagogical autonomy to create their own study cycles, draft the respective curricula and define the purpose of courses.

For the study cycles leading to a master’s degree in teacher training, training components are legally established, as are the objectives and the relative weight of each.

The education taught, particularly its scientific level, is one of the parameters of the study cycle quality assessment process applied by the Agency for Assessment and Accreditation of Higher Education.

Higher education institutions can accept the use foreign languages, partially or wholly, when teaching their study cycles, as well as for dissertations, project work and master’s internship reports.

Teaching methods

As part of their pedagogical autonomy, higher education institutions can determine the teaching methods used in the study cycle that leads to a master’s degree.

With the implementation of the Bologna Process legal framework, 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. Here, experimental components or project work, among others, and the acquisition of multi-purpose competences, play decisive roles.

To this end, the hours students work, includes not only contact hours (i.e., in classrooms, laboratories, individual tuitions), but also time dedicated to internships, projects, field work, studies and assessments.

Progression of students

HEIs are responsible for issues regarding transition from year to year and the system of precedence in the study cycle leading to a master’s degree.

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


As part of their social responsibilities, as stipulated in the legal framework governing their operation, HEIs should support their graduates’ entry into working life, collecting and disseminating information on their potential career paths.

Every year, HEIs draft and publish a report which details, amongst other aspects, the employability of their graduates. Graduate integration into the labour market is one of the parameters of the Agency for Assessment and Accreditation of Higher Education’s quality assessment process.

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 knowledge assessment system, the defence of dissertations, project work or internship reports are approved by the relevant HEI bodies, as part of their pedagogic autonomy.

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


Master’s degrees are awarded to those students who have obtained the number of stipulated credits, after successfully defended their dissertation and completed all curriculum units, project work or internship reports on the master’s course.

The master’s degree is classified between 10 and 20 (pass) on a scale of 0 to 20, as well as its equivalent on the European scale grade comparability.

The degree award is registered by the relevant HEI body, and the holder of the degree, generically designated as a diploma, is certified. There is also a course letter for those students who require one.

A diploma can also be awarded for the conclusion of the curricular component of the master’s course, provided it is no lower than 60 credits.

The diploma is issued alongside a bilingual diploma supplement in Portuguese and English.