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Portugal Table of Contents


Students and Intellectuals

Students and intellectuals in Portugal were long influential out of proportion to their numbers. This influence was a consequence of higher education's exclusivity. The small percentage of the population who passed the difficult university entrance exams was widely respected, and Portugal's lower classes looked up to educated persons as their intellectual and political mentors.

Intellectuals and students were among the leading advocates of a republic in 1910. Although hostile to the republic, Salazar was also an intellectual and recruited so many of his fellow university colleagues into his administration that it was sometimes called a "regime of professors." Much of the opposition to Salazar and Caetano was made up of intellectuals and students who formed the "study groups" that served as the nuclei for what later became political parties. Intellectuals and students were very active in the Revolution of 1974, and, as of the beginning of the 1990s, many intellectuals served in high positions in government and the political parties.

Universities in Portugal were traditionally heavily politicized, especially during the revolutionary upheavals of the 1970s. Socialist, communist, and other far-left groups competed for dominance on the campuses (mainly at the historical universities in Lisbon and Coimbra) and in publishing houses, newspapers, and study centers where intellectuals congregated.

Rising enrollment pressures, the competition of new regional universities and technical institutes, and the desire to find good jobs in the more affluent Portugal of the 1980s sapped the students' enthusiasm for political action. Many preferred to finish their courses and degrees and secure a rewarding professional position rather than to engage in constant political activity. As a result, Portugal's institutions of higher learning became calmer politically; they also became better, more serious universities.

Data as of January 1993