Higher education courses lack students

The number of students enrolling in Portuguese universities is decreasing, making the risk of a brain drain a real possibility.

The numbers speak for themselves: out of a total of 1,090 higher education courses offered in Portugal, nearly a third (330) have 10 or fewer students enrolled, 48 have only one student and 66 had none in the first stage of the entrance exams, according to data from the Directorate-General for Higher Education.

These worrying figures are not yet final, but derive from the first phase of student applications which normally receives the most applications.

Polytechnic institutes were only able to fill 55% of their courses from more than 10,000 places available.

The Instituto Politécnico de Tomar registered the lowest rate of students, with only 20% enrolments, followed by the Instituto Politécnico de Bragança with 23%.

In terms of universities, Universidade do Algarve received applications for only 50% of its courses. Much in demand, however, was the Universidade do Porto, which saw applications for 97% of its courses, followed by ISCTE and Universidade Nova de Lisboa (92%).

There were 14 courses in which the average mark of the last applicant to be granted entry was on an assessment of 9.5, on a scale of one to 20. The medicine course at Universidade do Porto registered the highest mark (18.1) for the last applicant.

More than 20 out of the 66 courses that do not have any student placements are part-time or distance learning courses.

Engineering courses register 3,431 vacancies up for grabs, making it the field with the most unclaimed spots.

The president of the Order of Engineers, Carlos Matias Ramos, said: “Courses with the name ‘engineering’ have sprung up like mushrooms, and without an adequate or intelligent method to develop these courses and guarantee easy employment, the offering was larger than the demand.”

Courses related to education sciences also saw a significant decrease in the number of students enrolled. Last year, 74% of the vacancies were filled, while this year only 66% are accounted for.

Mário Nogueira, the Secretary General of the teachers association Fenprof, attributed the drop to the increasing instability of the profession and said: “A feeling of instability and risk was created ever since the government starting increasing teacher unemployment and devaluing careers.”