"The Council of Ministers approved the decree-law that establishes the reinforcement of the number of vacancies of the general regime of access to higher education," says the government.
Portugal’s government has approved an exceptional increase in the number of places made available in the first phase of the national competition for access to higher education, in response to a record number of applicants, at its regular weekly cabinet meeting.
“The Council of Ministers approved the decree-law that establishes the reinforcement of the number of vacancies of the general regime of access to higher education and of the special competitions, through the transfer of the fixed and unoccupied vacancies in the special competitions for access and entry to higher education,” the government said in a statement released after Thursday’s meeting.
The possibility of increasing the number of places had already been put forward by the Ministry of Science, Technology and Higher Education which, when announcing the total available for the first phase of the competition, did not rule out a possible reinforcement in case there was a high than the normal number of candidates, as there were last year.
This year, demand once again exceeded expectations, with 63,878 candidates recorded, the highest figure since 1996 and significantly more than the 52,000 vacancies initially made available.
Given the surge in demand, the government has now decided to use places left unfilled in the special competitions for access to higher education to reinforce the number available in the general competition.
The statement released after the cabinet meeting does not quantify the change, but the minister, Manuel Heitor, had already said that the intention was to transfer at least 2,000 of the nearly 5,000 unoccupied places to the general competition.
According to the government, the higher than usual number of candidates to the first phase of the national competition for access to higher education “represents a sign of confidence of young people and their families in higher education and institutions.
“The significant increase in national candidates promotes the widening of the social base for recruitment to higher education and is a very significant sign for the progressive qualification of the resident population in Portugal,” reads the statement, which also reaffirms the goal of raising the proportion of people aged 20 in higher education to 60% by 2030.
The plan to increase the number of places available vacancies had on Tuesday already received a favourable opinion from the National Commission for Access to Higher Education (CNAES). It also argued that the reallocation of vacancies “does not substantially alter the regional placement pattern of students that has been achieved” in terms of fostering territorial cohesion.
If it also proves possible to increase the number of places in the second phase of the general competition, which runs from 27 September to 8 October, this should happen in institutions based outside the metropolitan areas of Lisbon and Porto.
The deadline for applications in the first phase of the national competition for access to higher education, which opened with 52,000 vacancies, ended on Friday with more than 63,000 students applying, an increase of 1,203 on the same period in 2020 and the highest number since 1996.
The results will be known on September 27, the day on which the second phase kicks off.