European Higher Education Area

The Bologna Process was a European reform process aimed at establishing a European Higher Education Area by 2010. It was an unusual process in that it was loosely structured and driven by the 45 countries participating in it in cooperation with a number of international organisations, including the Council of Europe.

The broad objectives of the Bologna Process are to remove the obstacles to student mobility across Europe; to enhance the attractiveness of European higher education worldwide; to establish a common structure of higher education systems across Europe, and for this common structure to be based on two main cycles: undergraduate (1st cycle of study) and graduate (2nd cycle of study).

In its drive to improve the quality of higher education and, in turn, human resources across Europe, the Bologna Process play a key role in contributing to the EU's Lisbon Strategy goals which aim to deliver stronger, lasting growth and to create more and better jobs.

The reform aim was to create a higher education system in Europe, organised in such a way that:
it is easy to move from one country to the other (within the European Higher Education Area) - for the purpose of further study or employment;
the attractiveness of European higher education is increased so many people from non-European countries also come to study and/or work in Europe;
the European Higher Education Area provides Europe with a broad, high quality and advanced knowledge base, and ensures the further development of Europe as a stable, peaceful and tolerant community.
there will also be a greater convergence between the U.S. and Europe as European higher education adopts aspects of the American system.

Portugal, like other European States, has conducted educational policies and reforms to accomplish these objectives. This included the reorganization of both university and polytechnic subsystems and the implementation of extensive legal and curricular changes and the adoption of innovative teaching methods. Its field application process was mostly visible in 2006 and 2007.

This reform was elaborated in order to attain an education system based on the development of competences rather than on the transmission of knowledge, and included the development of a system of easily readable and comparable degrees aimed to simplify comparison between qualifications across Europe. The flexibility and transparency enabled students to have their qualifications recognised more widely, facilitating freedom of movement around a more transparent EHEA (European Higher Education Area). This was aided by the establishment of a system of credits in the form of the European Credit Transfer System (ECTS) and the adoption of the Diploma Supplement by all countries involved. One academic year corresponds to 60 ECTS-credits that are equivalent to 1500-1800 hours of study. The new model comes closer to the North American and Japanese systems. It gives greater weight to practical training, intensive research projects and the way credits are measured reflects how hard a student has worked. The new evaluation methods reflect not only a student's performance on exams, but also his or her lab experiments, presentations, hours spent on study, innovation capacities and so forth.

The European higher education area adopted a system based on three cycles of study, at bachelor, master and doctorate's level, that is:

1st cycle of study lasting three or four years to attain a bachelor's degree, in Portugal called a licenciatura
2nd cycle of study lasting one or two years to attain a master's degree, in Portugal called a mestrado
3rd cycle of study lasting three years to attain a doctorate, in Portugal called a doutoramento
1st cycle degree

Licenciatura (1st cycle degree): This cycle of study has a curricular units structure geared to the employment market, in which the student can have teaching sessions of a collective nature, sessions of tutorial style personal orientation, stages, and field projects and assignments. This cycle has 180 to 240 credits, called ECTS and normally takes three to four years of full-time study to complete the degree (six to eight curricular semesters). To attain this degree, the student must pass all the curricular units that integrate the course's curricula.

2nd cycle degree
Mestrado (2nd cycle degree or master): This cycle of study has 90 to 120 credits (ECTS) and the duration of one to two years (three to four curricular semesters). To attain this degree one must pass all the units that integrate the curricula of the course as well as a successful public defence of a thesis, project or stage report. Holders of a national or foreign higher education degree or equivalent can apply to the master's degree's cycle of study. Applicants possessing a scholarly, scientific or professional curriculum, which is recognized as certifying the capacity to accomplish this course can also apply to the master's degree's cycle of study. In engineering, although the use by some institutions of two separated cycles, only having the master's degree (2nd cycle of study) one can be a full chartered engineer.

Mestrado Integrado (Joint degree): According to European regulations the access to several professional activities (medical doctor, engineer, pharmacist, psychologist, architect, lawyer, etc.) can be limited to one who holds a master's degree obtained through an integrated cycle of study with 300 to 360 credits (ECTS) and the duration of 10 to 12 curricular semesters. The access to this cycle of studies is governed by the same norms as access to the 1st cycle of studies.

3rd cycle degree
Doutoramento (Doctorate cycle): The cycle of studies that leads to the doctoral degree includes the elaboration of an original thesis, especially produced for this purpose and coherent with the branch of knowledge or specialty which may also require the completion of research based curricular units. Applicants already possessing a master's degree or equivalent can apply to the PhD degree's cycle of studies. Applicants holding a bachelor's degree who also possess an excellent scholarly, scientific or professional curriculum which demonstrates the capacity to accomplish this cycle of studies can also apply to the PhD degree's cycle of studies. In addition, applicants possessing a scholarly, scientific or professional curriculum recognised by the University as demonstrating the capacity for the completion of this cycle of studies may also be allowed to apply.