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What are chairs?

by Richard Meckien - published Mar 07, 2013 04:20 PM - - last modified Apr 24, 2020 10:08 AM
Rights: Carlos Malferrari (translator)

The IEA has a tradition of hosting chairs, which are agreements with national, foreign or transnational institutions that allow the allocation of resources for the study of issues related to the themes of the work groups and programs of the institute.

Ongoing chairs:

Basic Education

Bernardo O'Higgins

Olavo Setubal Chair of Art, Culture, and Science

Further chairs that the IEA has already hosted: Chair Claude Lévi-Strauss, Chair of Ecology Carl Friedrich Philipp von Martius, Chair Mário Schenberg, Chair Lucas Nogueira Carcez, Chair Jaime Cortesão, Chair Nicolau Copérnico, Chair Simón Bolívar and the UNESCO Chair in Education for Peace, Human Rights, Democracy and Tolerance.


Chairs are the common name for agreements signed by the Institute of Advanced Studies of the University of São Paulo to allocate financial resources in behalf of specific areas of learning. The chairs make it possible to establish a support base for visiting scholars in initiatives co-signed by national, foreign or transnational institutions, whose goals cut across the attributions of ongoing areas, groups and programs.

Definition of CHAIR

Translated from Wikipedia’s definition of “cátedra”

A chair today is mainly seen as a permanent contractual position for teaching and researching a specific scientific discipline at a university and for the coordination of said teaching and research.

The notion, however, derives from the chair as a piece of furniture. Specifically, the chair that was placed on a platform, upon which a medieval university professor would lecture or which might seat some other person in high office, a bishop, for instance, who had full authority in a fixed location (the cathedral) to expound on determinative matters, the greatest example being the Catholic Pope when speaking ex cathedra.

Chairs and freedom

Translated from Wikipedia’s definition of “Liberdade de cátedra.”

Academic freedom is a principle that ensures freedom to learn, teach, research and express thought, art and knowledge.

Its purpose is to ensure pluralism of ideas and concepts in education, especially at university, as well as educational and scientific autonomy. Academic freedom allows teachers to express their own beliefs and viewpoints regarding the subject being taught whenever there are several scientifically validated perspectives, and steers clear of the imposition of a single methodological or pedagogical criterion.


Academic freedom is not meant to uphold ideological manifestations that violate the students’ freedom of conscience and that have no bearing on the subject being taught. In other words, the range of academic freedom is not congruent to that of freedom of expression.


In Brazil, the Federal Constitution of 1988 guarantees academic freedom in Article 206, partly transcribed below:


Article 206. Education shall be provided on the basis of the following principles:


II – freedom to learn, teach, research and express thought, art and knowledge;

III – pluralism of pedagogic ideas and conceptions[1];


The third article of Law no. 9,394 of December 20, 1996 – the Law of Educational Directives and Foundations, “Lei de Diretrizes e Bases da Educação” – reasserts the freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution.

[1] Official translation by Brazil’s Chamber of Deputies [Translator’s note].