Students from SACRU Universities debate
Liberal Democracy in Lisbon


 Inês, Marco, Pau, Felipe and Erica came from Lisbon, Porto, Barcelona, Santiago de Chile and Milan to debate liberal democracy in Lisbon. From different backgrounds and cultures, they gather at the Institute for Political Studies, Católica, for «intense and interesting debates, as everyone brings unique perspectives to the table». Read the students’ testimonies from SACRU’s first Summer School.


On the lawn of Católica’s headquarters and flanked by the walls of São Jorge Castle, in the sunny city of Lisbon, 16 young students from all over the world gathered to debate Liberal Democracy. A rich academic reflection on a journey across four continents, from 1 to 14 July. Inês Caxias and Marco Osório were two of the Universidade Católica Portuguesa students selected to take part in this inaugural Summer School of the Strategic Alliance of Catholic Research Universities. Studying Political Science and International Relations at UCP’s Institute of Political Studies – co-organizer of the programme – for Inês the choice was obvious and at the end of the first week she said she «is thoroughly enjoying it». «The classes are intense, but you truly learn a lot» and «the environment is amazing,» she added. She is particularly interested in «the classes on crises and challenges to democracy» and especially the sessions on «sharp power, the threats to international institutions, and whether AI will undermine democracy».

In a different field, attending the Master’s in Management at Católica Porto Business School, Marco, 23, was equally enthusiastic about the programme. «I’m particularly interested in topics that move the world, such as politics. I like getting to know various points of view and deepening my knowledge of this area,» he explains.
About the «very enriching and complete» programme, as he describes it, what interests him most is exploring in depth «topics such as liberal democracy, the threat of authoritarianism and social change.» Also on the Iberian Peninsula, Pau Gener Ferrer, 21, is studying Philosophy, Politics and Economics at the Universitat Ramon Llull in Barcelona. He learnt about the SACRU Summer School through the student association and saw it as an opportunity to discuss liberal democracy, a topic he believes society «owes a lot to.» In Lisbon, the student says he met «incredible people.» But «the best part was meeting them while working together, debating. It is always exciting to study abroad, but it is not every day that you get a chance to work hand in hand with people from different ages, backgrounds and nationalities,» he emphasized, in what is precisely the key point of this Summer School: multiculturalism and multidisciplinarity.

Coming from Milan, Erica Locarini brought with her the expectation of getting to know “different perspectives” and addressing «points of democracy that are not covered in regular classes, for example, the link between democracy and AI.»
Currently studying for a Master’s degree in Policies for International Development Cooperation at the Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore di Milano, Erica is particularly excited about the opportunity to get to know Portuguese culture at Fado Night. From the other side of the world came Felipe Lledó. He’s 24 years old, Chilean and in the final year of his Master’s programme in Language and Literature at the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile. It’s the first time he’s visiting a European country, and he confides that he wanted to take part because he’s always liked «to learn about politics.» Having tried to link linguistics research to political discourse: «I think this Summer School can give me theoretical tools to better understand the political phenomena I want to study from the area of linguistics.»

With a truly rich programme, this small group, which also includes students from Boston College, USA, and Australian Catholic University, «promotes intense and interesting debates, as everyone brings unique perspectives to the table,» explains Inês. And after just five days, “new friendships have been created and global connections made,” Marco points out.
Reflecting on the Summer School, Pau stresses that he learned «both how to criticize and defend democracy,» which he believes helped him «to better understand how ideas and political systems work.» On the other hand, Chile’s Felipe highlights the different perspectives on democracy: «listening and learning how these issues are discussed and seen in the US and Europe, in contrast to Latin America,» but also between different authors and theories, as emphasized by Marco. For these students, it was not only an opportunity to debate issues, but also their first contact with SACRU. Marco believes that the «experience provided an excellent image of the Alliance,» noting that it is an initiative of «extreme importance for strengthening inter-community ties and developing students’ knowledge.» «At a time when we are witnessing trends towards ‘de-globalisation’, these moments of sharing and study between different cultures are very important,» Marco concluded.