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Portuguese higher education is divided in a binary system that incorporates two public polytechnic institutes and almost 70 private higher education institutions. One of the public universities offers exclusively BSc, MSc and PhD degrees in distance learning Universidade Aberta Open University).

What are the main differences between subsystems? University education in Portugal has a focus on research promotion and creation of knowledge. Polytechnic education is based on applied research and development aimed at understanding and solving concrete problems. Nevertheless, often this division is rather non-natural, as the degree of overlap between subsystems is enormous.

In 2005, a process of reform of the Basic Law of the Educational System was initiated in order to implement the Bologna Process. The European Credit Transfer System(ECTS) was introduced in the study cycles, mobility mechanisms, diploma supplement, among others.course.