Education-line Home Page


Interdisciplinary or Transdisciplinary Research?

Martha Abrahão Saad Lucchesi (1)

University of São Paulo

Eliana Branco Malanga(2)

Sao Paulo College of Arts, Brazil Federal University of Minas Gerais and Federal University of São Paulo

Paper presented at the European Conference on Educational Research, University of Ghent, 19-21 September 2007

"It is understood that the ethos of the university in the beginning of the 21st century is configured as center of knowledge production and divulging so that research is the very teaching. As knowledge producer, the university is a center of power."   Lucchesi&Malanga,2007:5)


In 2007 Brazil has got one of the smallest percentages of young people taking Higher Education courses. Data from 2005 pointed at only 10.9% of the young people aged 18-24 enrolled in Higher Education. That index represented a minimum growth in relation to the one from 2004, which was 10.4%(3). A comparative analysis shows that among South American countries, our university student population is smalller than that of Argentina, Uruguay and Chile.

To reach adequate goals, we should have 30% of our young people at the university until 2010. It does not seem possible to reach such goal in this period of time. However, we must continuously work toward developing our University, not only in relation to offering Higher Education to a larger number of students, but, mainly, in relation to the essence of the university, its ethos and paradigm for the 21st century: knowledge production.

The objective of this paper is to research alternatives and possibilities for the Brazilian university, both public and private, so as to maintain the new emerging paradigm despite the difficulties presented by the Brazilian educational system. To clarify the issue, this paper briefly describes the Brazilian Higher Education sub-system and the institutional categories analysed. The scope of our study lies within the new knowledge society paradigms, post-disciplinarity (inter and transdisciplinarity), emphasizing the pioneer analysis of Brazilian educators based on international theoreticians.

We have conducted qualitative research based on data collected by official agencies such as the Ministry of Education (MEC) and semi-structured interviews with researchers from two universities, a public and a private one. We have employed a Discourse Analysis technique to the spoken responses of those professors aiming at identifying the possibilities of and resistance to inter and transdisciplinary research.

As provisional considerations we have concluded that the knowledge production in the Brazilian university presents the possibility of interdisciplinary and even transdisciplinary research. In fact, these kinds of research enable a better use of researchers from several fields toward knowledge totality.

The great challenge when searching for making the access to both knowledge and Higher Education more democratic is to avoid the creation of mere massification and a simulacrum in the provision of Higher Education to students and the country, which would mean a great distance from the university essence of research and innovation to foster teaching and motivate knowledge production. We agree with Pierre Jourde and Olivier Beaud (in Jourde, 2007:19-20) when they state the uselessness of a real researcher unable to transmit his findings in class.

The opposite is true for a teacher who does not innovate, but rather only repeats throughout the years the same theories he learned during his formation. In doing so, he can not raise students’ interest, let alone prepare them to live and work in knowledge society or societies(4).

The Ethos of the University in Knowledge Societies

Access to Higher Education has already been reached by several European countries. However, not all academic communities agree to its result. Barbereau (in Abensour et al., 2007:60) says one must distinguish teaching democracy from teaching massification, that is, the university must be available to a larger number of young people without losing its knowledge producer ethos. According to Antoine Compagnon (in Jourde, 2007:85), the essential mission of the university encompasses three elements: "knowledge divulging, student formation and research."

Those criticizing the frequent reforms in French Higher Education consider it became "schizofrenic" when it separated teaching from research, instead of, according to Jourde and Beau (in Jourde, 2007:13), "mutually feeding each other." In this moment, there would be a university which only teaches and meets its burocratic duties, which outnumber research. On the other hand, research institutes do not teach and their production is divulged only through congresses and publications, mainly outside France.

In relation to this productive and necessary relationship, Paulo Freire (1980:17) used to say that Education does not consist of transferring knowledge, but rather that curious educators and students should approach the subject of their analysis.

We are aware of the difficulties of implementing research as a permanent activity in all Higher Education institutions. Indeed, the researcher encounters barriers in the institutions still lacking such tradition. This does not take place only in Brazil. Resistance to change and breaking paradigms is a universal phenomenon. It will, therefore, be necessary

to conduct a great and deep change leading to a new phase in the institutional life. It will be necessary to change old habits, to invest, without obtaining immediate results, to trace unknown paths." It is through the struggle between the one who dominates and the one who wants to dominate that renovation takes place, through what one is and what one may be that a new reality emerges." (Foucault, 1979:24 apud Lucchesi, 1999:109)

This is a new paradigm emerging to make the 21st century university viable. Maybe this is not new since in Europe Edgar Morin’s (1981) and other scholars’ proposals for a new path enabling us to leave the 20th century and renovatedly starting a new millenium were publicized over 25 years ago. Even in Brazil, our studies and research on the topic of the emerging university have been presented and defended for over 10 years. Although we are very far from having a university adequate to the needs of the knowledge societies, many things have changed despite resistance. Many are the points of change: public policies and governments’ actions; university professors whose minds and intentions are geared toward research and endless search for responses for future generations’ Education; even students, mainly those now entering Higher Education, demanding that teaching institutions provide them with both professors who research and room for developing their creative capacity.

The Brazilian university has defined itself both legally (Bill # 5540 from 1968) and conceptually by the indissolubility between teaching, research and services(5) rendered to the community. (BRAZIL, Ministry of Education, 1968:15-21)

In the beginning of the expansion of the Brazilian Higher Education, this paradigm provided the basis for public universities and more traditional community universities, the latter usually following a confessional model (such as the Catholic Universities of Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Rio Grande do Sul and the Mackenzie Presbitarian University, among others).

In a system bearing such characteristics, there isn’t exactly an opposition between the public and private sectors; catholic and lay institutions are very similar in their objectives, in their organization, in the quality of the teaching they provide and, frequently, even in the dependence on public resources. Thus, a certain parallel structure between state lay institutions and private catholic ones is observed in a system with such characteristics. (Durham & Sampaio, 2000:1).

Parallel to the formation of the great universities developing research, colleges and isolated institutes emerged, some of which later grew and transformed into integrated colleges. Those Higher Education institutions, which still exist in large number in Brazil, do not carry on research, and, in most cases, do not render services to the community. According to Durham and Sampaio (2000:2), there are private institutions created to absorb the demand of students who did not manage to get into public institutions or more selective private ones. These institutions, rarely having the status of universities, were in general created after the 60’s and concentrate their teaching service offer in highly-searched and low production-cost careers.

The teaching offered by those generally private institutions has been considered "non-qualified" by the academic community and society in general.

Later in the expansion of Higher Education in Brazil, from the 90’s on, some of those isolated colleges decided to become universities to obtain a larger autonomy foreseen by the 1988 Constitution(6). In 1996 the General Guidelines for Brazilian Education (Bill #9394 from 1996)(7), besides re-stating the position of the universities, also created the University Centers, from which research is not required as long as they offer "teaching excellence."

University Centers are regarded by many as something in between integrated colleges and universities, as a meaningful number of institutions, mainly private ones, failed to become universities due to the lack of practice and culture of producing knowledge through research.

As we experienced this movement as members of the faculties of some of these institutions, we realized that knowledge society required a larger change than the mere re-application of the traditional model of the Brazilian university. Such transformation would lie beyond technical-political changes; one demanded an epistemological transformation based on two focal points: research based on teaching and extension (services to the community) and overcoming discipline boundaries.

Consequently, a re-balancing of the powers within the Higher Education environment was necessary as fragmented disciplines and departments belong to a game of power resulting from discipline hierarchy. In the modern university there is a tendency of a higher value given to Sciences to the detriment of the Humanities, including Education; there is, in fact, prejudice against the latter ones, sometimes seen as heirs and followers of the medieval university, with which modern science broke up. A paradox has thus been created: the university no longer had room for humanism nor for knowledge universality.

To overcome such paradox(8), which paralyses the development of the Brazilian university, a new paradigm has aroused, one that admits the demands of knowledge society but does not deny the humanistic and critical tradition of the university institution, one that also searches the re-integration of knowledge as a whole through transdisciplinarity, bearing interdisciplinarity as fertile soil for the appearance of new fields of knowledge. In this sense, we may say that, if modernity characterized itself by disciplines, categorization and regulation (in relation to the creation of rules), typical of the Industrial society, post-modernity, corresponding to knowledge society, reaches pos-disciplinarity, that is, the overcoming of disciplines without losing the range of knowledge each discipline accumulated during the two last centuries.

The paradigm of the emerging university (Lucchesi, 1999, 2001) configures a university relying on post-disciplinary research (inter and transdisciplinary) on which the creation of new courses and professional formation is based, as well as on the interface with the society which welcomes extension services stemming from such research.

Transdisciplinary and Interdisciplinary Paths

Jean-Fabien Spitz (in Jourde, 2007:128) comments on the difficulty of forming a research group inside a very same department, as the rules governing the French university establish. He suggests that those "interested in the same issues," independently of the department they belong to, "float toward one another,"(9) and that they regroup, thus benefiting all, including students, mainly the graduate ones, as they are studying to become researchers.

The essence of transdisciplinarity lies in starting from an issue to be studied and then grouping researchers coming from several fields with the aim of studying such issue. Interdisciplinarity combines two areas that, given the very dynamics of producing scientific knowledge and technological development, lead to the formulation of new fields and new scientific research techniques.

One must take into consideration that, according to Morin (2002), transdisciplinarity does not exist without disciplines. Those appeared as a need for science development. Foucault (1966) touched the issue of the relationship between disciplinarity and modern science.

Interdisciplinary research feeds and renews teaching, from the stricto sensu graduate courses (Master’s and Doctoral programs) to the lato sensu graduate courses(10) , as well as the undergraduate ones. Some more recent courses are interdisciplinary, such as for instance "Environmental Management", which involves Biology, Geography, Economics, Engineering, Law, Social Studies, besides the specific knowledge of Administration. This formation came as a response toward work opportunities resulting from the urgent need of professionals capable of acting in environmental preservation, a priority in today’s world. It is also the case of many other issues demanding the overcoming of discipline boundaries.

Interdisciplinarity must be understood as a science reaction against specialization excess, which in mid 20th century had reached professions and fields of knowledge; this happened due to technological development, which had enabled a quantitative growth of knowledge. In that moment, Descartes’ advice of dividing to comprehend had been exaggerated. In those days, however,some more lucid minds were already thinking of the future and perceiving the gaps in this segmented way of seeing reality. Bachelard (1977) already alerted that hiper-specialization represented a distortion. In 1970 Jean Piaget, biologist and educator, proposed the term and the concept of "transdisciplinarity."

Jean Piaget was the thinker who first coined the word "transdisciplinarity", around one year before the workshop "L' interdisciplinarité - Problèmes d'enseignement et de recherche dans les universités", held in Nice (France) from 7 to 12 September, 1970 (Proceedings published by OCDE in 1972). It is true that several other contributors (Erich Jantsch, André Lichnerowicz, Guy Michaud, Pierre Duguet, etc.) use this word in their contributions, but Guy Michaud, one of the organizers of the meeting, and also André Lichnerowicz, confirmed to me that it was Piaget who invented the word and asked the others to think about its meaning. (Definition of Transdisciplinarity.  Basarab Nicolescu 29-May-03: 144).

In paradigmatic terms related to the university and research, basis of all university activities, we would like to propose the term "post-disciplinarity" to refer to all university activities which, in research, teaching or extension, overcome discipline boundaries.

A Brief Analysis of the Presence of Interdisciplinarity and Transdisciplinarity in Research and Brazilian Higher Education

Ivani Fazenda, Ph.D,(11) was one of the first researchers in Brazil to use interdisciplinarity in Education research. She discusses the necessary transformations in the educational institution (and in the way educators act), to establish an interdisciplinary practice.

We now explain the categories we are using to talk about Brazilian Higher Education. It consists of universities, university centers, integrated colleges and isolated colleges or institutes. Universities may be public or private. Public universities are, in the majority of the cases, federal, that is, controlled by the federal government, as Brazil is a Federal Republic. There are public universities financed by States. In Sao Paulo, there are three state universities, and they are very important, for they rank as some of the best in the country and receive international recognition.

Municipal Higher Education institutions have been undergoing a process of expansion, but they still have not reached the size of the State universities. They have not been included in this study, which limits itself to the city of Sao Paulo, capital of the state of Sao Paulo, where there is no municipal university.

Brazilian Higher Education and its official control are organized in two federal levels, although interconnected.

Higher Education in Brazil is organized in a federal system and state systems. The federal system lies under the authority of the Ministry of Education (MEC) and the National Council of Education (CNE), while the state systems are ruled by the State Secretaries and the State Councils of Education (CEEs). Both systems have relative freedom because they must respect the Federal Constitution and the National Guidelines for Education (LDB Bill # 9394 from 1996).

The federal system exerts its authority over all private institutions and the network of federal universities and schools (including the CEFETs, the technological high schools). The state systems encompass the State and Municipal public Higher Education institutions. Although not obliged to follow all MEC’s rules, state systems tend to adhere to the Ministry’s initiatives (…) . (INEP-MEC, 2007)(12)

As far as their legal and institutional nature is concerned, Brazilian Higher Education institutions are classified as described in chart I.

Chart I

Administrative Categories (or legal nature) of Brazilian Higher Education Institutions

Public Institutions

They are institutions created or incorporated, maintained and administered by the government. They may be:

- Federal: maintained and administered by the Federal Government

- State: maintained and administered by the State Governments

- Municipal: maintained and administered by the Municipal Governments

Private Institutions

They are maintained and administered by individuals or legal entities. They may be organized as:

- For-profit private institutions or private ones in strict sense: created and maintained by one or more individuals or legal entities

- Non-profit private institutions, which may be:

- Community institutions – crated by groups of individuals or by one or more legal entities , including professors’ and students’ cooperatives including representatives from the community in their boards

- Confessional institutions – created by individuals or by one or more legal entities meeting a specific confessional and ideological orientation

- Philanthropic institutions – education or social assistance institutions rendering service to which they were created; they must make this service available to the population in general, complementing the government’s activities, without any sort of income. (13)

Brazilian Higher Education, according to the 1996 National Guidelines for Education, consists of undergraduate and graduate programs. Teacher formation courses (offering a license to teach at school level), professional formation courses (offering a bachelor’s degree at the end), such as Law, Medical Science, Economics, Psychology, etc, encompass the undergraduate level. Nowadays we also have technological courses in this level.

Chart II

Undergraduate Courses and Diplomas

These are the most traditional ones, and they provide a Bachelor’s diploma (such as a B.S in Physics), a Teaching License diploma* (such as a Teaching License in Languages), a diploma at a Technical level (such as a Specialist in Hotel Management) or a specific title referring to a profession (such as a Medical Doctor). A B.A or B.S or a specific title referring to a profession give their holder the possibility of carrying out a profession at a Higher Education level; the Teaching License provides its holder the possibility to teach at elementary, junior high or high school level.(14)

* NT: In Brazil students may receive a Teaching License if they take pedagogical courses at university level. For example, a student may get a B.A in Languages and a teaching license to become a school teacher if he/she also takes pedagogical courses.

Undergraduate courses may offer one or more degrees. For instance, Communication Colleges may offer degrees in Journalism, Advertising, Audio-Visual Arts, Tourism, etc. New short-term Higher Education modalities have been implemented in Brazil. Those provide a new degree for an already existing course at the Educational Institution, also known as technological formation.

Chart III

Short-Term Higher Education Courses

Sequential Courses

Sequential courses aim at providing or updating technical, professional or academic qualifications. There are two sequential-course modalities: specific formation or study complementation at Higher Education level.

Specific-Formation Higher Education Courses

It is a program aiming at providing technical, professional or academic qualifications to students and offering a diploma at the end of the course. It is made up of a 1,600-hour and 400-teaching-day set of organized disciplines and activities.

Study-Complementation Higher Education Courses

It is a program aiming at providing technical, professional or academic qualifications to individual students or groups of students and offering a certificate at the end of the course. Necessarily linked to an existing undergraduate course at the Higher Education Institution, it is made up of a set of disciplines and activities to meet educational objectives defined by the institution, in the case of courses given to groups of students, or to meet individual needs in the case of courses given to individual students.(15)

Graduate Courses

Lato sensu graduate programs consist of any specialized or development courses. The former should take at least 360 hours of instruction and the latter 180 hours. Although there is an apparent contradiction between specialization and interdisciplinarity, in reality the most innovative fields of knowledge stem from interdisciplinarity. Thus, many courses seek this new trend.

Stricto sensu graduate programs consist of Academic Master’s programs aiming at forming Higher Education professors and starting them in research, Professional Master’s programs geared toward professional development and Doctoral programs aiming at forming researchers. Master’s and Doctoral programs are periodically evaluated by CAPES (Coordination of Higher-Education Personnel Development, an official agency that supervises, controls and finances graduate programs); therefore, their recognition and validity may be recommended by the Ministry of Education or not. Research groups including post-doctoral programs, theme groups and other categories which do not need CAPES’ approval nor MEC’s recognition are evaluated and financed by several official national or state agencies, such as CNPq, Fapesp, etc.

CAPES, a federal agency with recognizes the validity of graduate programs in Brazil, does not have a committee to evaluate interdisciplinary courses. About 700 consultants from 45 fields of knowledge participate in the process of analysing proposals. However, there is a multidisciplinary area, which received the most approvals in 2007: 22 courses out of a total of 194 approved new courses. Out of this total number, 104 are Master’s programs, 60 are doctoral programs, and 30 are professional Master’s programs.

Out of a total of 444 courses evaluated by CAPES, 194 were approved, 19 are still under analysis and 231 were not recommended to recognition from the Ministry of Education. Within the approved ones, there was an advance in certain regions in the country, such as the North and Northeast, as well as the Federal Universities of the Amazon Region and of the Greater Sao Paulo, the latter just recently created.(16)

CAPES and CNPq (National Research Council) are federal agencies that finance researchers with Master’s, Doctoral and Post-doctoral scholarships. Some states, such as Sao Paulo and Minas Gerais, also have state financing agencies.* (Fapesp, Fapemg).

Post-disciplinarity (inter and transdisciplinarity) in Research and Teaching in the Brazilian University

The University of Sao Paulo(17) is public and does not offer lato sensu graduate programs; on the other hand, it holds interdisciplinary undergraduate courses, one of which will be further analysed by means of an interview with a professor from the Leste campus. It also has transdisciplinary research groups, which may be understood in two ways. The first kind encompasses studies on transdisciplinarity itself. In the second one, transdisciplinarity brings the knowledge necessary to investigate a given complex issue. Thus, the University of Sao Paulo, besides the Transdisciplinarity Research Group, also has the Research Group on Violence studies, therefore carrying out the very proposal of transdisciplinarity.

The university also has a stricto sensu graduate program, the Master’s course in Aesthetics and the History of Art, formally configured as an "inter-college" program, that is, it puts together several departments, colleges and institutes. It is the case of the College of Business Administration and Economics, the College of Communication and Arts and the College of Architecture and Urbanism.

It is also worthwhile mentioning that some research groups, although located in specific departments or colleges, present an interdisciplinary character. We may give the example of the interdisciplinary research group on Literature and Psychoanalysis coordinated by Professors Cleusa Passos and Yudith Rosenbaum(18).

University Professors’ Discourse

Interviews with professors from courses we aimed at studying consisted of three open-ended questions (semi-structured interview), responded via email. There was a preliminary contact with them to present both our research and, if necessary, ourselves through academic contact with their institutions.

Out of the five attempts initially made, we obtained responses from two interviews. We sought:

  • Two private universities, one of which responded to our research

  • A public university, which provided information on their undergraduate courses referring to an interdisciplinary experience

  • Two confessional universities, from which we have not received any response to this moment, although they hold Master’s and Doctoral programs officially declared interdisciplinary

  • Criteria for choosing studied institutions were the following:

    1. They should be located in the Greater Sao Paulo

    2. They should offer not only undergraduate programs, but also some graduate one, preferably a stricto sensu program, without which they would not be considered universities by Brazilian legislation.

    3. There should be the possibility of access to the interviewee by means of a person of trust to both the researchers and the interviewee, as there is the tendency of keeping information relevant to the institutions, to the "backstage", that is to say, the internal dynamics taking place parallel to the official discourse available in sites and documents which may, in reality, contradict this very official discourse. This criterion was adopted because researchers were interested in verifying the actual and concrete possibility of post-disciplinary research (inter and transdisciplinary one) in the Brazilian university in Sao Paulo in 2007(19).

    Characteristics of the intitutions studied in the research:

    a) Public one:

    The University of Sao Paulo is the largest and most important public university in Brazil. It is maintained by the State of Sao Paulo (Brazil is a federation). It has over 100,000 students.

    Less than five years ago, it created a new campus, located in the Eastern zone of the city of Sao Paulo, searching for a physical proximity with more underprivileged neighborhoods in the city. On the other hand, its main campus in town is located in the Western zone, which has been changing from an industrial region into a residencial area for middle and upper social brackets (although this does not imply the students from this main campus in the city come from such upscale neighborhoods). However, given the gigantic size of the greater Sao Paulo, which reaches 18 million inhabitants, it was considered important for the university to approach the more socially-underprivileged students.

    USP Leste* has the underlying principle of promoting a strong interaction with the communities located in the Eastern zone of the city. Besides its cultural and sports activities, it proposes to develop several extension programs, such as those of development and research projects geared toward finding solutions for local problemes, as well as providing more access to lab facities in several areas, such as Sciences, Arts, Computers, Remote Sensing and Language Teaching(20).
    * NT: The University of São Paulo’s Eastern campus, as it is known.

    In this new USP-Leste campus, innovative careers have been implemented, thus privileging an interdisciplinary approach not only in research, but also in teaching. The campus holds an integrated college, in which 10 undergraduate courses in the fields of Arts, Sciences and the Humanities are concentrated. None of these new courses are given in the main campus. There is a total of 1,020 places offered yearly, "distributed in three periods of the day – mornings, afternoons and evenings – with 60 students per class."

    In our opinion, the most important element in USP-Leste’s pedagogical project is scientific innitiation "from the first year college by means of Problem-Solving activities which will be mandatory in the basic formation years."(21) This way we have a first official-practice experience in a Brazilian public university, which is the first step to implementing the 21st- century emerging university paradigm. The proposal includes the consolidation of this new paradigm in the formulation of its official discourse divulged to the society when it states that offering "a solid academic and scientific formation to its students and supporting the setup of research groups are two of the main objectives sustaining USP-Leste’s proposal."

    Research formation for undergraduate students is ongoing in the Scientific Innitiation activities, which is already a traditional activity at USP’s main campus, as well as in many Brazilian universities, both public and private. In some cases its participants may receive scholarships from outside financing agencies (PIBIC – CNPq, FAPESP) or from USP itself (Institutional Scholarships). There are also research groups being formed at the school, whose existance and further relevant data will be publicized so as to attract more people interested and facilitate the divulging of their works.

    Among the already formed research groups, GRIFE (Information Physics and Economics Interdisciplinary Group) should be mentioned for its interdisciplinary character.

    The professor who provided such information holds a Ph.D in Public Management from USP. She started her work together with this group from the institution, which is recent, although the university itself is over 80 years old. She pursues an independent and innovative work, does not hold a directing position, but she exherts positive influence toward the project consolidation in the Coordination of the institution.

    b) Private university

    It is a large private university currently holding four campi in the city of Sao Paulo, which opened its first campus in the Eastern zone of the city. Therefore, both the public and private universities analysed in this study are located in the same social wherabouts, the Eastern zone of town. It offers 29 undergraduate courses and 3 Master’s programs recognized by CAPES/MEC, according to the validation system in Brazil. It presents as a differing factor 85 research lines and 38 research groups acting in several fields of knowledge.

    The interviewee, Ph.D in Education, was Academic Vice-President in this private university from the East Zone of the city. She points out among all the activities carried out in this institution the experience of attempting at implementing interdisciplinary practice. Nowadays, she acts in the area of public policies and interdisciplinarity in a Graduate Program on Education offered at another private university.

    Analysis of the Responses

    To analyse responses, we have divided the content of the answers into themes, independently of the question they referred to, since interviewees did not directly tackle each question given. In fact, the questions served as stimuli to the proposed theme. We will use letter "A" to refer to the interviewee from the public university and letter "B" to refer to the private university one.

    1. Current Practice of Interdisciplinarity in the University

    Interviewee "A" lives a moment of enthusiasm regarding the interdisciplinary practice, for her institution has created innovations so as to include her in teaching and research.

    I am enthusiastic about the model. (A)

    The other interviewee, however, feels the institutional barriers against interdisciplinary research.

    Private universities have difficulty with administring innovative projects, mainly at the undergraduate level.(…). Interdisciplinarity, most often mixed up with integration of different fields of knowledge, has not found much space in university institutions. However, in most undergraduate courses, in their course projects, interdisciplinarity is necessarily present, for there is clear reference to this demand in curricular guidelines, and evaluation committees constantly incentivate interdisciplinary proposals. What we have concretely done in undergraduate courses is develop integrated projects in an attempt toward building an interdisciplinary understanding. (B).

    Interviewee "B" underscores the dissonance between discourse favoring interdisciplinarity in national research and the limits the very regulatory governmental agencies impose to its practice.

    In graduate programs projects must follow the guidelines from the evaluating agency, and the latter tackles interdisciplinary proposals with difficulty. (B)

    2. Acceptance of Interdisciplinarity by the Academia

    Students from both public and private universities are interested in interdisciplinarity. Faculty, on the other hand, does not always face it without some resistance.

    The results we have followed are very positive. Students tend to like it much more than professors do. The role interdisciplinarity has been fulfilling is that of integrating the several disciplines in the undergraduate courses. (B)

    I believe it is early to evaluate results from interdisciplinary research although this year, following the innitiative of some professors, we have organized a seminar to present research projects, in which the panels integrated professorsfrom more than a course. Besides, the seminar aimed at professors from all courses to facilitate this exchange. (…) It is early to evaluate the scientific result of this integration. So far it is possible to affirm that these strategies facilitate the dialogue between the different professional views. To a large extent, professors support this strategy and seek to create the practice necessary to this new strategy. (A)

    3. Implementing the Paradigm of the University as a Knowledge Producer

    Both interviewees agree on that the way the university must follow is the paradigm of research supporting teaching even in undergraduate courses. There is still, however, a lot to be done.

    Yes, it is possible even in private universities. The difficulty we still face has to do with the boards’ fear of making the necessary investments to install research and of reviewing their practice of personnel management. When these two issues are reviewed, the institution has conditions of quickly building a meaningful "human capital" and recovering its first investments, whether as referential identity or in access to research financing sources, normally destined to public institutions. (B)

    From my point of view, results may be fully attained. However, not all professors suit this methodology. Many feel embarrassed about not mastering the theme researched; some seek to influence students to look for a topic they feel more comfortable about. Others suffer with the fact that research results are initially poor, that research lacks usual methodological care. Up to now the experience seems very interesting. Students really take the lead and feel confident, mainly with field research. They develop attitudes adequate to the relationship with researched subjects. They feel motivated to discuss dissertations developed by the literature on the theme. In the experience from our course, however, I believe we have not managed to organize the study of some scientific methodology contents in more advanced moments, and there is, in fact, a flaw. (A)

    Between both researched institutions, we may observe that if the public university tends to be more innovative than the private one, this does not equally happen with the official agencies responsible for regulating academic research activity, especially in relation to graduate programs, where theoretically there would be a privileged room for innovation.

    On the other hand, undergraduate courses, more geared toward the formation of professionals who will not necessarily work in the field of Education, are innovating and accepting the paradigm of teaching and research.

    Brief Final Thoughts

    What may be observed, both directly and through the interviewees’ responses, is that the Brazilian public university has reacted more quickly regarding the need of breaking the discipline boundaries through interdisciplinary research and the contribution of research to teaching. Nevertheless, if private institutions were not pioneers, some of them are trying to follow such tendency. In fact, it is a demand from knowledge societies and even more so from the Brazilian scenario, whose educational lack compromises the economic development of the country. Thus, some Brazilian private universities are trying to get updated and include interdisciplinarity as a principle in the pedagogical projects of their courses.

    In relation to the governmental action, there is an ambiguity. On the one hand, interdisciplinarity is incentivated. On the other hand, some controlling agencies do not foresee a real and meaningful room for such courses, mainly at graduate level, which should be the privileged locus for innovation.

    We have taken the first steps in a long path toward transforming the university. This is happening around the world, and it implies an epistemological change reestructuring the bonds among the world scientific communities, as well as between each university and the local knowledge society it belongs to. Therefore, the third millenium university is local and global (glocal), both inter and transdisciplinary, a knowledge producer and creator of new professionals capable of coming up with new knowledge instead of only repeating it. In this sense, the European Community has made a noticeable effort serving as example to the whole world. From its universities, the most traditional we know, it proposes international and multicultural innovation and integration.

    Within this transformation environment, and even one of ebulition, it is up to professors/ researchers from the new university to adopt an activity of openness to productive change, to integration and exchange, and above all, to preserve the universality character of the university, thus maintaining its tradition of producing and divulging knowledge.


    1. Ph.D and M.A in Education from the Catholic University of São Paulo and also a lawyer. Researcher at the University's Research Unit on Higher Education,Unit Public Policies,University of São Paulo.

    2. Coordinator of the Graduate Program at the Sao Paulo College of Arts and a post-doctoral student at the Federal University of Minas Gerais

    3. Source: MEC/INEP, 2007.

    4. Differently from the notion of information society driven by technology only, knowledge societies are minddriven. On the other hand, the refusal of resorting to the singular notion of “global society” and of adopting the plural notion of “societies” ratifies the fact that the means of technology appropriation results from the diversity of the configurations of the actors belonging to the institutional, cultural, industrial and political contexts. In sum, the particularity of “epistemic regimes” is recognized… The etimology of the word “knowledge” is closely related to the modal “can” in English. Both refer to utility and power. In Latin languages, on the other hand, there is an alternative term, “saber”, whose etimology is linked to the Indo-European root “sap”, which means to know and savor, where words such as “sabedoria” and “sapiência” (wisdom) come from. In Latin languages, knowledge refers to theory (Mattelart, 2005:14). Available in:  Last access: 20/9/07.

    5. The concept of rendering services to the community consists of sharing the knowledge produced in the university with society in general through services related to health, legal assistance, psychological treatment, among others, resulting from the courses offered by the institution. Those services also enable graduating students to obtain some practice in their professional university formation.


    7. Bill  #9.394, from December 20, 1996. Available at

    8. According to Greek etimology, “against the opinion”.

    9. NT: Translation from the authors. “Les uns vers les autres.” in the original.

    10. In Brazil, specialized courses are called lato sensu graduate program.

    11. Professor at the Catholic University of Sao Paulo.

    12. Available . Last access: 10/9/07.

    13. Source: National Institute of Educational Research from the Ministry of Education (INEP- MEC)

    14. Source: National Institute in Educational Research from the Ministry of Education (INEP-MEC)

    15. Source: National Institute in Educational Research from the Ministry of Education (INEP-MEC)

    16.Source: CAPES/ MEC, 2007.

    17. It is public and financed by the State of São Paulo instead of by the federal government, the case of federal universities.

    18. According to interview given by Professor Yudith Rosenbaum to Talita Rhein, published in Shalom, #483, volume X, August 19, 2007:11.

    19. For ethical reasons, we do not mention interviewees’ names.



    References (including own publications):

    BACHELARD, Gaston. (2001). A formação do espírito científico [The formation of the scientific spirit]. Rio de Janeiro: Contraponto.

    BARBEREAU, Kathleen. La fin de l’éducation nationale? In: ABENSOUR, Corinne et al. (directeurs). La destruction du savoir en temps de paix. [ The destruction of knowledge in times of peace] [sine loco]: Mile et Une Nuits (département de la Librairie Arthème Fayard /Barcelone, Espagne: Liberduplex, 2007, pp. 45-46). ISBN 978-2-84205-797-8, pp; 21-174.

    BEAU, Olivier; JOURDE, Pierre. Avant-propos. In: JOURDE, Pierre (directeur). Université: la grande illusion. [University: the great illusion] Paris: L’Esprit des Péninsules, pp. 7-26.

    BRASIL. MINISTÉRIO DA EDUCAÇAO. Instituto Nacional de Estudos e Pesquisas Educacionais (INEP - MEC). Educação superior : cursos e instituições. Cadastro das instituições de educação superior. [Higher Education: courses and institutions. Database of Higher Education institutions] .Available at

    BRASIL. MINISTÉRIO DA EDUCAÇAO. Reforma Universitária. Relatório do Grupo de Trabalho. [University Reform. Report from the Work group] Brasília:Imprensa Oficial, 1968.

    BRASIL. MINISTÉRIO DA EDUCAÇAO. LEI Nº 9.394, DE 20 DE DEZEMBRO DE 1996.( diretrizes e bases da educação nacional) [National guidelines for education] Available at 

    BRASIL. Governo Federal.CONSTITUIÇÃO DA REPÚBLICA FEDERATIVA DO BRASIL DE 1988 [Constitution of the Federal Republic of Brazil. 1988] Available at 

    CAPES (A Coordenação de Aperfeiçoamento de Pessoal de Nível Superior do Ministério da Educação), Assessoria de Imprensa. CAPES aprova novos cursos de mestrado e doutorado. [CAPES approves new Master’s and doctoral programs] Friday, July 27,2007. .

    DURHAM, E. R. e SAMPAIO, H., "O setor privado de Ensino Superior na América Latina".[ The private sector in Latin America: a comparative analysis] Cadernos de Pesquisa Fundação Carlos Chagas, nº 110, p. 7-37, julho 2000.

    FAZENDA, Ivani. (2003).  Interdisciplinaridade: qual o sentido? [Interdisciplinarity: what´s the sense?].  São Paulo: Paulus. (Coleção Questões Fundamentais da Educação). 

    FAZENDA, Ivani (org.). (2004). Interdisciplinaridade: dicionário em construção. [Interdisciplinarity: a dictionary being built] São Paulo: Cortez.

    FOUCAULT, Michel. (1966) Les mots et les choses. Paris: Gallimard. Edição Brasileira: (2002). As Palavras e as Coisas [The order of things]. São Paulo: Martins Fontes.

    JOURDE, Pierre. (2007). La destruction organisée du savoir de l’école à l’Université. In: JOURDE, Pierre (directeur). Université: la grande illusion. [University: the great illusion]Paris: L’Esprit des Pénincules, pp. 87-114.

    LUCCHESI, M. A. S. ; MALANGA, Eliana Branco. University’s Transformations: Episteme, Mission and Ethos in the Contemporary World.. Essays in Education, v. 20, p. 1-14, 2007. Available at 

    ________(2006a). LUCCHESI, M. A. S. ; MALANGA, Eliana Branco .Transdisciplinary research in higher education institutions: possibilities and resistances. Education-Line (British Education Index, University of Leeds - Leeds LS29JT)., Leeds,England, p. 1 - 20, 21 ago. 2006. Available at 

    LUCCHESI, M. A. S. ; MALANGA, Eliana Branco. (2006b). A análise do discurso na pesquisa sobre ensino e aprendizagem [Discourse analysis in the research on teaching and learning]. Contrapontos, Universidade do Vale do Itajai, v. 6, n. 2 (maio/ago 2006).

    LUCCHESI, M. A. S. ; MALANGA, Eliana Branco. (2005). Psicopedagogia, interdisciplinaridade e transdisciplinaridade [Psychopedagogy, interdisciplinarity and transdisciplinarity]. In ANAIS: II Congresso Mundial de Transdisciplinaridade, Vila Velha / Vitória – Sept 06-12, 2005. Available at

    MALANGA, Eliana Branco: LUCCHESI, Martha A. S. (2005). A transdisciplinaridade transformando a relação pesquisa / ensino / extensão na produção do conhecimento científico [Transdisciplinarity transforming the relationship between research / teaching / extension in the production of scientific knowledge]. In ANAIS: II Congresso Mundial de Transdisciplinaridade Vila Velha / Vitória – Sept. 06-12, 2005. Available at  

    MORIN, Edgar. (2001).  A religação dos saberes: o desafio do século XXI [Linking up knowledge: the challenge of the 21st century].  Rio de Janeiro: Bertrand Brasil. 

    MORIN, Edgar. (2000). A Cabeça bem-feita: repensar a reforma, reformar o pensamento [The well-made head: Rethinking reform, reforming thinking]. Rio de Janeiro: Bertrand Brasil.

    MORIN, Edgar. (1981). Où va le monde? [Where is the world going?]Paris: L’Herne.

    MORIN, Edgar. Introdução ao pensamento complexo. [Introduction to complex thinking] 3.ed. Lisboa: Instituto Piaget, 2002. (Epistemologia e Sociedade).

    NICOLESCU, Basarab. Definition of Transdisciplinarity.  29-May-03, 19:37 UT.

    This document was added to the Education-Line database on 31 October 2007