Portugal: Candidates in first access round of higher education at 25-year high

Candidates for the first phase of Portugal’s national competition for access to public higher education this year number 62,675, the highest number “in the last 25 years,” the Ministry of Science, Technology and Higher Education announced on Monday.

In a statement, the ministry said that “62,675 students applied to the 1st phase of the National Competition for Access (CNA) to public higher education in the 2020-2021 school year, representing an increase of 11,384 candidates compared to 2019 (when 51,291 students had applied so far, and 51,036 applications were considered valid).”

According to the ministry, the number of candidates is “the highest since 1996”. 

It estimates that the number of new entrants to higher education “in all study cycles, public and private, will reach around 90,000 new students enrolled in the next school year of 2020/21,” against 84,000 last year. 

These figures include the CNA which, according to the ministry, represents about two thirds of the total, along with other forms of entry into the public system, short courses (higher technical vocational courses) and the private system.

The results of the first phase of the competition are to be published on 28 September on the website of the Directorate-General of Higher Education, and can also be consulted through the ES Acceso mobile app, the ministry says.

It adds that “the increase in candidates in this phase of access to public higher education represents a sign of confidence of young people and their families in higher education and in their institutions, as well as in the advantages resulting from higher qualification, especially in the context of the emerging international crisis associated with Covid-19. 

“The unprecedented increase in the number of candidates promotes the broadening of the social base of support for higher education and is a very significant sign for the progressive qualification of the population living in Portugal,” the ministry continues. 

In the statement, it stresses that although for the first time half of 20-year-olds are studying in higher education, “the goals to which Portugal should be oriented in the European context require achieving an average attendance rate in higher education of six out of 10 youngsters aged 20 by 2030, as well as broadening the qualifications of the entire population, making sure to reach [a proportion of] 40% of graduates of tertiary education in the 30-34 age group by 2023 and of 50% in 2030.”