CIPES was established in 1998 and, from the outset, it has engaged in scholarly research in order to advance critical thought and promote informed understanding about the vital policy issues confronting higher education at both the national and international arenas. The breadth and depth of projects and publications encompass the major higher education policy issues and reflect the wide diversity of academic backgrounds of the researchers at the Centre.
CIPES was initially founded as a research centre of the Foundation of Portuguese Universities (FUP). In 2006, FUP went through a major restructuring and, being recognised that CIPES would need more autonomy, it was decided to transform CIPES into a private association founded by the Universities of Aveiro and Porto but open to other higher education institutions, a change that has become effective from July 1, 2007.
Higher education is a reasonably recent area of study. In Europe, the development of higher education research gained momentum mostly in the turn to the 1970s. CIPES has strived to become a centre of reference in Portugal and abroad. At the national level, CIPES has contributed to build up the public debated on higher education issues, so as to strengthen the development of policy studies in this area, as well as the strengthening of institutional management and governance in most Portuguese higher education institutions. After a period of significant growth, CIPES is, currently, one of the largest centres in the world devoted to higher education research.
Since its creation, CIPES has awarded major relevance to the internationalisation of its activities and is an active partner in several important research networks in the field of higher education research, both in Europe and beyond. From these research networks, the following are to be highlighted: CHER (Consortium of Higher Education Researchers), EAIR (European Association for Institutional Research), HEDDA (Higher Education Development Association) and EUREDOCS (European Research and Higher Education Doctoral Studies). CIPES has been actively participating in various international research projects and it has become a standard practice for its researchers to participate in relevant international conferences and to publish regularly in international journals. CIPES’ engagement in the organisation of several international seminars and conferences on various policy topics has been critical to nurture its research groups and to attain high international visibility.
A central element of the internationalisation policy was the participation of CIPES as founding associate of the Consortium HEDDA, together with similar centres from the UK, Finland, Norway, France, The Netherlands, Germany and the Czech Republic. CIPES has also been a very active member in EUREDOCS – the European Network of Doctoral Students in Higher Education, which has been an extremely valuable forum for cutting-edge research in higher education topics in Europe. CIPES has also been a member of the PRIME Network of Excellence during its existence (2003-2008).
CIPES gives great relevance to an intense dissemination activity of its research results, particularly at the international level. The rhythm and level of publications have enhanced CIPES’ national and international visibility and recognition and has provided new and interesting opportunities for collaboration and intervention. In agreement with its founding mission, CIPES also publishes studies in Portuguese, aiming to develop an awareness of Portuguese institutions to the trends and debates on higher education policies.
CIPES also gives great attention to advanced training in higher education. Several members of CIPES have collaborated in masters and doctoral programmes of its associated universities. Thus, it has participated actively in the design of the Doctoral Programme in Higher Education Studies, jointly with the Universities of Porto and Aveiro, which run for several years and helped training several high potential young researchers. On the other hand, it has collaborated in some of the main postgraduate training activities at the European level. Accordingly, it has participated in the ERASMUS Mundus European Master in Higher Education Policies, co-organised by the Universities of Aveiro, Oslo and Tampere (2005-2011), and has collaborated, through FPCE-U.Porto, in the UNIKE doctoral network, together with the universities of Aarhus, Bristol, Roehampton and Ljubljana, and the ENS Lyon.
Higher education is not an autonomous discipline, but rather a field of research that receives contributions from multiple disciplines. CIPES’ work has been faithful to that tradition and has been permanently developed as a multidisciplinary unit. This was possible since its team of researchers come from a wide variety of academic backgrounds: Engineering, Economics, Management, Sociology, Philosophy, Educational Sciences, History and Geography. This multidisciplinary nature of the research carried out at CIPES means that each project and each Research Group benefits from the multidisciplinary knowledge of its members.
The growth of the Centre and its activities has led to the identification of three main Research Groups: system level policies, institutional and organisational analysis, and economic and social relevance of higher education. This Groups have been defined mostly with the purpose of facilitating the coordination and organisation of the several research projects and strengthening continuity within the research programs. Although CIPES is organised around three main Research Groups, there is an intense interaction between all researchers and all research projects. This interaction means that each Research Group significantly articulates with and is nurtured by the remaining Groups, through the sharing of processes and results of its research activity. This has contributed to stimulate a rich and innovative intellectual environment.
Being the only Portuguese research centre specialised in higher education policies, CIPES is frequently asked to give contributions to conferences promoted by professional associations, higher education institutions and students unions.
At the national level, CIPES collaborates frequently with the Ministry for Science, Technology and Higher Education. The Centre has also regularly collaborated with some of the most important organisations of the system, such as the National Education Council (CNE), the Portuguese Council of Rectors (CRUP), the Council of Portuguese Polytechnics (CCISP), the Portuguese Association of Private Higher Education (APESP) or the Agency for Assessment and Accreditation of Higher Education (A3ES). CIPES’s researchers are regularly consulted by those organisations to provide assistance and technical expertise on higher education issues such as funding, quality, and governance.
CIPES has participated and/or organised a large number of conferences and seminars in a diversified set of topics (such as access, funding, quality, governance, the Bologna process, market regulation in higher education, the emergence of stakeholders, new public management and managerialism) in a large number of universities and polytechnics, students’ unions, professional organisations and foundations. Also noteworthy are important projects developed in partnership with the main Portuguese Foundations with interest in education, such as the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, the Francisco Manuel dos Santos Foundation and the Belmiro de Azevedo/Edulog Foundation.
CIPES also develops outreach activities at the international level. It has been responsible for a number of quality assessment activities, namely institutional audits for the European University Association (EUA). The Centre has also collaborated with documents and participated in conferences organised by the Institutional Management in Higher Education (IMHE/OECD), the European University Association (EUA), the Centre for Educational Research and Innovation (CERI/OECD), the International Association of Universities (IAU), the Consortium of Higher Education Researchers (CHER) and the European Higher Education Society (EAIR). Several of CIPES’s researchers have also been invited to give lectures and to participate in advisory committees organised by policy-makers in several foreign countries.