The Institute for Political Studies is an integral part of the Catholic University of Portugal and it has assumed this identity since its first day. The Catholic University of Portugal has among us a mark of excellence - and that has benefited the Institute from the start.
However, it is not just this secular or entrepreneurial dimension that we should remember. Even though this dimension is very important, it comes from something much deeper. Universities were born Christian, that was their origin in the European Middle Ages, and not in the Enlightenment of the 18th Century, as it is tends to be advertised today. It was that origin that marked the sense of mission of the University: their search, through a dialogue between faith and reason, in the search for Good, Truth and Beauty, as entities outside the whims of each. Through conversation and mutual criticism between our fallible perceptions, we aim something that is beyond each of us. That's what inspires the pursuit of excellence. In other words, the University is based on a combination between the spirit of freedom of intellectual pursuit and the sense of duty to the Good, the True and the Beautiful, which directs that intellectual pursuit. On the day that this tension and this balance be broken, in which only one of them reclaimed the absolute supremacy, the idea of the University would be subverted.
Second, being a unit of the Catholic University, the IEP-UCP is part of a non-State University - it can be said that we are a private university or a non-state public university, designation that applies to the medieval Oxford and Cambridge Universities. The crucial point here is that our resources depend on the free choice of our students and their families, as well as our benefactors. They do not rely on coercive and opaque transfer of resources from taxpayers, the application of which they cannot control. This means that students and their families, as well as our benefactors, are at the centre of the IEP-UCP. The IEP-UCP does not exist to employ their teachers or staff: it is there to serve its students and their families and to respect the voluntary agreements established with their benefactors. Certainly the IEP-UCP attempts to give its faculty and staff the best conditions to perform their duties. But these are always defined by the duty to serve the students and families, not to serve those who work here through the resources of students and families. The budgetary rigor is one of the most instructive indicators of compliance with this spirit of mission and service. And the institutional discipline that everyone is required to obey the general rules of conduct and not to the whims of each one, is the mark of an institution that is at the service of others and not herself. The free choice of families in competition - even if unfair on the part of state universities (which are particularly harmful for them) - is the best guarantee that we exist to serve students and families and not take advantage of them. To serve students and families does not mean following students and families. As a unit of the Catholic University, the IEP-UCP tries to reconcile two missions: to serve the quest for the Good, the True and the Beautiful, on the one hand, and serve their customers, ie, students and their families. It is the tension between these two missions that emerges from the pursuit of excellence in touch with the needs and expectations of people. Again, this is a conversation and a tension between two principles rather than one. Furthermore, it is from the free choice in competition that emerges the best compass for the search of that balance.
Finally, the third aspect lies in the very international nature of a Catholic University. Subject to national laws, the nature of Christianity is independent of the secular power and is universal. Therefore, the medieval Christian universities were one of the first global or transnational markets of knowledge, represented among us by the discoverer pioneer Henry the Navigator and his extraordinary research school in Sagres. Proud heir of this tradition and this ambition, the IEP-UCP established from the beginning (in 1996) that its purpose was not only constitute the best school of political studies at a national level: it was to establish a national standard of excellence in line with the best international standards."
"To be bred in a place of estimation; to see nothing low and sordid from one´s infancy; to be taught to respect one´s self; to be habituated to the censorial inspection of the public eye; (...) to have leisure to read, to reflect, to converse; (...) to be taught to despise danger in the pursuit of honor and duty; (...) to possess the virtues of diligence, order, constancy, and regularity, and to have cultivated an habitual regard to commutative justice: these are the circumstances of men that form what I should call a natural [as opposed to feudal] aristocracy."
Edmund Burke, 1791
"It is well to be a gentleman, it is well to have a cultivated intellect, a delicate taste, a candid, equitable dispassionate mind, a noble and courteous bearing in the conduct of life – these are the connatural qualities of a large knowledge, they are the objects of a University.
[...] A University is a place where inquiry is pushed forward, and discoveries verified and perfected, and rashness rendered innocuous, and error exposed, by the collision of mind with mind, and knowledge with knowledge."
John Henry Cardinal Newman, 1854
Professor João Carlos Espada
Dean of the Institute for Political Studies