Managing the unmanageable: perceptions on institutional change of a Portuguese university foundation

Sara Diogo, Sofia Brückmann


The Law 62/2007 led to governance and statutory changes in Portuguese HEIs. Among others, universities were given the choice to either remain public institutes or become a public foundation operating under private law. University foundations had greater expectations in terms of enhanced financial and administrative autonomy. Nevertheless, the analysis of this reform cannot be dissociated from the economic crisis and political changes that the country underwent during that period. This paper is based on the study of a Portuguese university that became a foundation and a series of interviews with key system and institutional actors. Additionally, the study considered the analysis of legal documents that provide a better understanding of the change process. It also attempts to illustrate how actors perceive changes created by the law, namely whether interviewees’ expectations on the law and its unfolding were fulfilled. Bearing this in mind, the following research questions are addressed: how are these changes in HE legislation interpreted and lived by academia? How do actors perceive reforms in the sector? Ultimately, the analysis points to a mismatch between interviewees’ expectations and the effective changes induced by the law to HEIs.

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