Lisbon, UAb and SCOP Every year since 1993, the International Council for Open and Distance Education (ICDE) has been organizing Standing Conference of Presidents (SCOP) meetings. These meetings have established a unique forum for rectors, presidents and senior policy makers to exchange views and experiences and to discuss the latest developments and trends.
Universidade Aberta (UAb) is proud significantly to have contributed to the launch and consolidation of this excellent event. In fact, the SCOP initiative was championed by UAb founding Rector and ICDE President Emeritus, Professor Armando Rocha Trindade. He based the concept on his own personal experience as a Rector and to acknowledge the need to introduce a political and strategic dimension in educational policies and actual modes of operation. In the early 1990s, a time of great political change in Europe and the world and also of great challenges and opportunities to university leaders, Trindade argued for ICDE to involve directly the Presidents and Principals of its institutional members in the process of evaluating and designing global guidelines for the future evolution of the organization.
The First Conference of Presidents was held then in Lisbon, organized by UAb, with the main agenda of dealing with global issues in education and training and to put to vote the decision of creating a new structure within the organization, the Standing Conference of Presidents. Following the success of the Inaugural Conference of Presidents (25th and 26th October 1993), UAb held a second SCOP meeting in 1997 (29th, 30th and 31st October 1997), also in Lisbon.
Since the early 1990s and the inaugural SCOP meeting, the world of open and distance education has undergone dramatic changes. The number of players in ODL increased exponentially as e-learning became mainstream practice in higher education. In the last decade, also, new electronic forms of open educational practice have developed, creating a set of new challenges and opportunities for university top leadership.
UAb has followed up closely these changes. The university was able to implement a successful and speedy transition from a print-based distance learning institution to a fully online one, with all its implications. The critical importance attributed to organizational culture innovation, to the transparency of the process and to the extensive involvement of the university community in its collaborative implementation was acknowledged by top international experts in the field.
The 2013 SCOP meeting marks therefore a moment of reflection on change and how leadership has a pivotal role in promoting it. Reflection is often associated with celebration and 2013 is a special anniversary year for both SCOP and UAb. This year, as the SCOP meeting celebrates 20 years, UAb is also celebrating its own 25th anniversary. Let's celebrate this significant historical moment by reflecting on the challenges of the future!