There are two systems of higher education in Portugal: universities and polytechnics. Institutions can be public or private. The university system provides the necessary academic education to develop professional activity and encourage research and critical analysis. The polytechnic system provides technical training to develop practical skills.
The degrees offered by the Portuguese higher education system are as follows: 1st cycle: Bachelor’s (3-4 years of study, awarding between 180 and 240 ECTS); 2nd cycle: Master’s (1-2 years of study, awarding between 90 and 120 ECTS); 3rd Cycle: PhD (3 or 4 years of study, awarding between 180 and 240 ECTS).
In Portugal, access to higher education is always subject to the Numerus Clausus system, whereby a limited number of places are fixed by each individual institution. In addition, institutions determine selection criteria and minimum entry grades for applicants. This selection process takes into account grades obtained in national and specific exams from Secondary school and other Faculties (depending on the field of study).
Portugal is ranked as having the 22nd best system in the world according to the U21 Rankings of National Higher Education Systems 2013, carried out by "Universitas 21", a reference network that aggregates research-oriented universities in several countries.
This ranking is especially relevant compared to usual rankings since it is the only one that compares systems of higher education and not higher education institutions. Thus it clearly shows the quality of the institutional network and not just its localized cases of excellence.
For more information about the Portuguese higher education system, visit the website of the General Directorate of Higher Education (DGES).