Efficiency and Equity in Portuguese Higher Education

Acrónimo do projeto: 
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Investigadores principais: 
Investigadores externos: 
Ana Rute Cardoso (IAE-CSIC), Louis-Philippe Morin (U. Ottawa)
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Descrição do projeto: 
Regarding formative efficiency, there are aspects that have raised significant concerns due to the massification of higher education, such as the percentage of students who drop out without completing any degree and the prolonged period it takes for students to complete their education. On one hand, there's a perception that the expansion of the system has led to the enrolment of students with poorer academic performance and/or less motivation. On the other hand, the massification of the system appears to negatively impact the ability of teachers to effectively monitor the learning of each student. The combination of these effects can contribute to a decrease in the formative efficiency of the system, which is worth analysing. A study by DGEEC (2018) on pathways in higher education, which analyses the situation of students after four years of their enrolment in three-year bachelor's programs, offers a rather discouraging picture. The numbers show that 29% of students had not graduated and were no longer enrolled in Portuguese higher education after four years. In other words, "only about half of the students who enrolled in three-year bachelor's programs managed to complete them within the first four years of study, and more than one in four students left higher education at some point during this period" (DGEEC 2018 p.1). These dropout rates are not uniform across the higher education system, as the percentage of dropouts during the four years tends to be higher in polytechnic education than in university education and higher in private institutions than in public ones. The lack of equity in access to higher education is a persistent problem, not yet satisfactorily resolved in most countries. Numerous studies show that the massification of higher education systems has not completely solved this problem. Although equitable access is formally guaranteed in almost all higher education systems in developed countries (Koucky et al. 2010), some social factors remain strong in most countries. To some extent, this is a consequence of meritocracy, which emphasizes competence and results, ultimately favouring those who had better previous conditions (Arrow, Bowles, and Durlauf 2000; Bowles, Gintis, and Groves 2008). The first objective of the project will be to analyse the government's new program aimed at increasing the participation of students from disadvantaged backgrounds in courses and institutions considered elite, trying to find explanations for the limited success of the initiative, which may be due to social background effects. This part of the study will be based on data from the higher education admission process for the academic year 2023/24. A second objective will be to assess the formative efficiency of the higher education system. The proposed study aims to conduct a more detailed analysis of the formative efficiency of Portuguese higher education courses based on students' academic paths from their enrolment up to a maximum of six years (from 2017/18 to 2022/23 and from 2018/19 to 2023/24). In addition to the aspects already considered in previous studies by DGEEC, additional factors will also be taken into account, including whether the student is a grant recipient, whether they are a working student, whether they enrolled through one of the special regimes (e.g., mature students over 23 years old), the education level of the parents, and the gender of the student. The study also aims to assess the regional equity of access to higher education. DGEEC also provides information about the municipality of origin of students enrolling for the first time in the first year of higher education programs/courses in Portugal, including the indication of the program and institution where they enrolled. This allows for an assessment of equity of access from a regional perspective.
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