Madeira rector sparks row over handpicking council

November 20, 1998

The rector of the University of Madeira has been accused of stifling internal democracy in a row over new rules.

Rector Jose Manoel Castanheira da Costa's proposals for changing the university statutes were turned down recently by the Portuguese education ministry, in mainland Lisbon.

Under the proposals, more than half the members of the university council would be appointed by the rector instead of being elected. Candidates could only be chosen from academics who have held posts of responsibility in the university hierarchy.

Jose Carlos Mota Torres, president of the Socialist Party on the Atlantic island of Madeira, which is an autonomous region of Portugal, said many employees were unhappy at the idea but were unwilling to speak out for fear of damaging their prospects.

He believes the changes constitute "a gross violation" of the Portuguese law of university autonomy and could damage the university's reputation.

"Excessive political control could eventually damage the university's reputation," he warned.

Pedro Garc!a Rosado, press officer at the education ministry, said that the university, set up in 1988, already has its statutes in order so any changes would be on the university's initiative.

Graca Moniz, university spokesperson, said an amended version, approved by council, was resubmitted for government approval on October 30.

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