Research in Portugal
The Portuguese Higher Education system is of a dual nature, including university education and polytechnic education administered by public, non-public or co-operative schools of higher education. Only universities – such as the University of Coimbra – award doctoral degrees (PhD) and they can be organized in faculties, schools, institutes, departments and other units, such as research centres and laboratories.
The State is the main R&D funding agent in Portugal; it manages both the national funds and the structural funds provided by the EU. Revenue allocated to Science, Technology and Higher Education is distributed in accordance with the strategic priorities and goals set by the government. The allocation of financing is based on an evaluation of merit established by public calls. There are also cooperation agreements and other forms of support established by partnership with universities, public and private institutions.
Some research units, namely university research centres/ institutes, have the statute of associate laboratories and receive funds from the Portuguese Foundation for Science and Technology. Associate laboratories are research units which demonstrate, in particular through the results of independent external evaluations, capacity to cooperate, in a stable, competent and effective manner, in carrying on specific objectives of the scientific and technological policy laid down by the government. The University of Coimbra has several research centres of excellence with this statute, as it the case of the Centre for Social Studies, which focuses on academic field of the Europlata project.
Portuguese universities are currently using the European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System (ECTS) and in the past four years have adapted its degree programmes to the Bologna Model, following the so called three-cycle structure: first cycle studies (six/eight semesters’ duration and 180-240 ECTS credits); second cycle studies (three/four semesters’ duration and 90-120 ECTS credits); and finally 3rd cycle studies (doctorate). It is important to note yet the existence of an integrated study cycle which combines the 1st cycle and the 2nd cycle levels (ten/twelve semesters’ duration and 300-360 ECTS credits) applied to degrees which prepare students to practice specific professions such as engineers, medical doctors, dentists, pharmacists, and psychologists).
Doctorate degrees (PhD) can last 3-5 years and in most cases award ECTS credits. Universities may offer two types of doctorates, one without study programme and one with study programme.
The doctorate without study programme lasts normally 10 semesters and confers 300 ECTS credits. Students carry out research under the supervision of a professor, write and defend publicly an original thesis.
The doctorate with study programme has 6-8 semesters’ duration and confers 180-240 ECTS credits. Besides carrying out research, writing and defending publicly an original thesis, students have also to attend a set of advanced course units.
Candidates to the doctorate degree (PhD) are generally required to hold a master’s degree, although there may be exceptions to this rule depending on the research and professional experience of the applicant.