History and Heritage
The University of Oviedo is the only public institution of higher education in the Principality of Asturias, a region of just over a million inhabitants, with a privileged natural landscape, a rich artistic heritage and excellent road and rail links in the central area of the region, which is home to its major cities.
More than 400 years have passed since Fernando de Valdés Salas devised the creation of the University of Oviedo in the XVI century. Today, that self-same University is home to numerous disciplines and degrees and a plural community, spread over different campuses and cities. The University was granted its charter on 21 September 1608. On that date, in the presence of representatives of the most important bodies of the time the academic institution was inaugurated in the new university building San Francisco Street, a building which today constitutes the most important material remains of those early and difficult times.
Though newly created, our institution adopted the proposals of Castilian university scholars (fundamentally those of Alcalá and Salamanca), adapting them in the first rules of governance of the institution: known as The Old Statutes, provided by the executors in 1607, which ended the mandatory legal process for recognition of degrees granted by the University of Oviedo, after the necessary papal (Bull of 1574) and Royal (Royal Decree of 1604) charters.
The four original faculties of Arts, Canons, Law and Theology coexisted in the "generales" or lecture halls. These were designed following the 1574 project designed by the teacher Rodrigo Gil de Hontañón and had a layout that did not differ from university architecture of the time: lecture halls with narrow, poplar benches and a raised Chair from which the lecturer read in Latin the texts stipulated in the Statutes (following the scholastic reading method), issues and disputes, with the total absence of the actual experimental method of scientific disciplines. This aspect was highlighted by Father Feijoo a century later at the commencement of the process of review of the traditional university from the lecture halls in Oviedo.
The different rooms of the building designed at that time reflect the organization of the University during its first century of existence. The Senate Hall, or voting room, takes us back to a senate of doctors that was to go from strength to strength and on whom rested the major decisions affecting the University under the chairmanship of the Rector, an academic authority already provided for by Alfonso X the Wise in his Siete Partidas (Seven-Part Code) and still remaining to this day, just like the porter, a key figure in charge of maintaining order in the schools and acting as a messenger of the students.
The Enlightenment and Father Feijoo
In the Age of Enlightenment, the University of Oviedo was to awaken with new Statutes, which leave no room for the subsequent reforms imposed by Carlos III, and which were to suppose a renewal of the traditional university. The arrival in Oviedo of Father Feijoo was to break new ground in terms of both ideology and education, demonstrating against the dialectical method and its consequences. The University of Oviedo suffered serious economic difficulties in the early XVIII century. However, in the second half of the same century, it underwent changes that improved its academic quality.
First, the library was founded (1770), exceeding that first university bookstore that had very few publications of interest, thanks to the legacy of Brigadier Solís. Just four years later, thanks to the mediation of the priestly-garb-wearing student Campomanes, our institution was granted the 1774 Plan, which introduced the reform of the faculties and in the teaching method, eliminating the system of reading aloud and introducing textbooks, among other questions.
The significance of the Caroline reforms went beyond what is outlined here, presenting many more nuances, but what was clear in the spirit of the enlightenment was the evolution that it brought to the traditional university, opening a new door that was to be definitely traversed by the Oviedo Group in the late XIX century.
The XIX century was crucial in education and scientific development within our institution. The first half of the century saw the fostering of the development of Mathematics and Physics, culminating in the creation of the Science Section at the Faculty of Philosophy and the Physics and Chemistry Studies in 1845 and, a year later, the Botanical Garden and the Natural History Study. No less important was the construction of the observatory tower in the 1860s that allowed the meteorological studies already being carried out in different parts of the university building to be suitably developed.
The Oviedo Group
The confluence of all these disciplines acted as a starting point for the final settlement of the Faculty of Science, which was officially announced in 1904. This century, so relevant in the University's history, was to culminate in what is now considered one of the most significant moments from an institutional and educational point of view, namely the creation of the Oviedo Group in one of the smallest and less well-endowed universities of the time.
The confluence of a group of teachers imbued with Krausist ideas that, in a Spain immersed in the disaster of 1898, believed in social regeneration through education gave rise to extremely brilliant initiatives that went beyond our University to establish strong ties with the Americas. University Extension, nowadays a hallmark of Spanish universities, was conceived right here in our University, giving rise to programmes and projects involving large sections of the university staff with a vocation to popularize education as a means to achieve greater social cohesion.
The October Revolution
The University continued on into 1934, until the October Revolution broke out which was to see the destruction of the Historic Building and, with it, all the cultural and scientific heritage it contained. This marked a turning point that was to continue with the outbreak of the Civil War and the cessation of academic studies.
The reconstruction process was launched immediately in all respects, but was not terminated until well into the 1940s. In parallel, the University tried to meet the demands of new studies, with the expansion of Schools, Faculties and projects for new campuses that had been taking shape over the years to form the current make-up that includes studies in the towns of Gijon and Mieres.
A Campus of International Excellence
The University of Oviedo has entered the XXI century promoting internationalization, teaching and research excellence, expertise and knowledge transfer to the business world, as well as a new model of campus with close ties to the social environment. These are the objectives of the project Ad Futurum. From the 7th to the 21st Century: Projecting our tradition into the future, via which, in 2009, this institution became one of the first Spanish universities to obtain the Campus of International Excellence seal.