University of Coimbra demands to know if binary system will be maintained

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The rector of the University of Coimbra, Amílcar Falcão, today demanded that the government have the courage to clarify whether or not it intends to maintain the binary system, which differentiates university education from polytechnic education.

“As rector of the University of Coimbra, what I’d like to know is whether or not the country wants to keep the binary system,” he revealed.

At the ceremony to solemnly open classes for the 2023/24 academic year at the University of Coimbra (UC), which took place this morning, Amílcar Falcão referred to the revision of the Legal Framework for Higher Education Institutions (RJIES), which “consists of several chapters, some of which are more critical than others”.

“The University of Coimbra will continue its life whether or not the binary system is maintained. Let’s have the courage to say what the political choice is and, once it’s made, build the legal framework to regulate it,” he said.

During his speech, the rector of the University of Coimbra recalled the Assembly of the Republic’s decision to allow polytechnic institutes to use the designation of polytechnic universities, allowing them, “subject to conditions to be determined, to award doctoral degrees”.

“Contrary to what most people will think, for me personally, this decision by the Assembly of the Republic doesn’t particularly bother me. What does bother me is that there were only six votes against, and I know why, and that does raise a lot of reservations,” he said.

In his opinion, “the centripetal effect of the metropolitan areas of Lisbon and Oporto, the dysfunctionality of the network of higher education institutions and, in some cases, the short-sightedness or placing of personal agendas of some top officials above institutional interests, could even end badly”.

“And maybe it won’t even take many years. For all these reasons, I anticipate that the next few months will bring a lot of turmoil,” he added.

He promised those present that he would put the UC’s best interests above his own personal interests, and also stressed his resilience, which would allow him to remain “at the forefront of higher education institutions” in the country.

“The University of Coimbra is a research university and should not deviate from its path. The University of Coimbra has achieved results that put it in a position to withstand challenges,” he said.

Regarding the financing of higher education institutions, he considered that the model found, “when fully evaluated, appears to be robust”.

“On the positive side, I would highlight the introduction of doctoral students (3rd cycle) into the funding model, while on the negative side I would highlight the postponement of the full implementation of the model (leaving out aspects such as qualitative evaluation, territorial cohesion and research in the coming years),” he shared.

For Amílcar Falcão, the funding model presented results in “a kind of funding formula, which is nothing more than counting how many students an institution has, how much budget is available, assigning a slice proportional to the number of students”.

“I could elaborate a lot on the weaknesses of this solution, but what is certain is that this was the lowest common denominator found. It will certainly work with more or less adjustments until the end of the legislature, but it will hardly last until the end of the decade without collateral damage,” he criticized.

Moti Shabi
Moti Shabi
Moti Shabi

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