The Business Year

Isabel Capeloa Gil

PORTUGAL - Health & Education

Let There Be Light

Rector, Universidade Católica


Isabel Capeloa Gil is a full professor of culture studies and the current Rector of Catholic University of Portugal. She holds a BA in modern languages and literatures from the University of Lisbon and an M.A. in German studies from the same university, as well as a PhD in German language and culture from UCP. She was Guest Professor in Germany (Saarbruecken, Munich), the UK, Ireland (National University of Ireland), Italy (Univ. Ca Foscari, Venice), Brazil (PUC-Rio), and the US (U. Pennsylvania and U. Stanford). She is furthermore an Honorary Fellow at the School of Advanced Studies of the University of London. From 2005-2012, she was the Dean of the faculty of human sciences at UCP. She was a founder of The Lisbon Consortium network and leads the International Doctoral Degree Program in Culture Studies. She is also a senior researcher and founder of the Research Centre for Communication and Culture.

Having pioneered the introduction of multiple subject areas to Portugal's tertiary education scene, Universidade Católica is aspiring to establish the country's first private medical school and introduce cutting-edge digital transformation.

Can you describe the main achievements of the institute?

The university was founded in 1967 as the fourth university in the country overall and the first not fully founded by the state. It was founded through an international agreement between The Holy See and Portugal. One of our schools, the school of theology, is accredited by the Holy See, and all other schools teach civil subjects and are accredited by the national agency. There are four major areas of achievement. First is the innovation of the cycles of study, relating to new subject areas that we introduced to Portugal’s education sector. For example, Universidade Católica was the first to introduce a management degree. It was also the first university to enter the Financial Times rankings and to date, the university continues to lead the rankings. Another area that was introduced by Universidade Católica in Portugal was biotech, by creating the first school of biotechnology in the country. We are celebrating its 35th anniversary with an investment of USD50 million in partnership with Amaris, a US-based company from San Francisco, to create a joint project in the field of renewables. Similarly, the university is renowned to create an international track of education in law with LLM degrees in English and is the only university to date to provide this qualification with the US and the UK model. Another important driver of our success was internationalization. At present, we have 29 degrees that are fully taught in English, including management, economics, biotech, culture studies, creative arts, media and communication, political science, and law. The third element of our success is the success of our alumni. Universities do not exist on a self-referential loop for the development of faculty and the institution; they exist because of students, and we want to train these students and turn them into leaders of tomorrow.

Universidade Católica has a broad variety of offered courses. Are there any new courses planned?

We are planning a new degree in medicine and are organizing our offerings in life sciences. Additionally, we have new projects for dual undergraduate degrees, having already introducing a dual degree in law and business at our Porto campus. We are expanding this model now into management, bio engineering, law, and psychology.

According to The Financial Times, Universidade Católica has one of the top 20 best MBA programs in Europe. What have you integrated in your offerings to strengthen competitiveness levels?

The executive masters’ degrees are one of our flagship programs. Universidade Católica has been involved in executive education since the business school was created, and ithas the trust of the Portuguese market and companies. The programs are now expanding to an international level, becoming more ambitious and attracting international students and companies. We have an extremely ambitious program with Sands China that is being taught in both Lisbon and Macau. Similarly, we have programs with the Keller School of Management and Business Education, Sloan, MIT, and Nova University. Our strategy is focused on expanding our attractiveness to international companies that are considering Portugal as a hub for investment.

What did it mean for the university to win the Order of Public Instruction, and how does this contribute to its goals for the coming years?

It is a recognition of Universidade Católica’s contribution to the development of Portugal’s social, economic, and cultural dimensions. It is a recognition of not just what we have done in the past but also much more of what we can do in the future. We have three goals for the future: our ongoing infrastructural development, launching the first private medical school project in Portugal, and digital transformation via an initiative called Católica 4.0. This will overhaul not only the IT infrastructure but also create a truly intelligent campus with machine interaction and give us more robust information through big data. Notably, we will also introduce an increasing scale blended learning, enabling our students to be more mobile.



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