The Portuguese-American Post-graduate Society is an independent, non-profit organization, with no political affiliations. Its objectives are to stimulate the development of strong relationships between the Portuguese postgraduate community living in North America and the American society while, simultaneously, promoting their home country. Welcome!
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Forum PAPS III - 2002

"On the Contribution of the Portuguese Post-Graduate Community for the Development of Portugal"
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Duke University, NC, US January 18-20


The 3rd Forum PAPS is aimed at bringing together leading representatives of the academic, business, and government sectors from Portugal and the USA, as well as the members of PAPS, to discuss and identify strategies to foster the contribution of the Portuguese post-graduate community for the development of Portugal. Multidisciplinary perspectives will be encouraged to provide useful guidelines for decision makers in both the public and private sectors, including informed and effective policies and strategies for education, business, and government. In parallel, a program of social and cultural activities will be held to encourage networking among participants and increase the awareness of the local community for the Portuguese culture.


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Distinguished invited speakers, Distinguished guests, Dear Colleagues

On behalf of the Executive Committee of the Portuguese American Post-graduate Society, I am honored to welcome you to the 3rd Forum of PAPS entitled “On the Contribution of the Portuguese Post-graduate Community for the Development of Portugal”.

We are pleased to present here today and tomorrow a panel of distinguished speakers both from Portugal and from the United States, to discuss a topic of particular importance for Portugal. How can post-graduate individuals, educated in the best universities in the US, contribute for the development of a small and peripheral European country like Portugal?

Portuguese institutions, both public and private, have recognized that education and research and development are key drivers for economic development, and have strongly invested in fostering the educational level of the Portuguese people. Just yesterday, the Minister of Science and Technology announced the reinforcement of the budget for research and development.

Among other effects, this led to the so called “massification of the higher education system” in the past decades, in particular as a result of the new private universities created. At the graduate level, the investment in education, and particularly in PhDs, has been operationalized by strong investment in scholarships that allow promising students to pursue graduate studies both in Portugal and abroad. The US has been one of the main destinations for graduate students, immediately after the UK.

As a result, Portugal is today among the countries with a higher growth rate in terms of PhDs, although in absolute terms we are still behind the European average.

On the other hand, our country has not been able to take full advantage of the newly graduated individuals yet, which in many cases prefer not to return home. Those who return, often face frustration and don’t feel that they fully contribute to enhance the scientific capacity of our country. The lack of flexibility, together with the low capacity of the system for auto-reform, is pushing the Portuguese Higher Education System further behind.

In the business sector, the situation isn’t much better. Despite a few good examples, the private investment in R&D and innovation is very small, and the country still lacks a culture of entrepreneurship. The recently published European Innovation Scoreboard clearly illustrates these weaknesses in terms of innovation outputs.

At PAPS, we believe that post-graduate students, either those who follow an academic career or those who pursue a career in business, have a role to play in the development of contemporary societies. We actually believe that these students can be instrumental in revitalizing the educational, social and innovation climates in Portugal, which justifies our effort to understand how to “pay back” to our country.

In this context, the primary goal of our meeting is to identify strategies to allow Portugal to take advantage of highly qualified individuals and to avoid “brain drain”. Therefore, we organized our meeting so that in the opening session we will try to set the stage for this discussion.

In session 2, we will discuss how corporate and university R&D can foster economic development. There is a common perception that the US has been more successful in finding adequate strategies to promote regional development than its European and Asian counterparts. Recognizing that Portugal and the US are not directly comparable, we will try to learn from the experience of local universities and firms.

Next, in section 3, we will discuss the challenges for the Portuguese University. In fact, the Portuguese Higher education system has undergone considerably large transformations in the last 30 years, but it is nowadays facing a series of new challenges, which are far from being resolved.

In session 4, we will analyze and identify specific approaches and strategies to maximize the contribution of highly qualified human resources for the development of Portugal, from the perspective of the government, the academia and business.

Tomorrow we will continue our meeting, at Duke University. We will discuss several projects that PAPS has fostered as a way to bring together the Portuguese graduate students in the US. We will have a parallel session on the challenges and opportunities of returning to Portugal. We will have another session on guidelines for the Portuguese university, and finally, a session on fostering entrepreneurship in our country.

It is clear that there are no easy answers to these complex questions, and so the main objective of this forum is to promote the dialogue among all the participants.

We are glad to receive you in Chapel Hill and Durham. We like to live here and we are very fortunate to have a local group of Portuguese people with different interests and backgrounds, who have contributed to make life better in North Carolina and to receive you in this University. We thank the local organizing committee of this forum and all the members of PAPS that traveled to North Carolina this weekend for this event.

Last but not least, I would like to acknowledge the support of our sponsors and to thank our invited speakers for accepting this challenge.

Let the dialogue begin! 

Thank you very much!