Public higher education institutions (HEI) enjoy statutory autonomy according to the stipulations of the Higher Education Institutions Legal Framework (Regime Jurídico das Instituições de Ensino Superior – RJIES) approved by Law No 62/2007, 10 September, which enables them to approve their respective statutes.
These institutions have their own governing bodies whose statutes contain the fundamental rules of internal organisation and operation, such as the structure, make-up and duties of the governing and management bodies, forms of election or designation of members, the length of mandates and forms of cessation.
Governing bodies include the general council, the rector (in universities or university institutes), the president (in polytechnic institutes) or the director or president (in the remaining institutions) and the management council.
The general council is the institution’s strategic management body, responsible for approving medium-term strategic plans and the general guidelines of the institution regarding scientific, pedagogical, financial and asset-related matters. It includes representatives of teachers, researchers, non-teaching staff, student representatives and distinguished external figures, with relevant knowledge and experience.
The rector or president is the higher governing authority and external representation of the institution, as well as being responsible for institution policy, overseeing the management council.
The rector and president are assisted by vice-rectors or vice-presidents, who are nominated and exonerated by them. Their mandate ends at the same time as the rector or president.
The management council is made up of a maximum of five members, including a vice-rector or vice-president and the administrator, who is responsible for overseeing administrative, asset and financial management of the institution, as well as human resource management.
Regarding private higher education institutions, their organisation and management is the responsibility of the founding body, particularly economic and financial management.
The founding body must provide statutes that define its aims, its scientific, cultural and pedagogical project, its structure, management and organisation including the titles and length of mandate of those responsible for the bodies, who should approve the respective internal regulations.
The statutes must contain the rules governing the relationship between the founding body and the teaching establishment, which should improve the respective internal regulations as part of its cultural, scientific and pedagogical autonomy.
Requirements for appointment
Rectors (university/university college), presidents (polytechnic) and presidents or directors of remaining institutions are elected by the general council according to the respective statutes and other internal regulations.
Those eligible to be elected rectors are professors and researchers of the institution or other domestic or foreign university teaching or research institutions.
Those eligible to be elected president of a polytechnic are teachers and researchers of the institution or other domestic or foreign higher education or research institutions, as well as individuals of recognised merit and important professional experience.
Those who are retired, convicted of a disciplinary, financial or criminal offence during public or professional duties in the four years following the completed their sentence and other reasons prescribed by law cannot be elected rector or president.
Those eligible to be founding bodies of private HEIs are legally constituted as a foundation, association or cooperative specifically for this purpose, as well as not-for-profit cultural or social bodies, whose purposes include higher education, in addition to the legal form of limited company or SA corporation formed specifically for such a purpose.
Founding bodies must fulfil appropriate institutional and financial requirements.
To become part of the higher education system and operate, founding bodies must apply for recognition of public interest for the respective teaching institutions.
Private HEIs must have a rector, in the case of a university or university college, a president, in the case of a polytechnic or a director, president or managing board in the case of other higher education institutions, appointed from those who meet the requirements for the same positions in public institutions, with the exception that they can be retired.
No person who has been convicted of a disciplinary, financial or penal infraction while undertaking public or professional duties may not be appointed as rector or president for the four years following the completion of sentence, nor anyone who incurs other ineligibilities foreseen in law.
Conditions of service
The positions of rector and president are exclusive and full-time. When they are professors or researchers of the respective institution, they are not required to teach or undertake research, unless they wish to do so.
The mandate lasts for four years and may only be renewed once, in line with the respective statutes.
Heads and members of the governing and management bodies of public HEIs exclusively serve the public interest of their institutions and are independent in their duties.
As such, in relation to incompatibilities and impediments, and to ensure independence and prevent conflicts of interest, rectors and vice-rectors of universities, presidents and vice-presidents of polytechnics and directors or presidents and deputy directors or vice-presidents of other HEIs, cannot belong to any other governing or managing bodies of other higher education institutions, public or private. The institutions' statutes may determine other incompatibilities and impediments.
It is the duty of private HEIs’ founding bodies to appoint and remove those members of the teaching management body, in accordance with the respective statutes.
Save for disciplinary reasons, members of the teaching bodies can only be removed at the end of the academic year.