The concept of Research-University stems from the reform of Wilhelm von Humboldt at the time of the foundation of the University of Berlin in 1810. Humboldt’s reform has been a model that strongly influenced other Western universities both in Europe and in North America. Two key principles of Humboldt’s model are still today building blocks of Universities: (a) the union of teaching and research in the work of the individual scholar or scientist; (b) the essential role of intellectual freedom in research and teaching.
In the last two centuries this concept has been put in practice in many different ways and variety of gradations. Portugal has been very slow in implementing these building blocks in its Universities, and is still today struggling in how to realize in practice the “union of teaching and research” in an efficient and generalized way, and how to select teaching and research staff impartially, fairly and well balanced.
In this lecture I will consider some specific aspects of the European situation, particularly in the light of the framework of the League of European Research Universities. Since the EU adopted the Lisbon Agenda in 2002 the role of research-intensive Universities in contributing to innovation and economic progress has been emphasized, although in many cases only paying no more than lip service to this challenge. In any case Universities, being in most European countries financed by tax-payers, must be publicly accountable, and thus open to public assessment. The controversies of how to apply and interpret criteria for the assessment of the performance of University activities constitute still a challenge, that will be discussed.
Universities in 2016 are confronted with two main dilemmas: the threat that research may become detached from teaching, and demands from public funding agents for Universities to be me more intertwined with economic institutions. The latter may collide with the principle of the “Magna Carta of European Universities” of the Bologna Declaration (1988) that “research and teaching must be morally and intellectually independent of all political authority and economic power”.