Entrepreneurship Education in Higher Education in Portugal

Entrepreneurship education in Portuguese Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) has been promoted and implemented, in the main, since the beginning of the 2000s, in spite of the first entrepreneurship course being offered in the 1990s. The year 2003 can be considered the modal year in Portugal for the entrepreneurship education shift, as during the academic year of 2004/2005 around 27 entrepreneurship courses were taught.  Since then, universities and polytechnics continue to develop their offerings of entrepreneurship programs, mainly at a postgraduate level.

Portuguese HEIs work in a perspective of business creation and, in a more recent shift, also including entrepreneurship as a transversal competence within the curriculum (and also through extracurricular clubs and activities). HEI soon perceived that needed to connect to and work in partnership with other types of institutions that offered the conditions and support necessary to enhance the potential of new entrepreneurs. Some incubator and startup programs have emerged outside the university system and these national partners have increased entrepreneurial support and the needed follow-up to entrepreneurship within the education system.

Portugal has achieved much over the past fifteen years in the area of entrepreneurship education. But there are still problems that have to be addressed through education policy development and culture shift – mainly that the culture in Portugal remains somewhat risk averse.

There is important work to be done to change mindsets and shift the path of our productive effort towards greater competitiveness, innovation and entrepreneurship as keys to future growth. More than defining areas of intervention, it is important to understand how to develop skills, principally regarding those needed to reconcile the development of fundamental abilities in more traditional areas of education with those related to technological and non-cognitive, “soft skills” that relate directly to the capacity to learn and acquire entrepreneurial capability.

Prof. Dr. Dana T. Redford,
President, PEEP – Educar para Empreender (Associação)