The first steps towards what is now the University of Beira Interior were given in the 70’s, when the Polytechnic Institute of Covilhã first opened, in 1973. The city, once regarded as the “Portuguese Manchester “, for its long tradition of the wool industry and the dynamics and quality of its textile production, had been affected during this decade, by a crisis at the industry level: large and small factories begin to reveal serious weaknesses that led to its closure, with disastrous social and economic consequences for the region.
It was against this backdrop and within the activities of the working group for the Regional Planning of Cova da Beira, which the idea of creating a higher education institution in the region appeared, in order to give its population the chance to continue their studies without migrating to other parts of the country, most often permanently. Thus, following the publication of Decree-Law No. 402/73 of 11 August under the so-called ‘Veiga Simão Reformation’, which led to the expansion and diversification of higher education, it was created the Polytechnic Institute of Covilhã (IPC), which received its first 143 students in 1975, enrolled in its two first programs of Textile Engineering and Management and Accounting. In July 1979, six years later, the institution becomes the University Institute of Beira Interior, through the publication of Law No. 44/79 of 11 September, which makes it effective.
The conversion of the University Institute in University of Beira Interior happened in 1986, through the publication of Decree-Law 76-B/86, 30 April. The first Rector of the Institution was Professor Dr. Cândido Manuel Passos Morgado, who remained in office between August 21st 1980 and January 19th 1996, when Prof. Dr. Manuel Santos Silva assumed his duties as Rector, remaining in office until June 19th 2009. Now, sworn in as the fourth Rector of the institution, Professor Dr. António Carreto Fidalgo.
One of the most interesting physical characteristics of UBI is recovering ancient buildings of high historical, cultural and architectural value. Besides maintaining the city’s landmarks, these are revitalized in spaces which are now devoted to teaching and research. The building of the Polytechnic Institute had also begun by restoring the old premises of the headquarters of the Battalion of Hunters 2, installed in the Marquis de Pombal established Royal Textile Factory, of an important architectural value, located in one of the traditional centres of industrial concentration in Covilhã, along the Ribeira da Degoldra. During the works of redevelopment in 1975, it has been discovered buried archaeological structures belonging to the Royal Textile Factory dyeing facilities, a leading manufacturer of woolen goods, built in the eighteenth century by the Marquis of Pombal.
After two campaigns of archaeological intervention and a full investigation, it was created the University of Beira Interior Wool Museum, opened in 1996. Thus, the old factory buildings located in the south entrance of Covilhã became, quite naturally, not only a logical solution and of continuity with regard to the physical expansion of the institution, but an option that resulted in an enormous benefit to the city in terms of urban planning and environmental impact, through the recovery of abandoned buildings or in ruins, which constitute a significant part of the industrial heritage of Covilhã, making the institution a unique case in the Portuguese University.
Among the most iconic properties, you will fi nd the Convent of Santo António, in Campus II, where the Rectory is located; the former palace of family Melo e Castro; the buildings of the Rato Factory; the Carpets Factory; the Factory of Moço; the Paulo Oliveira Factory; the Wool Manufacturing Company; and the Chapel of São Martinho, a Romanesque monument of the late twelfth century, classifed as of public interest that supports the religious service of UBI. It was also acquired the former house of the family Mendes Veiga, which today houses the Central Library of the University, after having completed the restoring project. In Campus I, the urban redevelopment culminated in the completion of the program Polis, an interesting leisure park that serves as a natural extension to the campus and that includes the project of the historic Ribeira da Degoldra. In the 1990s, it was decided to expand the University for the Northern End of town, near Ribeira da Carpinteira, where it was created Campus IV. UBI continues to grow. In 2004, the construction of the Faculty of Health Sciences began at Campus III, which was inaugurated the 30th April 2007 meeting thus the setup of the infrastructure of the medical school.
With a physical space that already reaches 134,500 m2, the University welcomes nearly 7,000 students today.
Old factories converted in educational facilities
The university, in terms of education, is divided into faculties, which embrace the areas of knowledge which, by nature, belong to each one of them. So UBI comprises five faculties: Faculty of Science, Faculty of Engineering, Faculty of Social Sciences and Humanities, Faculty of Arts and Letters and Faculty of Health Sciences. You will find below a brief description of the engineering faculty, stating the main programs they offer. The structure of the programs at the University follow a three (years of graduation), two (years of Masters) and three (years of doctorate) scheme, with some exceptions of five years of graduation, including an integrated Masters. UBI has been recognized for excellence in implementing the diploma supplement with the award of the DS Label by the European Commission.