Private higher education came to break the monopoly of higher education that was only provided by the public sector and the Catholic University.
The beginning of private and cooperative higher education1 took place in 1978 with the Universidade Livre, excluding the Catholic University that operated under the Concordat between Portugal and the Holy See, which was financed by the State for several decades. Private higher education thus broke the monopoly of higher education that was only provided by the public sector and the Catholic University.
Portugal was (and somehow still is) one of the countries in Western Europe where the number of individuals per inhabitant with higher education degrees was one of the lowest, which implied a deficient training in terms of human capital, with negative consequences for the economic and social development of the country, through low levels of productivity. Indeed, it is known – with evidence from scientific studies carried out in many countries, especially in the USA and Europe – that one of the necessary conditions for the economic and social development of any society is the level of human capital.
The great increase in the demand for higher education after April 1974, due to the socio-economic structural changes that took place, led to a mismatch in the offer of existing higher education, so that the emergence of private higher education filled the existing gap, which was recognized by the State by creating legislation that allowed the emergence of private provision in higher education.
Private higher education is part of the global higher education system, aiming at the same objectives as higher education provided by the state sector, in which the public interest is the main purpose, so that the general principles that guide the provision of public higher education are they apply to private higher education, namely, the recognition by the State of private institutions as of public interest and the recognition of the academic degrees that are awarded by these entities, in parity with the degrees awarded by public institutions.