Higher education is a mainstay in the development and support of the economic, social and cultural development of the global society. Throughout history, academic institutions have sought to respond to the demands of endlessly changing and evolving environmental conditions. However, in the 21st century, a number of significant factors are changing the higher education landscape and challenging higher education institutions (HEIs) to interpret the vital needs of contemporary society to stimulate and enhance student development. Student development is an all-embracing concept that involves research focusing on students from recruitment to placement. Assuming that meeting student needs and stimulating and enhancing their development are crucial challenges for higher education institutions worldwide, the article focuses on a national study in Portugal designed to measure students’ expectations and satisfaction with their experience. On the basis of a nationwide survey, it examines these in the various types of higher education institutions in Portugal.