Bachelor in Portugal

With the adherence to the Bologna Process, the higher education in Portugal has changed in order to make European scholarship degrees uniform. For example, a bacharelato (bachelor’s degree) became a licenciatura, whereas before the implementation of the Bologna Process, a licenciatura referred to a licentiate degree, which was a major bachelor’s degree with professional accreditation and took five years of study.
The name of the bachelor’s degree does not come from the word for a single man, as some may believe, but instead dates back to the Renaissance.During that age, those who passed the final examinations of their doctorate were decorated with berried branches of bay, an ancient symbol of highest honour. This is where the word originates from, as the Latin bacca (a berry) and laureus (of the bay laurel) gave origin to the French baccalauréat, and thus the modification “bachelor” took on the meaning of one holding a university degree.

A bachelor’s degree is usually an academic degree earned for an undergraduate course or major that generally lasts four years, but can range anywhere from three to seven years depending on the region of the world. In some exceptional cases, it may also be the name of a postgraduate degree.

Under the British system, and those influenced by it, undergraduate degrees are differentiated either as pass degrees (also known in some areas as ordinary degrees) or as Honours Degrees, the latter sometimes denoted by the appearance of “(Hons)” after the degree abbreviation. An honours degree generally requires a higher academic standard than a pass degree, and in some universities an extra year of study. In Portugal there is no such distinction.

Up until the beginning of the 20th Century, the bacharelato was automatically granted to those who passed all of their exams and subsequently completed their course. If they had obtained a minimum grade of “Bom” (“Good”), they were eligible to undertake a licenciatura, as long as they wrote, presented and successfully defended their thesis.
During much of the 20th Century, the bacharelato fell in disuse, with Portuguese universities granting the degrees of licenciado, mestre and doutor only. In 1968, the Portuguese bachelor’s degree was revived, during a reform which had the goal of creating short-duration superior education courses to increase the low number of secondary school teachers. Students of these courses who completed the first 3 years of the course were awarded a bachelor’s degree, with the possibility of studying the rest of the years necessary to become a licenciado.

Courses that offered bachelor’s degrees were eventually opened for other areas of superior education, with the duration usually being of 3 years, although durations of 2 or 4 years were not unheard of. However, with the appearance of polytechnic schools, better suited for short-duration courses, the bacharelato was mainly “transferred” to these courses and the universities stopped awarding them.

In 2005, there was a reform of the Portuguese system of degrees and diplomas that lead to the extinction of the bacharelato. However, Portugal was now conforming to the Bologna Process, which meant that its degrees were more widely recognized and were equal to those of other Bologna-adherent countries. In practice, this means that a bachelor’s degree is now equivalent to a licenciatura and vice-versa, across the European countries that adopted the Bologna Process.