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Welfare services in debate

Acção Social

Scholarships were the starting point to the 1st National Congress of Social Welfare in Higher Education

The National Congress of Social Welfare in Higher Education was held on June 14, organized by the Welfare Services (SAS) of P.PORTO, the Student's Union of Porto School of Engineering (aeISEP) and Porto Academic Federation (FAP).

The Secretary of State for Science Technology and Higher Education, João Sobrinho Teixeira, was at the congress opening  and praised the initiative, highlightning the strong presence of "agents who best know about the subject." For the Secretary of State, the issues discussed are the most pertinent to the development of the future of social welfare, stressing how crucial it is to have a global effort and investment in the country on these issues. "This investment represents more young people can afford to study and, consequently, a greater return and productive efficiency for the country", he emphasizes.

Investment in student's welfare in Portugal is significantly low compared to the rest of Europe and only about 20% of students are covered by direct social grants. João Sobrinho Teixeira affirms that, in this context, Social Welfare must be increased: "One of the conditions of our democracy is to promote social equality, even knowing that administrative support mechanisms are not up to par", concluding that both government agents as Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) will have to be "proactive in motivating young people to continue their studies."

"The promotion of equal opportunities for all citizens in access to higher education is a concern of HEIs, but also of society itself, "says João Rocha, President of the Polytechnic of Porto, "what we are debating today are possible answers, solutions, and changes to existing rules in order to ensure greater equality of opportunity, but also that the student successfully completes their training". João Rocha emphasizes that these are issues of great relevance within the institutional mission and that Polytechnic of Porto has responded to the requests for scholarships within the legally defined limits and - he recalls - additionally through the FAES, which has allowed to complement the government's social support.

The Welfare Services Administrator, Ivo Costa Santos, evaluated this congress as an important opportunity to reflect, contributing to the construction of a greater knowledge within the framework of social support policies for students. "We discussed the policies of social action to support the student, in particular, the scholarships, in the search for answers and solutions aimed at a successful course of formation, without the economic situation being a factor impeding to advance in its future," he says. For the Administrator, in spite of all the constraints evidenced during the congress, it is important to remember the great effort of the SAS so that the response to the requests for scholarship is made quickly. "Nevertheless, there is always the possibility of achieving better results and improving student access conditions," he concludes.