What have we been up to?

Our Projects

We have projects that cover a great variety of topics on economics of education concerning several educational stages.

Ongoing Projects

Summary: The progressive narrowing of wage premiums between workers who have completed higher education and those who have pursued a vocational path in secondary education raises questions on how effectively the educational system and the needs of the labor market are aligned. Since only 21% of managers reported having completed higher education in 2016, questions also arise on whether manager training in Portugal may play a role in the allocation of workers to different types of companies.

In this project about education and training in Portugal, we examine the transition to the labor market of students who pursued vocational education, of students who pursued higher education, and we also examine manager training, in order to understand:

  • The wage premium and employability of different areas and courses in vocational education
  • The wage returns and employability of different courses in higher education
  • The impact of manager training on company productivity and the hiring of its workers


We will conduct extensive empirical analysis and develop a set of detailed policy recommendations for each of the studied topics. A comprehensive analysis will also be conducted, providing an overview of the results and their implications on the implementation of public policies in the education and training sectors.

Coordinator: Luís Catela Nunes

Team: Luís Catela Nunes, Pedro Martins, Francisco Queiró, Ana Balcão Reis, Pedro Freitas, Gonçalo Lima, Miguel Estevinho Nunes, Teresa Thomas

Sponsor: Fundação Francisco Manuel dos Santos

Summary: The transition from secondary to higher education can be a demanding process, with integration challenges that are difficult to overcome. This project focuses on first year bachelor’s degree students to understand the factors that influence their academic success, in order to promote it and reduce dropout rates in higher education. 

We will analyze student’s academic, personal, social, and behavioral data and develop predictive models to understand the main factors associated with these two phenomena, which will make an early tracking of students in risk of dropout and failure possible.

To mitigate the identified difficulties and foster a better integration of students in both academic and social dimensions, there will be an implementation of welcoming, informational, mentoring and support programs by qualified professionals. Indicators will be defined to monitor students’ level of adherence and degree of satisfaction towards the proposed activities.

The results of this analysis are bound to enhance Universidade Nova de Lisboa’s Internal Monitoring and Quality Assessment System with a deeper analytical component, allowing for the modeling of academic success and dropout. 

This project aims for these tools to be extendable to other higher education contexts and to contribute to the development of more effective policies, inclusive learning environments, and the provision of additional integration and learning resources.

Coordinators: Ana Balcão Reis (Nova SBE); Roberto Henriques (Nova IMS)

Team: Ana Balcão Reis, Roberto Henriques, Patrícia Xufre, Joana Escórcio Silva

Sponsor: Directorate General for Higher Education (DGES) www.dges.gov.pt/pt, European Structural and Investment Funds

Summary: This project consists in an impact evaluation and cost-benefit analysis of two educational programs from “Iniciativa Educação Teresa e Alexandre Soares dos Santos”: “AaZ” and “SerPro”, from the 2022/2023 school year. This assessment is made through different econometric methodologies, surveys, analyses of data from both projects and the linking of these data to data from the Ministry of Education of Portugal. Program “AaZ” is aimed towards students from Primary Education (grades 1 and 2) who have learning difficulties in reading and writing, following a logic of early detection and intervention. Program “SerPro” aims to promote good quality professional courses that are able to respond to the true qualification needs of young people, to contribute to regional development and ultimately to dignify professional learning and reduce the lack of technicians in businesses.

Coordinator: Pedro Martins

Team: Pedro Martins, João Ferreira

Duration: 2022-2024

Sponsor: Iniciativa Educação Teresa e Alexandre Soares dos Santos  www.iniciativaeducacao.org/pt


Summary: Educational systems have the potential to break the cycle of poverty enabling children from low socio-economic background to move up in the distribution of income, reducing the intergenerational correlation in income and decreasing inequality. Assessment methods affect the learning process and the academic progression of students and thus, have an important role in this process. Using a difference-in-differences approach, we aim to study the impact on learning, high-school graduation rates, and access to higher education of different choices regarding assessment methodologies. Also, we want to study how the impact of these choices depends on students’ gender, socio-economic status (SES), or being an immigrant. A highly debated policy regarding students’ assessment is the existence of national standardized exams. We exploit a policy reform that introduced, for a short period of 4 years, national exams at the end of the 6th grade, in Portugal, studying how this changed teacher grading standards and evaluate how this policy impacted students’ learning and the likelihood that students fail a given school year.

Coordinator: Ana Balcão Reis

Team: Ana Balcão Reis, Luís Catela Nunes, Pedro Freitas, Catarina Angelo, Gonçalo Lima, Afonso Leme, João Firmino, David Costa

Duration: 2022 - 2024

Sponsor: Fundação para a Ciência e Tecnologia https://www.fct.pt/en/

Summary: Every year large numbers of students from Cape Verde enroll in college in Portugal. These students face multiple academic and social integration challenges upon arrival, dropping out of college at much higher rates than other groups of students. Imperfect information at origin may lead many of these students to misperceive their expected costs and benefits from a college degree in Portugal.

Does providing tailored information on the average costs and benefits from a college degree in Portugalchange high school students migration decisions? To test this hypothesis, the project is implementing an experimental impact evaluation of information sessions in Cape Verdean high schools. The study helps understanding how being exposed to better, more targeted information on living costs, graduation prospects, as well as future returns to education shifts students’ decisions to migrate, and whether this ultimately improves their educational outcomes.

Coordinators: Ana Balcão Reis e Cátia Batista

Team: Gonçalo Gameiro, David Costa, Cátia Batista, Ana Balcão Reis, Pedro Freitas, Gonçalo Lima

Duration: 2022-2024

Partners: NOVAFRICA Knowledge Center. https://novafrica.org/

Sponsors: Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia (FCT), Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN)

Summary: The number of students from disadvantaged socioeconomic backgrounds completing higher education in Portugal is low. A possible reason for these low numbers is the lack of educational aspirations of these students, who have limited contact with college graduates in their daily lives. This project implements a randomized controlled trial to test the hypothesis that an intervention as simple as a one-day visit to a university campus can increase the educational aspirations and academic performance of disadvantaged students. This type of campus visit is common internationally but has not yet been investigated in the context of educational decision-making. This is a low-cost intervention that is easy to replicate on a large scale and can potentially contribute to reducing the problem of educational inequality in countries with significant immigrant, ethnic and linguistic minorities in contexts that undermine educational aspirations.

Coondinators: José Tavares, Cátia Batista

Team: José Tavares, Cátia Batista, Pedro Freitas, Wayne Sandholtz, Ana Balcão Reis, Vitor Cavalcante

Duration: 2021- 2025

Partners: NOVAFRICA Knowledge Center https://novafrica.org/?lang=eng & Economics for Policy Knowledge Center https://www2.novasbe.unl.pt/en/economics-for-policy

Sponsor: Fundação para a Ciência e Tecnologia https://www.fct.pt/index.phtml.en

Summary: This project aims to implement a randomized impact evaluation of the mentoring intervention that promotes a better adaptation and success of students from the Países Africanos de Língua Oficial Portuguesa (PALOP) into Portuguese higher education institutions. The project will inform public policies promoting investment in human capital and the productive integration of immigrants – issues that are becoming more and more relevant, particularly in contexts of ageing population.

Coordinators: Ana Balcão Reis, Cátia Batista

Team: Ana Balcão Reis, Cátia Batista, Gonçalo Lima, João Firmino, Márcia Serra, Pedro Freitas, Diogo Sá, Gonçalo Gameiro, David Costa, Madalena Ramalho, Mariana Parente, Inês Lopes

Duration: 2020 - 2023 

Partners: NOVAFRICA Knowledge Center https://novafrica.org/?lang=eng

Sponsor:  Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund (AMIF), Ministry of Internal Administration https://www.sg.mai.gov.pt/fundoscomunitarios/qfp20142020/fami/Paginas/default.aspx

Outputs: Brochure

Summary: The current challenges that education faces, particularly in the follow-up of multiple Covid-19 lockdowns motivates a deeper understanding on the differences of public vs private teachers. Such understanding is for sure crucial in developing policies that can target the identified issues and improve the Portuguese educational system, based on our findings. Thus, in this study we have compare multiple variables in order to analyse the differences between the public and private sector teachers from 2006 to 2016, in Portugal. Overall, our results have always been according to the literature, something relevant since it adds strength to the data. We compare private and public school teachers regarding gender, age, qualifications, turnover, tenure, type of contract, working hours and wages. It is of most importance to be aware of these statistics, in order to implement well thought and efficient policies.

Coordinator: Ana Balcão Reis, Luís Catela Nunes

Team (Economics of Education Knowledge Center): Pedro Freitas

Team (Nova Economics Club): Ana Marques, Daniel Silva, Henrique Santos, João Carvalho, Adriana Lopes, Tomás Duarte

Duration: 2020-2023

Partner: Nova Economics Club http://novaeconomicsclub.pt/

Output: Final Report

Summary: The educational institutions aim to define specific strategic plans and interventions that intend to promote success and prevent failure, which requires the necessary information to identify the students that are in need of these types of interventions. Unfortunately, throughout the years, the educational system has been resorting exclusively to the feedback that is given by the teachers, which has been proven to be inefficient since the identification of these students has been performed in a late stage of the learning process. Taking this into account, this research aims to contribute a better comprehension of the success and failure phenomena in primary schooling from a longitudinal perspective. In this project, it is intended to identify the factors that better explain school failure. Moreover, it will also be proposed an approach based on Data Mining techniques that aim to facilitate the identification and prioritization of the students that are more prone to fail. This identification is, thereafter, followed by the promotion of opportunities to intentionally and prematurely act on these cases, which will promote success and prevent school failure. The final results aim to clearly identify the success and failure profiles, not only validated at an empirical level, but also at a conceptual level, and create a support system to the teachers’ and school managers’ decisions.

Coordinator: Ana Balcão Reis

Team: Ana Balcão Reis, Luís Catela Nunes, Patrícia Xufre, António José Rodrigues (Faculty of Sciences of the University of Lisbon), Catarina Angelo

Duration: 2018 - 2023

Partner: Centre for Research in Higher Education Policies https://www.cipes.pt/?language=en

Sponsor: EDULOG https://www.edulog.pt/

Past Projects

Summary: In Portugal, just like in many other countries, inequalities in students’ school results are strongly tied to socioeconomic differences in students’ families. The first purpose of this study is to calculate the indicators that show how socioeconomic inequality translates into inequality in school results. For this we will consider students’ results in national exams, whether they reach or conclude secondary education, and whether they opt for a professional or an academic-oriented secondary education path. These indicators will be calculated at a municipality level, so that the municipalities where socioeconomic inequality translates into school inequality can be identified. The second purpose of this study is to identify and evaluate the importance of the factors that explain differences between municipalities. For instance, the importance of residential or school segregation and of conditions of labor and income will be analyzed.

Coordinator: Luís Catela Nunes

Team: Luís Catela Nunes, Pedro Carneiro, Pedro Freitas, Miguel Nunes, Alice Chaves, Sara Cal

Duration: 2022-2023

Sponsor: EDULOG https://www.edulog.pt/

Summary: This project aims to monitor and measure the results from the implementation of the ISA FJN, a conditional loan program which finances long and short-term academic degrees. This assessment is made through surveys to candidate beneficiaries of this support. It will also involve a benchmark exercise against similar international programmes.

Coordinator: Ana Balcão Reis

Team: Ana Balcão Reis, Pedro Freitas, Francisco Vale, Bernardo Marques Vedor

Duration: 2020-2023

Sponsor: Fundação José Neves https://joseneves.org/pt/


Summary: This project aims to understand how the activation of leadership skills, community spirit and participation in the educational community can impact the development of self-esteem, autonomy, interpersonal relationships, and critical thinking. The intention of this project is also to assess if there is a causal connection between gains in this set of soft-skills and their academic performance.

Coordinator: Ana Balcão Reis

Team: Ana Balcão Reis, Luís Catela Nunes, Pedro Freitas, Miguel Nunes, David Costa, Gonçalo Lima

Duration: 2020 - 2023

Sponsor: Associação Mentes Empreendedoras


Summary: This project aimed to create a database of easy and direct use by Nova SBE’s researchers wishing to work on empirical studies in the topic of education. The project details the several procedures carried-out in the rearranging, harmonization and merging of the numerous datasets made available for research purposes by the Directorate-General for Statistics on Education and Science (Direção-Geral de Estatísticas da Educação e Ciência) with anonymized information on students, teachers, classes, and schools, both public and private, in mainland Portugal. This database contains information on pre-school, basic, and secondary education between the school years 2006/07 and 2017/18.

Coordinator: Luís Catela Nunes

Team: Luís Catela Nunes, João Firmino, Gonçalo Lima, Pedro Freitas

Duration: 2019-2022

Partner: Social Sciences DataLab http://datalab.novasbe.pt/

Sponsor: FCT https://www.fct.pt/index.phtml.en & Social Sciences DataLab http://datalab.novasbe.pt/

Outputs: Presentation

Summary: In Portugal, the COVID-19 pandemic led to temporary school lockdowns and a generalised move to online teaching. This article uses data from a survey administered to teachers between March 2020 and January 2021 in three rounds of questionnaires. It shows that the pandemic affected public and private schools differently and led to increased inequalities in education, as many students did not have access to computers and the Internet. The situation improved over time, especially in private schools, where students are mostly from higher-income families. Overall, teachers were able to diversify their teaching and assessment methods. However, they believed that it would take a long time for students to recover the learning losses, with public school teachers being more pessimistic. Nearly half of public-school teachers surveyed believed that this recovery would take two terms or more, whereas over a third of private school teachers made this prediction. This data was collected before the second lockdown, which started in January 2021. Teachers’ estimates for recovery time have likely increased since then.

Coordinator: Luís Catela Nunes

Team: Luís Catela Nunes, Ana Balcão Reis, Pedro Freitas, Gonçalo Lima, Diogo Conceição

Duration: 2020 – 2021

Sponsor: “la Caixa” Foundation  https://oobservatoriosocial.fundacaolacaixa.pt/en/inicio

Outputs (Published Article and Preliminary Results): Published ArticlePreliminary Results - April 2020Preliminary Results - May 2021Preliminary Results - September 2021

Summary: This project provides forecasts of the demand and supply of teachers for the 850 schools in Portuguese mainland across different subjects and school years. This is the first detailed study on teacher shortages in Portugal, predicting that around 34 thousand teachers will need to be recruited during the next 10 years. This need for teacher staff is driven by the significant share of teachers, around 40%, who will retire during this period.

Coordinator: Luís Catela Nunes

Team: Ana Balcão Reis, Luís Catela Nunes, Pedro Freitas, Miguel Nunes, José Mesquita

Duration: March to November, 2021

Sponsor: Direção Geral de Estatísticas da Educação e da Ciência (DGEEC) https://www.dgeec.mec.pt/np4/home

Output: Final Report

Summary: This project aims to: i) Identify the schools with the highest percentage of students of immigrant origin and their nationalities ii) Explain the difference of results between students of immigrant origin and native students; iii) Identify the factors that contribute to differences between schools in this phenomenon that can be considered as potential targets for intervention; iv) To identify groups of schools with considerable weight of these students and different configurations of school results; v) To deepen the knowledge about the factors of school success among the students with immigrant origin in certain schools, focusing in particular on organizational, curricular and human relations practices vi) Identify strategies of promotion of school success for students of immigrant origin in particular in the three dimensions mentioned in the previous point, also showing the bad practices; (vii) Produce recommendations for schools and educational policies.

Coordinators: Luís Catela Nunes, Sílvia de Almeida (CICS.NOVA)

Team: João Firmino, José Mesquita, Gonçalo Lima, Maria João Hortas (Institute of Geography and Spatial Planning of the University of Lisbon), Cristina Oliveira (Observatory for Migration the High Commission for Migration), César Morais (CICS.NOVA), Natália Barcelos (CICS.NOVA), Raquel Santana (CICS.NOVA), Miguel Feio (Community School Museums Project), Bárbara Bäckström (CICS.NOVA)

Duration: 2018 - 2021

Partner: CICS.NOVA, Institute of Geography and Spatial Planning of the University of Lisbon, Observatory for Migration the High Commission for Migration, Community School Museums Project

Sponsor: Associação EPIS - Empresários pela Inclusão Social https://www.epis.pt/homepage

Output: Published Report

Summary: This project aims to determine the impact that a teacher can have on the students’ learning process, depending on his/her quality of teaching. In order to quantify the quality of the teacher, this research will resort to the Value Added of each one, more precisely, the average learning of his/her students which is normally computed through the evolution of the students’ grades in two adjacent periods, before and after the student is exposed to this teacher’s way of teaching. In order to do this, the research requires access to administrative microdata from students and teachers, which was only available in the USA and some developing countries. Nevertheless, there were created new databases for data in Portugal that link the teachers to each student in each school year, along with the results from the 4th, 6th, 9th, and 12th grade, allowing for these types of studies to be performed in Portugal.

Coordinator: Luís Catela Nunes

Team: Luís Catela Nunes, Ana Balcão Reis, Carmo Seabra, Pedro Freitas, Rodrigo Ferreira, Pedro Carneiro (University College London)

Duration: 2017-2019

Partner: University College London https://www.ucl.ac.uk/

Sponsor: EDULOG https://www.edulog.pt/

Summary: This project studies the determinants of school’s effectiveness. In order to do that, it will use a dataset that was a product of a previous project funded by FCT. It merges information on students' characteristics with results on national exams at students’ individual level for the whole Portuguese student population in basic and secondary education for the school years of 2006-2007 to 2011-2012. Through micro-econometric methods, it is intended to determine the factors that affect school achievement so that it can improve the Portuguese educational system. Some of the determinants that will be analysed are retentions and evaluation methods, school organization, class composition, and peers’ characteristics. Finally, since one of the most important outcomes of basic and secondary education is the access to higher education and the success therein, it will also be analysed the determinants of academic achievement of Bachelor and Integrated Masters students in Portugal. Taking this into account, it was used datasets that merge information at the individual student level on students’ characteristics and educational outcomes, both at the end of secondary education and at higher education. This will allow to identify the relationships and specific roles played by internal scores and scores on national exams.

Coordinator: Ana Balcão Reis

Team: Ana Balcão Reis, Luís Catela Nunes, Maria do Carmo Seabra

Duration: 2016-2019

Sponsor: Fundação para a Ciência e Tecnologia https://www.fct.pt/index.phtml.en

Outputs: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0272775715001053




Summary: The role of retention as an educational tool to overcome under-achievement is a hotly debated issue, especially given that the results in the literature are not consensual. The Portuguese case is particularly well suited to study this issue: all students must take standardized national exams at specific grades. Moreover, the available dataset tracks the performance of students over time. Therefore, it was possible to measure the impact of students’ retention on their subsequent academic performance since it was viable to control for each student’s initial level of ability at the moment of retention. A propensity score matching approach was used, in which retained and promoted 4th-grade students are matched according to their socioeconomic characteristics and the scores obtained in national exams. The results suggested that in some situations, retentions may have, on average, a positive impact on future achievement. However, in cases where statistically significant impacts are found, the estimated magnitudes are relatively small.

Coordinators: Ana Balcão Reis, Carmo Seabra, Luís Catela Nunes

Team: Ana Balcão Reis, Carmo Seabra, Luís Catela Nunes

Duration: 2015-2016

Published Paper: Nunes, L. C., Balcão Reis, A., and Seabra, C. 2018. “Is retention beneficial to low-achieving students? Evidence from Portugal”. Applied Economics, 1-12.

Paper Presented in: Third Lisbon Research Workshop on Economics, Statistics and Econometrics of Education, ISEG, Lisbon, Portugal, 23-24 January 2015; 22nd Congress of Portuguese Statistical Society, 7-10 October, 2015, Olhão, Portugal; 10th Annual Meeting of the Portuguese Economic Journal, Coimbra, Portugal, 1-3 July, 2016; 36th International Symposium on Forecasting, ISF2016, Santander, Spain, 19-22 June 2016; Conference “Mês da Educação 2016”, Fundação Francisco Manuel dos Santos, Lisbon, Portugal, 26 October 2016; and Fórum Estatístico, DGEEC, 8 March 2017.

Sponsor: Fundação Francisco Manuel dos Santos https://www.ffms.pt/en

Outputs (Published Paper and Book): https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/00036846.2018.1444261


Coordinator: Ana Balcão Reis

Duration: 2012 - 2015

Sponsor: FCT-Ministry of Science of Portugal under grant Project PTDC/EGE-ECO/122754/2010

Coordinator: Tiago Neves Sequeira

Sponsor: FCT-Ministry of Science of Portugal under grant PTDC/EGE-ECO/112499/2009

Coordinator: Ana Balcão Reis

Duration: 2005 - 2009

Sponsor: FCT-Ministry of Science of Portugal under grant Project POCTI/EGE/60485/2004