Dynamics of Inequality in Portuguese Higher Education System – Access, Gender, and Mobility

Project acronym: 
Access to HE
Project start date: 
Monday, March 1, 2021
Project end date: 
Saturday, August 31, 2024
Main researcher: 
External researchers: 
Ana Rute Cardoso (IAE-CSIS) Louis Philippe Morin (U. Owatta) Richard Murphy (U.Texas) Stephen Desjardins (U. Michigan) Miguel Urquiola (U. Columbia) - Consultant
Proponent institution: 
Project description: 
Recent decades have seen a massive expansion in the access to higher education (HE). One of the major developments in dealing with mass HE has been a tendency to de-regulate higher education systems (HES), allowing them to follow the interplay of the supply and demand forces. However, it has been argued that de-regulation and competition could lead to significant stratification and inequalities in HE. There are several dimensions through which HE can reproduce or amplify inequalities. One of the potential sources of inequality is that of institutional stratification. In many systems the major issue is not anymore of access to a degree, but increasingly about the type of degree, the type of institution, the region chosen, or the field of study being chosen. This seems to be particularly relevant regarding the future benefits of HE as the job prospects and income seem to vary substantially depending on the field of study and educational institution. A second source of inequality refers to the way HE reproduces and amplifies socioeconomic inequalities. Due to the strong competition for certain programs and institutions, students and their families have adopted a variety of strategies, namely by mobilizing more resources that could place them in an advantageous situation. Moreover, others have questioned that the current system focus on certain competences and skills that do not guarantee a good academic performance of students once they enter HE. A third important dimension of inequality in a mass system has to do with the opportunities it creates according to gender. Although women’s levels of participation in HE and qualification have improved significantly, this is still not homogeneous across all fields. In particular, women are still underrepresented in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) professions, despite investing on average more years in education than males, which can partly justify the gender pay gap, as women miss out on high-paying careers. A fourth and final dimension of inequality refers to the number of years of study and the growing divide between those with a first-degree and those with postgraduate education and the financial advantages of the latter. In this project we aim to study several dimensions of the dynamics of inequality in mass HE by focusing on the Portuguese system. A crucial aspect to study is the impact of the access system and the way this is replicating and amplifying different types of inequalities. Thus, we aim to analyse the access system in Portugal and to what extent it is performing well its function
Project keywords: 
Inequality, Higher Education, Gender, Mobility
Financing amount: 
Funding entity: 
Fundação para a Ciência e Tecnologia

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