Higher Education Network: economic and social contributes and new challenges

The evolution of the higher education system in Portugal, that took place in the 70s of the twentieth century, was one of the most important ‘revolutions’ experienced by the Portuguese society. From an elitist system, concentrated in a few locations, the system went through a democratization and dissemination process that led to the current existence of a higher education institution in almost all medium cities. As a consequence of this territorial expansion, and in addition to the traditional functions of knowledge transmission, scientific research and dissemination, the Portuguese system of higher education gained a new and relevant role in the promotion of local and regional development.

Higher education networks currently play a fundamental and consensual role in domestic strategies for social and economic development and are recognized as main engines of international competitiveness. In the relatively recent past, such recognition was accompanied by government support and a supply of financial funds needed to support the networks’ development. Nowadays, although official discourses did not change, governments’ financial support has suffered considerable cuts in many countries. The financial restrictions imposed to higher education institutions, which in many cases took place in a moment when demographic and curricular changes, plus the economic crisis, are having strong negative impacts in many countries, are challenging the survival of many institutions.

In such a difficult context, it is useful to discuss the many questions facing policy makers and institutions: How to (re)organize higher education networks? What are the functions of higher education institutions? How should these institutions be funded? What roles should be played by governments and markets in the academic world? Which are the social and economic consequences of the current political options? These and other relevant issues will be addressed in the workshop, organized within the framework of the following research project: PTDC/CPE-PEC/103727/2008: Rebuilding the Portuguese higher education system’s network: challenges from demographics, economic growth and regional cohesion.

The papers will be available after the conference in the form of electronic proceedings'. The best works will be selected for publication in book.