Iscte - Instituto Universitário de Lisboa was created in 1972, by the result of a reform of public universities supported and induced by the progressive and developmental sectors of the authoritarian regime, being designated then Instituto Superior de Ciências do Trabalho e da Empresa.

The creation of Iscte was based on distinctive features that have indelibly marked its history of almost five decades and that are axes for development the future.

1. The creation

Iscte was created in 1972 as part of a reform of public universities supported by some progressive sectors of the authoritarian regime and named Instituto Superior de Ciências do Trabalho e da Empresa. Among many protagonists, we can highlight two personalities who played a key role in the reform that led to the creation of the Iscte.

Adérito Sedas Nunes, economist and social scientist, director of the magazine Análise Social and the Office of Social Research (GIS). In the 60's, Sedas Nunes conducted a sociological study on universities in Portugal, identifying their limitations, as well as the paths of deep needed reform, with a view to their modernization and openness to society. In the magazine Análise Social, in GIS, as in the Institute of Social Studies (IES), created in 1962, Adérito Sedas Nunes laid the foundations for the production of scientific knowledge about the Portuguese society, gathering numerous young research fellows who would become some of the first Iscte professors, in the area of sociology and social sciences.

Eduardo Gomes Cardoso, engineer, head of the National Institute of Industrial Research (INII), in the scope of which, throughout the 60's, he developed several studies and actions to promote the country's productivity. These actions were focused on training programs in business management, training of technical staff for companies and the public sector, holding conferences and debates and editing publications. In these programs for the modernization of the Portuguese economy, other engineers-managers were involved, as well as jurists in the area of labor law, who carried out management activities in the public sector, in the bodies of the Ministry of Industry and the Ministry of Corporations and Social Security, as well as in industrial companies in the private sector, which would also be among the first Iscte professors for the teaching of business management. José Veiga Simão, Minister of Education who, in 1970, launched the reform of universities, creating institutions outside the traditional model, which were challenged to offer courses in new disciplinary areas that did not exist in the old universities. This is referred to in the 1972 Decree-Law that created the Iscte: The problems of economic and social life are of growing importance, complexity and diversity, making it increasingly necessary to train graduates with higher education in their respective fields. However, it should be added that the progress of the Economic Sciences has not only led to their increasing diversification, but has been accompanied by that of other Social Sciences, the importance of which has been increasing in recent years. These subjects are now indispensable both to support or complete the training of specialists in the various fields of economic studies, and to prepare suitably qualified technicians and researchers. With the creation of the Labour Science and Business Organisation and Management courses, the studies aimed at the economic and social development of the Portuguese world are enriched and diversified, and the need for new specialisations is being met, particularly with regard to social problems and modern business management. Decree Law n.º 522/72, of December 15th, which creates the Iscte The Iscte therefore opens doors with two courses: Labor Science and Business Management.

José Veiga Simão, Minister of Education who, in 1970, launched the reform of universities, creating institutions outside the traditional model, which were challenged to offer courses in new disciplinary areas that did not exist in the old ones.

2. Expansion of research and teaching

From the mid-1980s on, a period of expansion of research and teaching activities begins, which will continue until the 2000s.

In the field of research, at the initiative of young teachers, several research centers are created, expanding a movement that began in 1979 with the establishment of the Centre for the Study of Contemporary Portuguese History (CEHPC), and continued

in 1981 with the foundation of the Centre for African Studies. They are thus successively created:

In 1984, the Centro Interdisciplinar de Estudos Económicos (CIDEC); in 1985, the Centro de Investigação e Estudos em Sociologia (CIES);

in 1986, the Centro de Estudos de Antropologia Social (CEAS); in 1989, the Centro de Estudos sobre Mudança Socioeconómica (DINAMIA), the Associação para o Desenvolvimento das Telecomunicações e Técnicas de Informática (ADETTI), as well as the Centro de Investigação e Intervenção Social (CIIS), in the area of social psychology;

in 1991, the Centro de Estudos Territoriais (CET). In 1994, the Business Development Research Unit (UNIDE) was created. Later, the CET would join DENMIA and CEHCP to CIES, ADETTI, extending its scope to architecture, would give way to the current Center for Information Sciences and Technology and Architecture (ISTAR), and the Center for African Studies (CEA) would become the Center for International Studies (CEI). In 1988, an association between the Iscte and a group of companies from various sectors of economic activity, the Institute for the Development of Business Management (INDEG), was established, whose main mission is the post-graduate training of executives in management.

During this same period, in the field of teaching, Iscte promoted an innovative agenda, making an effective contribution to the modernization of the Portuguese university, with the creation of the first master courses in the country in several disciplinary areas: in Sociology, with specialization in Labor Sociology and Urban and Rural Sociology; in the area of management, with the creation of master courses in Management, Strategy and Business Development, and Information Systems in Management, as well as post-graduate courses in Organizational Behavior and Human Resources Policies and Management. The Centre for African Studies launched its first post-graduate course in Social and Economic Development in Africa. In addition to post-graduate training, several new undergraduate courses were also created during this period: Informatics and Business Management; Industrial Management and Engineering; Sociology and Planning; Economics; Modern and Contemporary History; Human Resources Management; Finance and Accounting; Informatics and Telecommunications Engineering; Marketing and Informatics Engineering. Later will be created the degrees of Architecture, Political Science and Social Service. At the beginning of the new century, when the adaptation of higher education programs to the Bologna process began, the Iscte, which had, however, completed 30 years of existence, offered training in 16 undergraduate courses, 32 master's courses and 7 doctoral courses.

3. The consolidation as an university institute

In the panorama of public higher education in Portugal, Iscte is the only specialized university institute.

The recognition and affirmation of this statute began with the publication of the Basic Law of the Educational System, of October 14, 1986, and the Autonomy Law of Universities, of September 24, 1988.

From an institutional point of view, some milestones are relevant:

In 1990, the statutes of the institution were approved and promulgated, naming it the "Non-integrated University Institute", and it was now able to grant, in a totally autonomous way, the degree of Doctor.

In 2000, new statutes were approved and promulgated, in which the organization and powers of the established governing bodies became identical in all respects, except in name, to those of the universities.

In 2005, the Iscte joined the Council of Rectors of Portuguese Universities (CRUP) and in 2006 approved its redenomination as the University Institute of Lisbon at the School Assembly.

From a substantive point of view, the relevant milestone is, in 2007, the decision to abandon projects of enlargement and diversification of the disciplinary areas, anchoring the future development of the Iscte in postgraduate teaching projects and research activities, in the founding disciplinary areas: business sciences, sociology and public policies, information and communication technologies, social sciences and humanities. This decision has two important moments of accomplishment.

From 2007 with the adaptation of the undergraduate, master's and doctorate courses to the Bologna process. 

Later, from 2009, with the adoption, by the Iscte, of the Foundation Regime, in the framework of the new Legal Regime of Higher Education, approved in 2007, and the consequent reform of the internal organization and the institution of its current four schools and 16 departments:

• the School of Management, consisting of the departments of Marketing, Operations and General Management, Accounting, Finance, Human Resources and Organizational Behavior, Economics and Quantitative Methods for Management and Economics.

• the School of Sociology and Public Policies, constituted by the departments of Sociology, Social Research Methods, Political Science and Public Policies and History.

• the School of Technology and Architecture, constituted by the departments of Architecture and Urbanism, Information Sciences and Technologies and Mathematics.

• the School of Social Sciences and Humanities, constituted by the departments of Political Economy, Anthropology and Social Psychology. It is in this context, of deepening the founding disciplinary areas, that new master's and doctoral courses continue to be created, by unfolding, crossing and deepening disciplinary: political science, public policies, social service, political economy, school administration, hotel and tourism management, data science and humanitarian action.

The Iscte today offers  today 17 undergraduate courses, welcoming about 4,500 students, and more than 50 postgraduate, master's and doctoral programmes.

4. The Future

The creation of the Iscte was based on four distinctive features that marked its history indelibly. Perhaps the main challenge for the future is to preserve these same traits, in order to continue the trajectory that allowed this institution to be built, which will soon be 50 years old.

Firstly, the objective of modernizing the university and the country, through the training of staff in different forms and disciplinary areas from the traditional ones. Until today, the Iscte has remained a different university, specialized, and which, from its two founding areas, sociology and management, has always innovated throughout its 45-year history, opening new areas of teaching and research, generating dynamics for the creation of new courses, having been a pioneer in the opening of courses such as Sociology, Social and Organizational Psychology, Social Anthropology, Informatics and Business Management, or Public Policy. In 2018, following this trajectory, new courses inexistent in the country were launched, in Humanitarian Action and Data Science.

Secondly, the articulation between teaching activities and research and knowledge production activities, established from the first hour by the link between the Iscte and the GIS. This was the first research center in the country in the area of social and economic sciences and the virtuous circulation between the GIS and the Iscte, between the places of research and teaching, left a mark that still persists. The Iscte has today eight research centers that, in institutional evaluation, have maintained the highest ratings of Very good or Excellent, being the university with the highest percentage of courses and students in postgraduate training (masters and PhD). In 2019, a knowledge and technology transfer center - Iscte, Knowledge and Innovation - was created as a collaborative and interdisciplinary work space, which brings together, in an unprecedented combination in the country, social and human sciences and digital technologies. The complexity of the problems faced by contemporary societies requires the contribution of social sciences and the development of digital technologies in a paradigm that involves interdisciplinary knowledge and not exclusively focused on engineering sciences.

Thirdly, the orientation towards the valorisation of the world of work and enterprises, as well as public sector institutions, guided by the intervention, the relevance and the application of knowledge to the professional contexts of the business and public sector. This orientation has been translated, throughout the history of Iscte, in the development of executive training, courses in post-labour regime for adults already integrated in the labour market. Iscte is currently the only university in the country that offers most of its postgraduate, master's and doctoral courses, as well as some of its undergraduate courses. In addition, in order to maintain and develop the processes of connection to society and knowledge transfer, in addition to the INDEG, two new participated entities were created. In 2005, Audax was set up, an innovation center that, in addition to carrying out consulting activities, also hosts several projects with the objective of transforming ideas into business. In 2011, the Institute of Public and Social Policies (IPPS) was created, which brings together several public bodies and autarchies, with the objective of promoting and contributing to the improvement of the quality of public policies.

Fourth, autonomy and pluralism, always valued by the Iscte community. The high degrees of autonomy and internal diversity have allowed a trajectory of dynamism and innovation. Continuing this trajectory requires that particular attention be paid to preserving the balance between scientific and academic autonomy, based on the professional power of teachers and researchers, and efficiency and effectiveness in the management of public resources. But it also requires maintaining the spirit of collegiality and peer-relationship that allows the rigidity of academic authority to be overcome and stimulates the professional achievement of all teachers, regardless of their professional category. Finally, continuing this path requires that, despite the growth of Iscte, the culture of proximity between students and teachers be maintained: the ease of communication and the availability of Iscte teachers to support students in their development process are a distinctive feature that should also be cultivated.

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