News Report / Profile
The University of Lisbon, the Faculty of Medicine of the University of Lisbon and the Future
The recent approval of the Statutes of the University of Lisbon (UL) confronts the institution with a series of challenges with implications for the Organic Units (OU) that make it up, as well as for all those who carry out their professional activity in it: teachers, students, researchers and non-teaching staff. Given the pertinence and current nature of the subject, news@fmul asked the Rector of the UL some questions in order to achieve a glimpse to the future of the UL.
1. The new statutes of the UL imply some significant institutional changes. Do you consider that this transition will be difficult? What are the immediate consequences on the level of teaching at the UL?
Certainly. Processes of change always demand courage and determination. But the strategic plan drawn up, "Uma Alameda de Futuros", clearly defines what we want for the University of Lisbon. The main consequences on the level of teaching will be the reinforcing of the post-graduation course (masters and PhDs) and the development of integrated undergraduate programmes common to different faculties, reinforcing the idea of a training with a humanistic and scientific basis.
2. How will the new statutes of the UL influence the new statutes of the Organic Units?
The Statutes of the University consecrate great autonomy to the organic units (a term which I don’t like at all). Diversity is a central element in our university life. There is only responsibility and commitment where there is freedom of organisation. At the same time, there are two orientations that form an important element in the modernization of the University: the Strategic Areas and the Centre for Common Resources and Shared Services.
3. What implications for the functioning of the UL will the creation of the Strategic Areas of the UL have (Arts and Humanities, Health Sciences, Sciences and Technology, Juridical and Economic Sciences, and Social Sciences)?
We need to reinvent the meaning of the University, and its disciplinary organisation into major areas of knowledge. The traditional division, which were consecrated and reproduced by the XIX century universities, do not allow one to respond to the challenges presented by contemporary life. One asks university students to be able to think beyond the “already known”, opening up new ideas and new paths.
4. And what about the FMUL in particular?
Health, perhaps more than the other areas, needs a multidisciplinary and multi-professional intervention. From the scientific point of view, it is in the frontier areas that the most interesting research is being carried out. From the point of view of action, there is a clear need to integrate different professional practices. Bringing together Medicine, Pharmacy and Dental Health, and associating sectors of the Sciences and Psychology, and in the future Nursing and Health Technologies, all in the same strategic area may constitute one of the university transformations with the greatest social and professional impact.
5. What alterations will the creation of the Centre for Common Resources and Shared Services (services, files, human and financial resources, etc.) bring to the UL and the OU’s?
The teachers and researchers should devote themselves to their teaching work, to cultural and scientific production, to the economic and social valorisation of knowledge. A cohesive university is not a standardised and centralised institution. Much to the contrary. It is an institution that understands difference and has the courage to promote it. But the technical support for this work should be professionalized, in management and in service-providing, rationalising and sharing the means available to the University and making them more efficient. This is one of the dimensions in which comparison with other well-known European Universities is clearly unfavourable to us.
6. How do you see the participation of the UL in the creation of the Academic Medicine Centre?
With great expectation and interest. The new Statutes of the University have confirmed my words at the Medicine Aula Magna at the opening of the academic year 2007/2008: “The prospect of building a solid partnership, bringing together the dimension of health provision (Santa Maria Hospital), teaching and training (Faculty of Medicine) and research (Institute of Molecular Medicine), deserves my support and the support of the University. For all of us, any scenario of fragmentation is excluded, and unacceptable when our ambition is to place the University of Lisbon among the top one hundred in Europe. But it is possible and desirable, with imagination and creativity, to equate joint modalities of organization and functioning.”
7. The inevitability of the Bologna Process has conditioned your mandate at the UL since the beginning. What is the assessment you make of the sweeping reform that has been undertaken?
The Bologna Process has been marked since its beginning by conceptions with which I disagree. There is an attractive rhetoric, made up of –ities that replace the old –isms: flexibility, mobility, employability… all and always “lifelong”. But Bologna is above all a response to the massification of higher education and to the difficulties involved in trying to maintain acceptable levels of public financing. The way we have tried to interpret this reform at the University of Lisbon, building paths of training that valorise the attending of a second cycle (masters), is an attempt to overcome negative aspects of Bologna. As for the pedagogical issues and the reorganization of the work done by the student, we are unfortunately very far from what would be desirable. And here the responsibility is entirely ours.
8. A Memorandum of Understanding was recently signed with the other Lisbon universities. Might this means a standardization of practices? Is it a benchmarketing strategy?
No. The Memorandum means recognition that a greater liaison between the Lisbon public universities is indispensable. Personally, I am in favour of an association of the universities and the Lisbon Polytechnic Institute within the framework of a reorganisation of the higher education network, to guarantee a great diversity of training activities within the same institutional space. It is my conviction if we want to have a great University in Lisbon, capable of competing in the European higher education space, than this will be the only way possible.
9. What challenges are facing the UL and the FMUL in the near future (financing, teaching, research human resources, premises, etc.)?
The answer to that question would be long. I will simplify it into three points: i) to reinforce scientific research, articulating it coherently and efficiently with post-graduate teaching; ii) to develop the new model of governing the University, through the action of the General Council and the consolidation of the strategic areas; iii) to deepen the cohesion and integrated management of the University. This is the work ahead of us. It will be strongly conditioned by three external decisions that I have insistently claimed since my swearing in as Rector about two years ago: i) measures for reorganising the higher education network; ii) alterations to the Statute of the University Teaching Career; iii) transparent and competitive rules for financing higher education.
Rector of the University of Lisbon
Professor António Novoa
Interview held by:
Susana Leal (email@example.com)