Oral History: The Academical Life of Patrick Pais
University of Porto was inaugurated in March 22nd 1911, but the academic life of the city precedes by far this date at the beginning of the 20th Century.
The year was 1762 and Portugal lived troubled times, mostly due to the participation in the Seven Year War. History tells that, by request of Porto’s main merchants, two warships to protect the navigations along the naval route from the city to Brazil and from Brazil back to Porto. D. José, the ruling king at the time, granted the traders’ wishes.
Due to the need of staff formation for the warships, in June 30th of the same year, was decreed that the first higher education institution of the city of Porto would be created: the Aula de Náutica (Seamanship Class), a small institution that satisfied the needs at the time. The class had the capacity to hold twelve sea lieutenants and eighteen navy guards.
Seventeen years passed, Aula de Náutica was the sole higher education institute until it was decreed another class was created, the Aula de Debuxo e Desenho (Class of Sketching and Drawing), which aimed to improve Porto’s artistic education.
With the success of the classes created, the Portuguese government at the time requested to the ruling prince (who would become in the future the king D. João VI) to create other institutions in order to generalize the higher education at the Invicta City (Undefeated City, literally translating, Porto’s nickname). The result was the extinction of the two former classes and established the Academia Real de Marinha e Comércio da Cidade do Porto (Royal Naval and Commerce Academy of Porto) which promoted, between other subjects, the teaching of mathematics and the French and English languages.
Years later, in 1837, a new step was given in order to generalize even more and improve the quality of the higher education at the Invicta. A full reform of Academia Real’s teachings was made and a new institution was born: the Academia Politécnica do Porto (Polytechnic Academy of Porto). Porto’s education gained a lot with the inauguration of the Academy. A much more modern school was here to stay and, with the help of the creation of some new departments that belonged to the Academy (Astronomical Obersvatory, Botanical Garden, Natural History Chamber, and so on), Porto started to compete with Coimbra, considered the Portuguese students’ city par excellence, in terms of quality of higher education.
During almost a century, the PolytechnicAcademy was the larger higher studies school of the city of Porto. However, the institution’s days were counted. Just five months after the fall of the Portuguese Monarchy and the consequent rise of the Republic in 1910, the Universities of Lisbon and Porto were created by the decree of March 22 1911. The country finally transported the capital and Invicta cities’ higher education to the last century of the Millennia.
20th and 21st Century
University of Porto is central to the Academical Life in the city in the 20th and 21st centuries but it’s far from being the only house of Invicta’s students. There have been several other higher studies institutions even before the 20th Century. For example, the Institutos Industriais do Porto (Industrial Institutes of Porto) that, from the 1970s on, started disappearing in order for the new schools of Instituto Politécnico do Porto (Polytechnic Institute of Porto).
With the appearance of the University, Porto started attracting a much bigger quantity of students from all over the country and brought back to the city a lot of students who came from the north of the country and had to go to Coimbra in order to pursue university education
From it’s beginning, University of Porto was a very demanding institute. That fact had influence on the students’ community of the city. With or without academic success (many students stayed on the university many years after the number of years necessary to finish their degree), Porto’s students spent the – according to most – best years of their life living and studying at Porto. Years filled with countless hours of study, bohemian life, broderhood and familiarity and living the academical traditions of the university, which, despite evolving constantly throughout the years, always conquered the affect of most students. Those traditions included, for example, the Queima das Fitas (Burning of the Ribbons), a party that celebrates the graduation of the last year students.
The student strength in Portugal was felt in 1969, during the denominated Crise Académica (Academical Crisis), which started in Coimbra as a protest against the dictatorship that ruled Portugal at the time. Two years later, in 1971, the students from Porto joined their colleagues from Coimbra in the protest. Students decreed Academical Mourning, a situation only applicable when someone linked with the university or it’s people passed away. The Academical Mouring would last until four years after the fall of the dictatorship in April 25th 1974.
Nowadays Porto, the capital of the Portuguese north is house of the biggest Academy in the country, University of Porto and of many other higher studies institutes as well. The Invicta may not be considered the City of Students par excellence, for that title is held by Coimbra, mostly because of it’s history and importance the University of Coimbra held in the city, which has a considerably smaller metropolitan area than Lisboa and Porto. However, Porto is, a Students’ City. The academical culture is part of the core of the popular culture of the Invicta and the students of the higher studies schools help greatly Porto to be the truly unique city that it is.