• ATHENA Project

    Fostering Sustainable and Autonomous
    Higher Education Systems
    in the Eastern Neighbouring Area

  • Focus

    University autonomy and funding reforms
    in Armenia, Moldova and Ukraine

  • Objectives

    Transfer of good practice
    Promotion of inclusive approaches
    Capacity building in university management


Second Training Seminar held in Coimbra on Governance Models

The second ATHENA training seminar took place at the University of Coimbra and the Polytechnic Institute of Coimbra (IPC) in Portugal on 3-4 November 2014. Representatives of the ATHENA consortium partners heard presentations from a range of senior figures in Portuguese higher education, including a rector, former minister and high-profile external board member. The main focus of discussions was governance and autonomy reforms, of which Portuguese universities have extensive experience over the past 40 years.

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The first day of the event was held at the University of Coimbra and was opened by the Rector, Professor João Gabriel Silva. The first presentation was given by Thomas Estermann, Director of Governance, Funding and Public Policy Development at EUA, who explained previous EUA work on university autonomy and governance reform, and shared good practice examples from around Europe, specifically on the topics of governance models and external board members.

IMG 4758The first Portuguese speaker was Professor Júlio Pedrosa, an academic with a wealth of higher education experience, as a previous Rector of the University of Aveiro, President of the Portuguese national rectors’ conference and former Minister of Education. He related the recent history of higher education in Portugal, from the initial reforms granting universities autonomy in 1974, to the comprehensive restructuring of governance structures in 2008. This provided an inspirational example to colleagues in the partner countries who hope to follow a similar path of legislative reform.

Professor Margarida Mano, Vice-Rector at the University of Coimbra, followed this with an overview of the current situation in Portugal and specifically at Coimbra, the oldest university in Portugal. This took into account the contemporary financial context of decreasing levels of public funding, also visible in EUA’s Public Funding Observatory, and Coimbra response to this climate of funding cuts. She also described the positive IMG 1056impact of the 2008 governance reforms, for example, through the University of Coimbra’s 2011-2015 strategic plan.

The final speaker on the first day was João Palmeiro, an external board member at the Polytechnic Institute of Coimbra. He shared his thoughts on the role and importance of external input in university board, drawing on his own experience. He reflected on what external members can offer institutions, such expertise from other professions and the benefit of their own networks. He also spoke about how they should be carefully selected and diligently familiarised with the workings of the university.

For the second day of the seminar, participants made their way to the IPC campus. The first speaker was Rodrigo Teixeira Lourenço, a member of the General Council of the Polytechnic Institute of Setúbal and researcher on stakeholder theory. Bringing together both theory and practice, he demonstrated the importance of successful engagement with both internal and external stakeholders through well-adapted and autonomous governance models.

Continuing with the theme of governance models and external board members, Professor Paulo Sanches, Vice-President of the Polytechnic Institute of Coimbra, gave the next presentation on the governance PalmeiroIMG 1134structure in place at the IPC. He described the responsibilities of and selection procedure for members of the General Council, as well as how this body interacts with the institution’s Management Council, a much smaller organ that acts as the senior management team.

For the final session, the Rector of the University of Coimbra, Professor João Gabriel Silva, returned to the training seminar to give some concluding remarks on the topic of university governance and autonomy reforms. He explained how sound and autonomous management models are essential to the success of modern universities. According to the Rector, universities can benefit from the influence of the private sector, while remaining mindful of the historical nature of universities and different drivers that motivate the higher education sector.

Following a final wrap-IMG 1153up from Thomas Estermann and an opportunity for final thoughts from participants, the seminar was brought to a close. All in all, the ATHENA project team enjoyed three highly productive days in Portugal, holding a consortium meeting and three bilateral meetings with each national delegation in addition to the informative training seminar. The next project event will be the final training seminar on human resource management, which will take place on 10-11 February in Amsterdam, Netherlands.

The presentations from the event are available for download via the links below, in addition to the final programme and list of speaker biographies.

Monday 3 November

Tuesday 4 November

Final programme

List of speaker bios

  • Yerevan State University
  • Gavar State University
  • State Engineering University of Armenia
  • State Universities Rectors Council of Armenia
  • Ministry of Education and Science of Armenia
  • Academy of Economic Studies of Moldova
  • Cahul State University
  • Free International University of Moldova
  • National Council of Rectors of Moldova
  • Ministry of Education of Moldova
  • Taras Shevchenko National University of Kiev
  • Donetsk National University
  • Odessa National University
  • Lesya Ukrainka Eastern European National University
  • Ministry of Education and Science of Ukraine
  • University of Coimbra
  • Polytechnic Institute of Coimbra
  • University of Helsinki
  • Haaga-Helia University of Applied Sciences
  • University of Amsterdam
  • European University Association