Universities in Portugal have an old tradition. The first University was founded in 1289 in Coimbra, as a response to the growing need for education, dissemination of knowledge and exchange of ideas, as well as communication with other European Universities. This tradition has remained to this day in which universities are fundamental institutions in Portuguese society.
Universidade NOVA de Lisboa was founded on the 11th of August 1973, and is the youngest of Lisbon’s three state Universities. Integrated within a framework of expansion and diversification of higher education, the University adopted a new model within the Portuguese system that stressed interdisciplinary approaches, technological developments while, at the same time, safeguarding offerings in traditional academic domains including medicine, sciences and humanities.
The founding of NOVA was a response to an ever-increasing demand for higher education in Portugal, in general, and in the city of Lisbon, in particular. Since its inception, NOVA has aimed to innovate higher education in Portugal and to contribute to the social and economic development of the country.
Following its first four years of existence, the initial model was adapted in order to carry out the University’s commitment towards excellence in teaching and research.
During its first years, the University cantered its offerings mainly on graduate and specialist programs, but since the end of 1977 NOVA has been steadily expanding its offerings.
NOVA is a decentralised University; its Faculties and Institutes enjoy a great deal of autonomy. Currently NOVA has 20.077 enrolled students and 1.800 teachers and researchers.
Architect José Pedro Martins Barata manuscript related to the original proposal
The universities' ancient practice of creating a motto or emblem, represents the way how a university acts and it works as an incitement, a proclamation.
The motto chosen by Universidade Nova de Lisboa is present in the last sentence of the Rector's investiture ceremony speech: "OMNIS CIVITAS CONTRA SE DIVISA NON STABIT". It is an evangelical fragment that can be found with slight differences in Mark, Luke and John, and the translation is: "every city divided against itself shall not stand". It is a clear call to unity, beyond all the diversity of the institution, metaphorically represented by the word "CIVITAS": city of knowledge, community of scholars, a square where knowledge flows, with the goal of increasing the social capital of education, in benefit of the country.
The emblem, designed by Fernando das Neves, was drawn in a way that allows a quick visual identification at any scale or in any reproduction, material or distance it may be observed.
The design was chosen with the clear objective of avoiding being interpreted as an advertisement, with a fashionable look, which could be easily dated. It contains, in a brief and elliptic way, a reference to the meridional character of the initials, considered as an "arabesque", due to the Arab origin of the name "Almada". This name refers to the geographical location of the new site through the representation of a river or sea, and to the act of overcoming the limited geographical ties, through the figure of a star".