Francisco Pereira Coutinho


I have a Bachelor (2002), PhD (2009) and agregação (habilitation) (2022) in law from NOVA School of Law (NSL). I served as a legal advisor at the Diplomatic Institute of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Portugal (2005-2010), as an assistant professor at Instituto Superior de Ciências Sociais e Políticas of Lisbon University (2010-2015), and as a Vice-Dean of NOVA School of law (2018-2022). I am currently an Associate Professor at NSL, where I coordinate the Erasmus programme and the master in International and European law, and direct the Compliance Lab, the Observatories of Portuguese Legislation and Data Protection Law, SPARC (Space Law Research Centre), as well as the Moot Court Program. I am specialized in Public International Law and EU Constitutional Law, but my research and teaching interests further encompass comparative constitutional law, data protection law, and media law. I am regularly invited to media and academic public debates on topical international and constitutional law affairs, both in Portugal and abroad. My most recent books dives into the topics of secession and self-determination in Europe (Almedina, 2021) and European constitutional law (Petrony, 2023).
I have an extensive portfolio of national, European, and international funded research projects, the most relevant of which, Pax Lusófona, consists of a mobility program between African universities, and the establishment of the first Master’s program in Law in São Tomé and Príncipe. My interest in Global South perspectives in the political science and legal domains has led me to develop academic exchange projects in, among others, Brazil, Cape Vert, Mozambique, and the Philippines. I regularly lecture in pos-graduate academic programs worldwide.
I was recently awarded the 2023 NOVA pedagogical innovation award for the project “Moot Courts 2.0: integrating a law-student-centered learning methodology in large bachelor courses”.




I would like to highlight two original contributions to the development of science and society. The first refers to the innovative use of constructivist learning methodologies in the teaching of the law. The award-winning moot court project mentioned above aims at disrupting the traditional methods of teaching law in large undergraduate classes, and at transforming moot courts into an integrated learning experience for every student. At my mandatory bachelor disciplines at NSL, students are divided into groups and actively engage in real-world litigation scenarios, collaboratively preparing cases in a simulated court environment where legal experts play the role of judges. The overarching objective is to increase the overall value of knowledge acquisition through a radical shift in students’ assessment by replacing the traditional final written exam with a more practical and immersive learning experience. It also aims to train students’ soft skills such as time and team management, and the ability to speak in public. Not less importantly, the goal is to overcome the hurdles faced by professors in providing effective teaching to large groups of students, thereby pursuing a student-centered training in foundational legal disciplines. Students’ surveys show that the moot court methodology is preferred by 90% of students, leading to high satisfaction (70%) and improved grades, with averages rising from 12.45 to 14.3 out of 20 (when the final exam was the sole assessment method). The moot court project transformed NSL into a frontrunner in mastering and fully exploiting the moot court methodology to the benefit of every student in the bachelor´s degree. It made it a reference in making moot courts inclusive, accessible, cross-disciplinary, and fully integrated part of foundational law courses. The project contributed decisively to the development of a “moot court culture”, which led NSL to secure a leadership position in Portugal, amassing 31 national and international moot court awards since 2014, with 14 being first prizes. These results had a direct impact in the attractiveness of the bachelor course which is being increasingly sought by students who which to engage with this unique learning experience.
The second contribution refers to the creation of the Master’s in Law and Sustainable Development at the University of São Tome and Príncipe. This was the first endogenous master’s degree ever organized in the country, which was established in 2018 under the auspices of NSL’s Intra Africa Pax Lusófona Academic Mobility Program. The program was funded by the EU with the support of the African Union, and brought together a group of deeply committed universities from Angola, Cape Verde, Mozambique, and São Tome and Príncipe. The primary objective of the program was to develop a new generation of legal professionals capable of bringing transformative change to their respective countries upon obtaining their master’s and doctoral degrees through a fully funded mobility program. São Tome and Príncipe was particularly impacted by NSL’s contribution, as they were accepted as partners under the condition of creating a national master’s degree. I directed the NSL team that took on the role of coordinator for the scientific and executive duties related to the project’s implementation, including designing the course program and selecting professors, supervisors and examiners. The master’s program produced significant outputs and far-reaching outcomes, establishing a solid foundation for sustainable development in São Tome and Príncipe capable of having an effective impact at the educational and social levels.
In terms of educational impact, the master’s program elevated the educational standards by providing advanced training and knowledge in the field of law, which was previously only covered at the undergraduate level. The University of São Tome is now creating new partnerships with universities around the world to replicate the model in other relevant fields such as public health. The establishment of an endogenous master’s program also addressed the issue of “brain drain” in developing countries heavily reliant on aid. Talented individuals often left their countries due to the lack of national options for pursuing postgraduate education in Law.
The research component of the program fostered a culture of innovation and critical thinking in addressing local problems and proposing tailored solutions for the country’s context. The program also contributed to building local capacity and expertise in key sectors such as justice, environment, energy, and natural resources. The dissertations produced by students were the first set of legal academic doctrine produced at a local university. Moreover, a relevant number of students have reported an improvement of socio-economic livelihood conditions through increased skills and competences obtained through the programme.



Projects such as the Intra Africa Pax Lusófona, the NOVA Refugee Clinic (a pioneer legal clinical for asylum seekers), the Compliance Lab (a research-centre aimed at raising awareness on corruption and other ethical deviations in organizations), SPARC (the Space Law Research Centre), and the Observatory for Data Protection were created and designed since 2018 to foster the careers of young researchers. The story of four young promising female researchers that have built these projects alongside me is a testimony to that. Besides the academic outputs resulting in publications, lecturing courses, and delivering conferences, these researchers became highly skilled in designing and managing complex international scientific projects. This experience allowed them to meet the requirements for international certification, equipping them to manage projects globally. One researcher now serves as a project manager for capacity-building initiatives at Malaga Law School (Spain), focusing on the Philippines, while pursuing an empirical doctoral thesis on scientific quality applicable to legal research. Another researcher designs projects for the UN Peacebuilding Fund, and was a Programme Manager for the modernization of the justice sector under the Portuguese EU Recovery and Resilience Plan. Remarkably, she is now Deputy Director-General at the EEA Grants Fund in Portugal. These experiences significantly contributed to her thesis on international cooperation for development between Europe and Africa. In addition, her skills facilitated her appointment as an expert rapporteur for Horizon Europe funding lines at the Commission. The other two researchers are now leading authorities in their fields of expertise (migration and asylum, and compliance for the prevention of corruption), actively engaged in internationally renowned networks and think-tanks, while having already an impressive list of funded scientific projects and high-quality national and international publications.



Between 2018 and 2023, I was regularly invited to be a keynote speaker, a commentator, or to chair panels at conferences, seminars, and workshops worldwide. I have hosted conferences that resulted in the publication of nineteen books in renown national and international publishers, and organized and participated, as a lecturer or a jury, in dozens of professional oriented short courses, and national and international moot courts. I wrote several reviews for law reviews and publishers in Portugal and abroad.
In the same period, I have also successfully supervised 1 PhD and 45 master theses, was the main examiner in 9 PhD and 22 master theses, and participated as a member of 7 PhD and 66 master theses panels. I was also a jury in competitions for academic positions and for other public service posts, and a member of assessment panels of law schools in Portugal, Cape Vert and Macau. In 2022, I was nominated as an expert for the evaluation of EU Erasmus+ Jean Monnet Activities.
I had also the opportunity to serve as a national expert in an EU funded network (Free Movement of Workers and Social Security Coordination), as a member of the editorial board of several law reviews, as president of Jurisnova (Association of Professors of NSL), and in the executive boards of the Portuguese Society for International Law and the Portuguese Chapter of ICON-S. I am also a member of the Portuguese Society for European Law and the national point of contact for the European Centre for Space La



Since 2018 I was involved, as a main researcher, in two research projects which produced relevant contributions to Portuguese society. The first was the FCT funded project “LegImpact” (2019-2022). This was a pioneer initiative, which beyond collecting and publishing a quantitative assessment of the Portuguese annual legislative output (its number, its extension, its division into different types of law and legislative initiate, its issuing state bodies, and its subjects), crucially aimed at developing mechanisms to identify the net aggregate costs of legislative instruments taking into account its intended goals – i.e. whether the legislative instrument used to execute a public policy has accomplished its goals or if, on the contrary, it has created obstacles to its accomplishment.
The other research project was the Jean Monnet Module on European Union Data Protection Law in Portugal (DataporEU) (2020-2023). DataporEU aimed at promoting a reflection on the importance of protecting personal data, as well as at fostering public awareness on data protection: namely to inform citizens that, as owners of personal data, they need to know their digital rights and how to enforce them. The Module activities included the teaching of a master course at NSL, the organization of conferences, seminars, webinars and short-courses directed to the general public, as well as the annual publication of a law review targeting young scholars.



Within the framework of the Observatory for Data Protection and the DataporEU Jean Monnet Module, I started editing in 2018 the Yearbook of Data Protection. This is an open-access legal journal that aims at disseminating legal studies on the right to personal data, the first of its kind in Portugal. It has published 43 articles from young scholars in six editions.
I have also published two monographies dealing with key topics of my research. In 2021, I published the book “Independence in Europe”. The dream of “independence in Europe” has been driving the very successful political action of nationalist movements in substate regions such as Catalonia, Flanders, Scotland or the Basque Country. After tracing this telos to the federal nature of the European Union, the book analyses the legal arguments which support the claim to political independence of those regions, first and foremost the right to secede based on the principle of self-determination of peoples. It finishes by discussing the legal paths for the transformation of substate regions into Member States of the European Union within consensual and non-consensual secession processes.
In 2023, I published “Teaching European Union Constitutional Law”. The book is divided in two parts. The first is focused on the syllabus of the EU Constitutional Law course I have been teaching at NSL. The content and structure of the syllabus is dependent on the conception adopted on the political-legal nature of the EU. I argue that the use of the adjective “constitutional” in the course’s title arises from the qualification of the EU as a federation – a federal union of States (of peoples organized as States) –, a form of constitutional political association distinct from the federal State and the international organization. The fundamental programmatic contents of the course are afterwards decanted based on the analysis of the main manifestations of constitutionalism in the EU. This is followed by the presentation of the program, and the diachronic enunciation of the essential topics that are taught throughout the semester. The second part deals with teaching and assessment methods. It mostly reasons why the moot court is a very effective student-centred assessment method, as it adapts to learning styles that are often neglected, while at the same time allowing a deep understanding of the subjects and the development of rhetorical and legal reasoning skills essential for the exercise of legal professions.

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