The development of mass higher education and growing competition between higher education institutions has given increasing visibility to the issue of diversification. This article analyses the issue of programme diversification, using a panel of 181 Portuguese higher education institutions
over the period 1995 to 2007, by comparing the behaviour of public and private institutions. The results show that the legal status of institutions is the major determinant of programme diversification, as private institutions are far more specialized than their public counterparts. The study
also evaluates the role of other institutional variables, such as the institution’s size, age, location, institutional mission and research intensity, to explain differences in the diversification behaviour of higher education institutions. The results provide important insights, as
competition has been thought to improve the performance of higher education institutions.