The President of the Faculty of Human Motricity, Luís Bettencourt Sardinha, explains the new stages of development of the FMH and discusses the importance of exercise and sport in health and in society.
The President of the Faculty of Human Motricity (FMH), Luís Bettencourt Sardinha, spoke to the Oeiras Valley about the project being developed by the FMH, in particular the Active Cluster – the faculty’s new scientific and technological centre.
Follow this interview and find out about the faculty that is celebrating 81 years of history and that seeks to continue working to forge ever closer relationships with the community and the different types of exponent of physical exercise, from the recreational to the high-performance, with special focus on the local population of Oeiras and the Jamor National Sports Centre.
We find ourselves in the Faculty of Human Motricity, a faculty that has gone by various names over time associated with the different “life stages” of the institution.
Is a new stage now starting with the announcement of the construction of the Faculty’s Active Cluster?
The FMH has a history stretching back 81 years. A history of success. First as the National Physical Education Institute, then the Higher College of Physical Education and now the Faculty of Human Motricity. It has been a breeding ground for influential leaders in society, initially centred on Physical Education and Sport, but which quickly learned how to adapt to the needs of society. It rapidly evolved into other areas, such as Dance, Psychomotor Rehabilitation, Sport Management, Ergonomics and Exercise and Health.
“This new phase will allow a new technological infrastructure to be built, but essentially will meet the challenges of the modern world.”
The construction of the Physical Activity, Sport and Health Scientific and Technological Cluster (Active Cluster), and this link with the Oeiras Valley, mark a paradigm shift in the development of the school.
This new phase will allow a new technological infrastructure to be built, but essentially will meet the challenges of the modern world, with up-to-date equipment, which will be very important for the teaching staff, the students, the nine laboratories and the four study centres based here.
It will be a space for interaction between knowledge and innovation, culture and leisure, and a driver of entrepreneurship, sport, health and economic and social development. A new phase that respects history, but which faces and prepares the school for the emerging challenges of competitiveness, with responsibility for responding to today’s professions and anticipating and influencing those of the future.
“Today, more than ever, the knowledge produced must be brought close to the people. One knowledge and one science for all.”
Very often, the name of the FMH appears associated with the world of sport and football.
Do you feel that, over the years, there has been a change in perception and other educational and research fronts have gained the same prominence?
Today, more than ever, the knowledge produced must be brought close to the people. One knowledge and one science for all, which is associated with an essential dimension of the university, beyond teaching and research, which is its community outreach programmes.
It marks a change in the very culture of research, which is occurring progressively, whereby problems are not only formulated in laboratories, but also meet the needs of society and solve its problems.
“The FMH conducts very highly regarded research, and it is no accident that it is placed among the 50 best European faculties and among the 100 best faculties in the world.”
The FMH conducts very highly regarded research, and it is no accident that it is placed among the 50 best European faculties and among the 100 best faculties in the world. This number reflects the very dedicated work of the lecturers, researchers and students.
The FMH is attended by around 2,000 students who study for bachelor’s degrees, master’s degrees, postgraduate qualifications and doctorates. In accordance with its mission, it is a diverse range of training when one recognises the sustainable human development behind motricity.
It should also be noted that, very recently, all degree courses were subject to comprehensive reform.
What are the FMH’s major competitive advantages and how does it differ from other institutions working in the same scientific and educational areas?
The entire training and research process initially involved education and sport and, early on, it opened up to other areas of knowledge.
There are decisive characteristics that make it stand out at national level. Students who start their training in the first study cycle may progress in their initial area of training to a master’s degree, and those who wish to continue more specialised training can move on to a doctorate. There is a very well-structured range of training with specific and alternative paths that start with a bachelor’s degree, end in a doctorate and continue on into postdoctoral programmes.
“The FMH will continue to place a high value on this sports centre, in conjunction with the Government, the Portuguese Youth Institute and the Municipality of Oeiras.”
Another important domain is the laboratory infrastructure. There is highly technological laboratory infrastructure, which in some cases employs the most advanced methods and instruments existing in the international scientific community.
These characteristics, combined with an experienced and excellent teaching staff devoted to the development of knowledge and research, establish good teaching practice and define what makes the different areas of the faculty’s mission unique.
And what about the FMH’s location in the Municipality of Oeiras?
It has always been advantageous, and now, even more so. The Oeiras Valley concept has reached a certain scale and there are various actions that contribute towards this desire to develop a Research, Innovation and Technology ecosystem, which the faculty is highly motivated to contribute towards.
Additionally, the faculty is located at the Jamor National Sports Centre, a unique venue in Portugal. The FMH wishes to have a global presence with its specialties, but, at the same time, will continue to place a high value on this sports centre, in conjunction with the Government, the Portuguese Youth Institute and the Municipality of Oeiras.
“The new Cluster will be very closely involved in sports training and high-performance training. Its technological dimension will overcome a shortcoming in the Portuguese sports system.”
We wish to bring here a greater number of programmes for people. For those who most need the prophylactic assistance of physical exercise. People with diabetes, oncological disease, chronic noncommunicable diseases, cardiovascular diseases and even some kinds of neurological condition. We fulfil an important mission of the university, providing people with knowledge and innovation while at the same time offering experience to the students who join these programmes, enabling them to become more confident, competent and influential professionals.
The new Cluster will be very closely involved in sports training and high-performance training. Its technological dimension will overcome a shortcoming in the Portuguese sports system through a unit in which the technological and methodological dimensions coexist. Procedures and activities will be provided that can contribute, in a practical way, towards the quality of assessment and the process of training the athletes.
It will represent a paradigm shift for the FMH in conjunction with sports organisations, athletes and coaches. They will have at their disposal human and technological resources to simulate the widest range of training situations, such as, for example, altitude training with different climatic conditions of temperature and humidity. A range of psychological, nutritional, physiological, neuromuscular and biomechanical dimensions will be available in an integrated form.
“This programmatic connection to Oeiras has a unique advantage. Whether due to the contribution of the Municipality of Oeiras towards the construction and development of this Cluster, or due to the investment in innovation and technological development.”
We expect to collaborate with people seeking leisure, those looking to exercise to optimise their health, those seeking sports training and high-performance athletes. This more active participation will also be important for the students’ experience, which may help launch them into the labour market.
This programmatic connection to Oeiras has a unique advantage. Whether due to the contribution of the Municipality of Oeiras towards the construction and development of this Cluster, or due to the investment in innovation and technological development, with partnerships that will be concluded here with research bodies and companies in the county of Oeiras.
How important is it for the students and for the development of your work to be on this extensive greenfield site that surrounds us?
This site is iconic. Whenever former students come to our school, they have a very strong sense of belonging. The architecture of the FMH is very striking and is surrounded by around 220 hectares of sports infrastructure and green spaces.
“The green spaces here have a connection to the future. A future towards which we all wish to contribute”.
Also this year, the Faculty of Human Motricity began a strategic analysis in conjunction with the Portuguese Youth and Sport Institute and the Municipality of Oeiras to optimise operational management, organise the scope of the courses and modernise the infrastructure of this sports centre.
These green spaces here have a connection to the future. A future towards which we all wish to contribute. Respecting the vision of those who created and drove forward this sports park requires new solutions to provide better and more modern services for the people.
The different areas of mission of these three entities help advance everything that can be conceived and put into practice for the coexistence of generations and diverse activities of an educational, recreational, leisure and performance sport nature.
The sustainable planning of this diversity is demanding, but the increase in demand for quality in these activities and also the welcome increase in exigency vis-à-vis the conservation of biodiversity and planning of the park, require this cooperative effort, without which it will not be possible to respond to the emerging needs of modernity and innovation.
It is a fact that the pandemic has alerted us again to the importance of science.
Do you feel that the same has occurred with sport and with the importance of being in good physical health?
To put it very simply, I would say that the different lock downs really made people realise that the body needs exercise.
Unfortunately, in terms of sport, the pandemic has had a very negative impact, because there has been a reduction in sports training, which has impacted employability rates.
“The so-called health belief model does not solve all people’s decision-making. Today, the decisive factor is the organisation of land use. It is having the willingness to take action.”
My message is that there have to be initiatives to mitigate this process, namely assistance for training. This is going to have implications for the future of high-performance sport, which will very much depend, in 20- or 30-years’ time, on the quality of the training work done today.
Portugal has tried to alleviate this situation, but more important measures are required so that, now, and as we await new times, there is persistent, long-term planning in sport.
Do you feel that views regarding exercise are aligned with advances in knowledge of exercise, or are they sometimes disconnected from each other?
For some time, there was a belief that knowledge determines behaviour. However, that is not always how it is. The so-called health belief model does not solve all people’s decision-making.
At the moment, we are passing through the ecological era, the era of land use planning. There is a need for more safe and attractive spaces in which to do physical activity. Look at the seafront in Oeiras. During the day, it is always packed and at weekends, there are hundreds of people walking and jogging. Where were these people? Perhaps they were at home, or at a café…
Today, the decisive factor is the organisation of land use. It is having the willingness to take action. Naturally, scientific knowledge regarding physical activity and health helps, for sure, but if there is no planning of land use, people do not engage in physical activity.
What are the future challenges for ensuring that the FMH remains young and has prospects for a long life?
Good practice is facilitated by the quality of the infrastructure. A process involving comprehensive renovation and modernisation of the existing teaching spaces is underway. Additionally, we will see the construction of a new laboratory network under the auspices of the Active Cluster. This programme will respond to the need to upgrade the existing infrastructure and design new solutions for a modern school that can face the future with confidence.
“It is also important to continue to place a high value on research and scientific output, involving the development of new products and services for the community.”
It is necessary to continue improving the quality of teaching and to forge closer ties with professionals in the areas covered by our mission. It is the quality of teaching that enables us to produce more influential professionals in the different areas of professional practice and raise the profile of the school.
It is also important to continue to place a high value on research and scientific output, involving the development of new products and services for the community. Preparation and training for innovation and entrepreneurship are crucial challenges we need to cultivate.
The production of recognised knowledge should be a natural response to the knowledge created by others. This will engender personal development, as well as develop institutions and societies.
Again, I stress the need to intensify our contribution to the educational and sports systems. The training of Physical Education teachers and Trainers must be more operational and be brought into line with the gaps in qualification and innovation determined by the needs of the respective sectors. This is an explicit strategic orientation.
Finally, the programme actions must also result from the increasingly participatory contribution of collaborations to be established with entities outside the faculty. Only in this way may the wide range of knowledge and competencies be advanced, in the light of a society with ever more specific needs.