VPL is available through the national system for recognition, validation and certification of competences – RVCC (Reconhecimento, Validação e Certificação de Competências), and through accreditation of learning in higher education (HE) institutions.
The Portugese national legislation on VPL for HE institutions is written in Decreto-lei nº115/2013 and coordinated by The Ministry of Education and Science. There are general rules that apply to all higher education institutions: they must have formal internal rules on validation that are published in the government official journal. Validation processes and results need to be validated by the scientific board of Universities and Polytechnics. In addition there will be a limit to the number of credits gained by validation processes: up to one third of the total number of ECTS relating to the degree in question. The award of credits in HE is only possible if the student has already been admitted to a course, with the objective of pursuing studies to obtain an academic degree. The legislation also clarifies situations where it is not possible to award credits (for example through partial crediting of curricular units or through training from unauthorized courses).
VPL in Higher Education
Due to the scientific and pedagogical autonomy of universities and polytechnics no single national institution with overall responsibility for validation in HE exists. It is up to each institution to set the specific validation procedures.
In HE, validation of non-formal and informal learning is carried out in relation to courses that are in operation, that are identified within study plans and formal ECTS accreditation and in line with the Bologna process. In HE, access to Professional Higher Technical Courses, Licenciatura, Master’s or PhD can be achieved through the assessment of the learner’s school, scientific and professional curriculum vitae. This assessment is carried out according to procedures set by each HE institution and involves the agreement of the scientific council of the HE institution in which learners want to enroll.
No specific area or sector has been given priority in the validation system. Higher education institutions use ICT-based tools for validation. For example, the request for validation of non-formal and informal learning is generally made online through electronic platforms managed by the given higher education institution. In addition, some institutions hold face-to-face interviews to assess the non-formal and informal learning claimed by learners, as well as face-to-face jury meetings involving the analysis of the portfolios and/or documents presented by learners stating the learning and skills developed throughout life. Furthermore, the awarding of credits for professional experience may be fully or partially conditional on assessment procedures with respect to specific knowledge.
Validation in the Labour Market
The Individual Career Plan by adult learners aims to identify professional choices of adult learners, including education and training paths, and may impact the adult learners’ choices in the future. The individual career plan is developed by the adult learner with guidance from the ORVC practitioner, and an adult educator and trainer from a Centre for Qualification and VET.
The validation procedures in place are directed towards promoting access to and keeping adult learners in the labour market and, eventually, at supporting their career development. It is not possible to register specific validation arrangements for sectors of economic activity when they are particularly directed at promoting access to the labour market of that sector.
Validation in the Third Sector
Validation procedures in the third sector are part of the validation arrangements that exist in general education and VET RVCC; they have no specific objectives or funding channels but have the same connection to the national education and training system.
The Competences Standards in general education and VET RVCC which apply to the validation of non-formal and informal learning of a professional nature, such as that which occurs in activities to support elderly people, children and youth. In many cases these professional activities are developed by third sector entities.
Funding of VPL
HE institutions have to allocate their own funding to validation processes. Additionally, they determine specific fees to be paid by learners for the validation and accreditation processes, which vary largely across the different institutions.