A brief look at the history of the University of Salamanca:

Some dates

1218: Around this year, Alfonso IX of León founded the General Studium. Its privileges were confirmed and expanded by later kings.

1254: Royal Approval of 8 May, given in Toledo, by Alfonso X, with norms concerning organization and financial endowments. According to this, 11 Chairs were established, with disciplines in Canonical Law, Medicine, Logic-Philosophy, Grammar and Music, all funded by a certain assignation of royal tercios of the ecclesiastical tithe. Additionally, the privileges and exemptions conceded earlier on in the history of the Studium were confirmed. This is considered the constitutional Magna Charta of the University.

1255: The Dignum arbitramur (a bulla) of 22 September, in which Alejandro IV conceded universal validity to  the degrees awarded by Salamanca (“ius ubique docendi”), except in Paris and Bologna (a restriction that was abolished in 1333). He also conceded to the Studium the privilege of having its own seal, which implied recognition of the Institution by the Holy See, in a document issued in Anagni, on 15 July of that year.

1313: Bull of 14 October from Clement V, in which the Pope conceded one third of rents to the diocese of Salamanca for University expenditures. In a bull of 31 March of 1416, Benedict XIII confirmed the expansion of the University participation in  2/3 (2/9 of the tithe) in the financial proportioning of Armuña, Baños and Peña del Rey, an expansion that came from a previous royal concession (Enrique III, by Royal Decree from 1397).

1399: At the end of the 14th century the University had 500-600 students enrolled, the large majority being clerics.

1415:  The construction of the Escuelas Mayores was begun.

1422: Pope Martin V conceded the University a bull, dated in Rome as 20 February 1422: in which he announced new constitutions concerning the organization of the institution. The new constitutional body, formed by a University commission, replaced the constitutions provided for in 1411 by Benedict XIII, the oldest ones conserved today, and was to form the basis of Salamancan University law. The constitutions of Martin V, based on those of Benedict XIII, regulated different aspects of University life: responsibilities and academic bodies (the Deputies Senate was created); degrees; behaviour; customs, and students’ clothing.

1474: The construction of the first University library was begun. Around those times there were some 200 volumes; in ensuing decades the University expanded its holdings and began to incorporate books from the Humanities. There was a largish collection of scientific manuscripts in some of the colleges, such as that of Saint Bartholomew, linked to the Chairs of Natural Philosophy, Mathematics and Astronomy. All this suggests that from the 15th to the 17th century Salamanca sought to embrace the new humanist currents of thought, magnificently encapsulated in the work of Nebrija.

1529: The richly decorated façade of what is now the historical University building was completed. The work had begun in the first quarter of the 15th century such that the University was finally to have its own physical space in which to impart its teachings, superseding the need for the physical space in the cathedral and other places hired for such purposes. At the start of the 16th century, there were approximately 2500 students enrolled in the Studium in Salamanca.

1550: In the middle of the 16th century the confluence of Law, Thomist Theology, the New Logics and the Classics became crystallised in what was known as the School of Salamanca, whose chief representative was Francisco de Vitoria. Among his many contributions are practical reflections about certain issues having to do with Europe and America: the nature of power and of justice; the rights of the individual and of the state; the international community and the rights of peoples; international conflict and just war, and theorisation about economic issues (loans, interest, fair prices) and about the tensions derived from the colonisation and transculturisation of America.

1561: The Statutes drawn up upon the occasion of the visit by Diego de Covarrubias y Leiva were approved on 15 October 1561. This entailed a partial reform of University bodies, based on previous norms (the statutes of 1538 and 1551, after the respective visits of Juan de Córdoba and Diego Enríquez de Almansa), with the introduction of modifications and new materials. In them, of particular interest is the furthering of norms concerning study plans and arrangements for visiting professors. Regarding the compilation of these statutes, it should be noted that the papacy had lost all initiative and its influence was replaced by the Monarch and his Council.

1584: In the 1584/1585 academic year there were 6,778 students enrolled at the University of Salamanca. In the 16th century, the registration records documented the highest student numbers ever.

1594: On the occasion of the visit of Juan de Zúñiga, new statutes were drawn up and approved by the King (Royal Decree of 29th October, at El Pardo Palace), which also served as the basis of Salamanca University law. In this way, continuity was given to a reforming and interventionist trend within the University institution by the Monarchy that had already had previous results: namely, the statutes of 1538 and 1561. The most significant aspect of these statutes regulating the Studium was the design of a new study plan that almost completely replaced that of Covarrubias and that afforded certain books, authors and materials priorities until the reforms of the Enlightenment: Roman or Justinian Law, in Law; Pontifical decrees, in Canons; Metaphysical Theology of Schools, in Theology; Galen and Hippocrates, in Medicine; the philosophy of Aristotle, in Arts-Philosophy; Euclid and Ptolemy, in Astrology/Mathematics, and the Latin and Greek Classics. These statutes were followed by others in 1604, after the visit of Juan Álvarez de Caldas, and in 1618, after that of Baltasar Gilimón de la Mota.

1600: Around this time, the University had 26 permanent Chairs and about 30 transient ones, called cursatorias  and regencias, grouped within the areas of Canons, Law, Theology, Medicine, Art-Philosophy, Humanities-Languages, Mathematics and Music.

1625: This year saw the general compilation of the current University regulations. They reflected the statutes of Covarrubias (1561), Zúñiga (1594), Caldas (1604) and Gilimón de la Mota (1618), with the exception of the reformed sections. The same text also included the constitutions of Martin V (1422) and other apostolic bulls, royal provisions and decrees. The general compilation eventually became a flexible juridical reference authority up to 1771 and the liberal reforms of the next century.

1641: A royal decree of 11 December 1641, given out in Madrid, provided that the Chairs should pass definitively (the same had been decreed in 1623) to the responsibility of the Council of Castile. Accordingly, the system of the awarding of Chairs by student vote was abolished; this had led to irregularities, corruption and general strife. However the new system of the provision of Chairs was soon to generate further problems and foster privileges that favoured certain groups, in particular the Major Schools.

1699: At the end of the 17th century the University had 2000 students enrolled.

1752: This year saw the publication of a royal decree by Fernando VI (11 January- Buen Retiro), completed with later orders in the same year (Royal decree from the Buen Retiro, 11 July) and 1754 (Council resolution of 5 March, 1754), by which the pomp of the award of Salamancan doctorates and master’s was suppressed, thereby considerably reducing the costs of these ceremonies.

1771: The study plan directed towards the University of Salamanca was approved and set in motion by the Royal Decree of 3 August. The provisions therein contributed to the introduction of new approaches and subject matter: the introduction of Royal Law or patrio, in the Law degrees; of arithmetic, geometry, algebra, and experimental physics in Art-Philosophy. Also, the reforms orchestrated around the plan aimed to set up greater control over the Royal Council concerning University autonomy, reinforcing the Rector’s authority.

1807: Caballero’s study plan was approved for the University of Salamanca by Royal Decree on 5 July and was sent as a template to all universities in the realm by Royal Decree of 12 July of the same year. The aim was to apply a uniform and centralist model –that of Salamanca- to all the universities of the kingdom (it was the very first general study plan for the Universities). As well as state control, the figure of the Rector was strengthened and power was placed in the professors’ court. Its application was truncated by the events of the Spanish War of Independence.

1837: Within the amortization program of Mendizábal, the Act of this year extinguished the ecclesiastical duties, which, it should not be forgotten, were the source of funding for Universities and of the University of Salamanca in particular. Henceforth, the Universities were to be financed by matriculation and academic fees and large amounts provided by the General State Budget.

1850: Halfway through the nineteenth century the University had 200-300 students matriculated.

1852: By the decree of 21 May of this year, the Faculties of Theology were suppressed in Spanish Universities, although this was not enforced until 1868, with the revolution.

1857: The Public Instruction Act of this year, known as the Moyano Act, definitively encompassed the University of Salamanca, and all teaching in the country, within a new liberal and centralist regime after nearly 50 years of projects and reforms (such as the Pidal Plan of 1845). For the University of Salamanca, this also meant a new regionalisation, since it was conceded a reduced district integrated by the provinces of Zamora, Ávila, Cáceres and Salamanca itself. The Universities were relegated to the supervision of the Ministry of Public Works through a General Directorate and a Royal Council of Public Instruction. The Rector was a political figure appointed by ministerial dictate. After the Moyano Act, the University of Salamanca was reduced to the Schools of Law, Theology and the Humanities. The traditional hegemonic role of the University of Salamanca, like that of the other “major” institutions (Valladolid and Alcalá) passed to Madrid, the predominant central University district.

1879: The Upper floor of the Major Schools building was completed, under the supervision of the architect José Secall.

1904: As a counterpoint to the state funding of the until then Free Schools of Medicine and Sciences, financed since 1869 by the Provincial Delegation and the City Hall, the last patrimonial possessions of the University were seized by the State.

1934: During this year, 34 full professors, aided by 40 auxiliary instructors, gave class to 2258 students in all, divided between the official and “freelance” (libres) pupils.

1940: Restoration and establishment of the Catholic University of Salamanca by Pious XII, 25 Sept, with a view to starting up studies of Theology and Canon Law. In 1963, its degrees were officially recognised by the State. This was the first private University in the contemporary environment of Castile-Leon.

1943: Enactment of the University Ordering Act for the whole of Spain, in July, which would stay in force until the Villar Palasí Act in 1970. After the corresponding changes, the University became linked to the dominant ideas of the traditional Nationalism-Catholicism and Falange ideologies and the principles of the Movement. Power was concentrated in the hands of the rector, who was designated by the Ministry. Administrative inflexibility, political control and hierarchy were the norm.

1965: During the 1965/1966 academic year, the University of Salamanca had slightly more than 6,000 students.

1970: Within the framework of the accelerated social transformations of the sixties, the Villar Palasí Act, in essence, conceded certain autonomy to the Universities in matters of teaching and research. Regarding institutional aspects, University Boards with a certain amount of power reappeared, with the ability to present a list of candidates for the Rector’s job to the Ministry.

1974: From this year onwards, the University district of Salamanca was reduced to the provinces of Ávila, Zamora and Salamanca, as Cáceres became integrated into the University of Extremadura.

1983: The University Reform Act (of 25 August, appearing in the OSB on 1 Sept) was passed. This put an end to the remains of the liberal 19th century model and gave rise to a new stage of broad-reaching autonomy and vertiginous transformations. In this context, the statutes of the University were approved by royal decree on 29 May 1985 (OSB of 27 June).

1986: On 30th May the University of Salamanca (and the University of Coimbra) was awarded the Principe de Asturias prize for Latin-American cooperation, in recognition of the intense work of the University of Salamanca with the Universities in Latin-American countries.

1991: In the 1991/1992 academic year, the number of students registered at the University of Salamanca was 28,950. Huge increases occurred in student numbers: from halfway through the eighties there were more than 20,000 and this number climbed to 30,000 at the beginning of the nineties. As a result of the greater numbers, considerable investments were made in new buildings and infrastructure. The most striking example was the construction of the Miguel de Unamuno campus, which was initiated towards the end of the eighties.

1995: May saw the agreements for the transfer of jurisdiction over to the four public Universities (Salamanca, Valladolid, Leon and Burgos) from the Ministry of Education and Science to the Regional Government of Castile-Leon. Thus, the Regional Government took on a series of management functions. Also, at the beginning of this year the Regional Government approved the creation of a single university district for all nine provinces of Castile & Leon, such that the students from the region could study at any of the four Universities, regardless of their areas of residence.

2002: On 25th September, the University of Salamanca was visited by TRH the Spanish Monarchs upon the concession of the title “Honorary Patron” to HRH D. Juan Carlos I by the University.

2003: On 30th January this year, the new statutes of the University were approved by the Governors’ Board of the Regional Government of Castile-Leon (BOCYL) on application of the Organic Universities Act of 21 December 2001.

Alfonso IX University Centre of History.