ERASMUS POLICY STATEMENT (EPS)
The fundamental objectives of the University of Coimbra are higher education, research, transmission and dissemination of knowledge to society, based on three core pillars: teaching, research & innovation and societal challenges. However, all these pillars intersect in the logic of internationalization, which presents itself as a strategic tool for strengthening and consolidating the position of the University of Coimbra in the world.
The internationalization process of the University of Coimbra integrates the principles of the European Education Area, where education emerges as the leader of growth, solidarity and cohesion in the European Union, contributing decisively to the knowledge economy.
Quality internationalization is a priority of the University of Coimbra. On the one hand, at a political level, we must reinforce the strategic positioning of the UC, as a benchmark in the Portuguese-speaking world. For more than four centuries, the University of Coimbra was the only elite institution in the Portuguese-speaking world. It is the alma mater of Brazilian universities and for many foreigners it is still a preferred destination for learning Portuguese.
In this context, the Sino-Lusophone Academy, inaugurated in June 2019, added another focus to partnerships with Chinese entities. The recent celebration of cooperation protocols with respected higher education institutions in Goa, on the occasion of the SEXA State visit of the President of the Republic of Portugal to India (February 2020), also opened new horizons for the internationalization of the UC.
On the other hand, scientifically, partnerships are established through cooperation in networks. The Coimbra Group, created in the 1980s, and the Coimbra Group of Brazilian Universities are two important vectors of this strategy.
The University of Coimbra also participates actively in the Utrecht Network, European University Association, Tordesillas Group, Association of Portuguese Language Universities, SYLFF Foundation, Community of Mediterranean Universities, among others. It is our intention to intensify our presence in these networks, as well as to expand their possibilities, allowing us to develop strategic partnerships in all continents.
In a logic globally called comprehensive internationalization and, with full awareness of the importance of complementing the training of its students with other skills valued by the labor market, the UC invests in student mobility not only for studies, but also for work placements.
Through the strategic approach to companies, namely through the establishment of consortia and clusters, UC encourages its students to undertake professional internships in an international context from the 1st cycle onwards.
For this purpose, several information sessions are held in all units.
Internally, it is also possible for the academic community to take advantage of the international focus, through contact with different cultures brought by students, researchers and professors from more than one hundred different countries.
The creation of Casa da Lusofonia - International Student Lounge, a space where students from all over the world interact with Portuguese-speaking students and where several conference cycles with prestigious personalities (Conversations at Casa da Lusofonia) have recently been promoted, remains as an example of good practice in the field of internationalization at home.
Currently, Casa da Lusofonia - International Student Lounge is the home to foreign student associations, such as the Association of Angolan Students in Coimbra, the Association of Researchers and Brazilian Students in Coimbra, the Association of Cape Verdean Students in Coimbra, the Organization of Students from Guinea Bissau in Coimbra, the Association of Mozambican Students in Portugal – Coimbra`s representation, the Association of Saint Thomas Students in Coimbra, East Timor Academics of Coimbra, but also from the Erasmus Student Network.
Internationalization will, undoubtedly, go through the digital world, through short-term mobilities. Moreover, on a virtual scheme the University of Coimbra will integrate this change with the same commitment that establishes traditional mobilities.
The UC is a welcoming institution with a great power of attraction for foreign students, a population of about 20% of its total students. However, the UC intends to increase the offer of training in English, namely through 2nd and 3rd cycle courses in association, leading to joint degrees, in parallel with the increase in the offer of Portuguese courses for foreigners, given the global interest in the Portuguese language. The internationalization of curricula and the classroom, either through the integration of specific curricular units or through the contribution of foreign students and teachers in mobility, is already a common practice in our institution, which should be encouraged and made visible, either through dissemination of good practices through the institution's website, or through social networks.
The beneficiaries of the mobility programmes are a key partner in encouraging the growth of this variable of internationalization.
The mobility of teaching staff, technicians and researchers is also very important for the UC. This theme was the target of the REALISE (Realizing the potential of the international mobility of staff in higher education) project in which the UC was a partner, which counted with decisive contributions for continuous improvement in terms of exchanges.
With the aim of strengthening the potential of internationalization, the Alliance of European Universities “European Campus of University Cities, EC2U” was created as a multicultural and multilingual network with seven universities from Coimbra (Portugal), Iasi (Romania), Pavia (Italy), Poitiers (coordinator, France), Salamanca (Spain), Turku (Finland) and Friedrich Schiller de Jena (Germany).This alliance candidate to the call of “European Universities” has the objective to create a pan-European campus linked by the common European identity, capable of contributing to the formation of an intelligent higher education ecosystem, based on a new model of quality education for an inclusive civil society, with integrated master's degrees and virtual knowledge institutes. The EC2U Alliance represents a community of 160,000 students and 20,000 professionals, in direct connection with more than 600,000 citizens.
Regarding the preparation and integration of foreign researchers, the UC disposes of the Welcome Center for Visiting Researchers, a service that helps them prepare for mobility and integration in the institution, in the city and in the country, as well as their families. This service is a member of EURAXESS.
The academic community's awareness of the importance of internationalization also involves encouraging participation in international cooperation programmes in the areas of education, training and research, but also by encouraging the creation of 2nd and 3rd cycle courses, which include an international component, with innovative training offers, combining formal and non-formal education with distance learning modules or intensive courses abroad.
In order to have a growing adhesion to all funded European and non-European cooperation projects, namely those that can benefit from competitive financing, we have made available on the University of Coimbra website information about the various existing cooperation possibilities, as well as the procedures to be followed, in an accessible way and with defined steps, with its own forms, being updated annually through a set of processes certified by external entities, such as the Portuguese Certification Association.
Within the scope of concrete mobility management, the entire process is coordinated by the International Relations Unit, which helps in defining the project and choosing the most appropriate programme, always in connection with the research units. The International Relations Unit also interacts with all other services directly or indirectly involved, with special emphasis on the Academic Management Service and other services, namely the Research Support and Promotion Division and the Projects and Activities Division. Collaboration between services is a constant asset in the successful execution of programmes.
The University of Coimbra is preparing the application for Erasmus Without Paper, having recently joined a consortium, coordinated by the European University Foundation, which allows us to streamline this whole process, in strengthening the digitization of all mobility files, in line with the institution's own dematerialization process.
We believe that our participation in the Erasmus programme contributes to the reinforcement of European citizenship, community awareness, but with an active role internationally bringing European students into contact with an international Portuguese-speaking community.
At the same time, the UC wants to play an active role in society, contributing to the strengthening of the Europe of knowledge through the creation of attractive courses capable of bringing more students to the academy and training human resources that are increasingly better prepared, not only from a scientific point of view, but also from the point of view of in-depth knowledge of foreign languages and with international work experience, with transversal skills of cooperation, respect, integration and inclusion. The international component of training has an irreplaceable role, so the UC intends to benefit from the programme not only to increase student, technician and teacher mobilities, but also to diversify them.
It also intends through the programme to provide suitable mobility offers to those already working and also to intensify strategic quality partnerships that increase innovation, creativity and create more conditions to train young people who dare to take risks and innovate, but with high ethical standards, intensifying the connection between education, research and companies. The contribution, through training, to the creation of new jobs and its reflection in the reduction of unemployment is intrinsic to the mission of the UC, but it is intended to continue the work of perfecting the learning paths of students, through mobility experience and readiness to innovate and operate in an international context, so the Erasmus programme will continue to be a decisive contribution with appropriate funding.
The quality and diversity of the UC training offer is another important commitment. It is intended that through this programme innovative offers and models of learning are introduced, namely distance learning, which also will allow the return to the institution and the permanent updating of the entire community, even of a less young population, also contributing to an active aging.
Administrative modernization is a constant, with the reinforcement of the quality of structures, in a logic of transparency, computerization and dematerialization of processes.
Internationalization will thus contribute to respond to societal challenges, by sharing knowledge, for a more just, inclusive society, with ecological awareness and sustainable management.