The University of Coimbra (UC) was first actually founded in Lisbon, by King D. Dinis, in 1290, but in 1537, King D. João, the Third, demanded the University be transferred to Coimbra and the Faculty of Law was placed in the Royal Palace. The Faculty of Law is now located nearby other faculties in an area called Pólo I, where the Faculty of Humanities and Arts, Medicine, Physics and Chemistry departments were also built in the 20th century. The Pólo II and Pólo III were recently created, for studying the areas of engineering and pharmacy or medicine, respectively.
The Royal Palace, where the Faculty of Law is placed, has been designated as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, as well as the Sofia Street and Alta, one of the highest points of the city. In the Royal Palace, it can be found one of the “most spectacular libraries in the world”, according to The Telegraph, built in the 18th Century and the Tower of University, with bells that ring every 15 minutes and in ceremonies, such as Serenatas.
UC is also an important research centres being recognised internationally, according to the institution website. There are 37 investigation centres in the university “responsible for the spreading of knowledge to the business world and society in general”.
With the new academic year already underway, students have already arrived in the city, and now every street and every corner have students in their second or even third year, wearing the Portuguese university clothing, trying to integrate the younger students in the town, in a tradition that has continued for centuries - called Praxe.
Diana Fulgêncio is part of Senatus Praxis, as a Senator. She, along with other Senators, makes sure that the rules present in the Praxe Code are being followed by every student that wants to participate in the activity. The Senator defines Praxe as “the greatest form of integration” possible in a university context. Coimbra houses students from every corner of Portugal, therefore it is hard for freshmen to start a new life without any help and, in Diana’s words, “Praxe is the perfect way of bonding and meeting new friends in university.”
Praxe is an optional activity, not everybody feels comfortable with an activity that demands students to scream music out loud on the streets, for example. Certain groups created alternative activities to integrate new students into the city. Diana told The Portugal News that “there is nothing against movements, that are not related with Praxe, to integrate the new students.”
Coimbra became an important tourist destination in Portugal, with tourists falling in love with the Portuguese university uniform, which can be called “Traje” or “Capa e Batina”. Students know that tourists will ask them to take pictures while using the uniform that includes a long cape, thought to be used as an inspiration for the Harry Potter uniforms in J. K. Rowling books.
Coimbra has a lot of remarkable moments during the year related to the students. For example, the two Serenatas, one marking the entrance of new students, and the other marking the leaving of the graduated students, where the Fado of Coimbra echoes and is listened to in silence by all the students wearing the “Traje”, is known as one of the greatest moments in academic life.
The city has more than 140,000 inhabitants however, the University of Coimbra registers more than 20,000 students per year, so having the students is of major importance, especially to the local economy.
Coimbra is historically one of the most important cities in Portugal due to the formation and the knowledge that is shared with students every year.
Coimbra, the City of Students and Knowledge
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