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History of the University of Cadiz



With the constitution of its first Senate, the 30th of October 1979 marked the birth of the University of Cadiz (UCA), the culmination of a long process in the demand for a university institution that would recover the fruitful tradition of higher education studies initiated and developed with the support of maritime and commercial activities in modern and contemporary times for Cadiz and its province.

The historical background of higher education studies in Cadiz goes back to the 15th Century, with the creation of the College of the Pilots of the Sea of the East and West, within the Basque brotherhood, whose cosmography and mathematics studies achieved fame and prestige, as was certified by the Brief Treaty of the Sphere and Art of Navigation by Martin Cortes, printed in 1545 in Seville, and the Geometric Analysis of Antonio Hugo of Omerique – born in 1698- as an expression of the Nautical Chair that existed from 1682 in the College of Santiago of the Company of Jesus, founded in 1566.

With the efforts of Jorge Juan, Luis Godin, Vicente Tofiño and others, Nautical Studies reached rare heights in the Academy of the Marine Guards, with the creation of the first Astronomic Observatory of Spain and the Literature Assembly, precedent of the Academy of Science.

As for the field of Humanities, the Chair of Latin Studies in the School of the Cathedral was occupied by the grammarian and Erasmist Francisco de Tamara. Also in 1681, in the Santo Domingo Convent in Cadiz, studies in Grammar, Arts and Theology were established and extended to laymen, obtaining great prestige, for which in 1722 they moved to General Studies.

In 1748, the most important cultural institution ever in Cadiz was created. This was the Royal Army Surgery College, whose masters were Virgili, Canivell, Nueve Iglesias, Roland… The rule of giving a grant to the best students was introduced to enable them to study in the most prestigious centres abroad, and by virtue of these revolutionary study plans the college attained the power to perform two functions which were then exclusive to universities, these being the granting of titles of “Latin Graduates” by a Royal Decree of 1757, and that of teaching Surgery students Medicine, as at that time they were two different degrees, with the Medicine degree being taught exclusively in university faculties and the Surgery degree in extra-university Colleges. Finally, the Ordinances of the College of Cadiz, 1791, authorized it to grant Surgical-Doctor’s Degrees, a novelty that would be later adopted throughout Europe.

When in 1871, the Free Faculties were authorised, the Local Council of Cadiz requested the constitution of the Faculty of Pharmacy, situated in the Faculty of Medicine buildings and provided with the latest technology laboratory back then at the expense of the Local Council itself. Moreover, in October 1873, a Free School of Law was established at 17 Calle San Miguel, and the following March, the necessary funding was obtained from the Local Council and Provincial Government to elevate it to a Free Faculty of Law. This project was never completed due to the Decree of the 29th September of 1874, cancelling these Free Faculties. However, it remained as a College of Civil and Canon Law at least until 1878, and was situated at 38 Calle San Jose.

Commercial studies were also traditional in Cadiz. By means of a Royal Order of 26th February 1797, the Secretary of State Mariano Luis de Urquijo granted the Royal Sea Consulates the ability to officialise Commercial Studies, determining the need to elaborate and present plans for their approval. The Consulate of Cadiz, being the most active and important of its time, acknowledged receipt of this on the following 8th of March. A day later, the Consulate of Bilbao requested information from the Consulate of Cadiz about the study plans of they intended to adopt, which was sent on the 25th November of that same year with the request to receive the plan from the city of Nervion once it was completed.

The implementation of these studies was delayed because of the war with England and the yellow fever suffered by Cadiz and its bay at the beginning of the 19th century. In July of 1803, the General Committee of the Governor of the Consulate of Cadiz met and designated a council for the acquisition of some buildings in the Calle San Francisco where the School of Commerce would be built. On the 26th September of the same year, the provision by contest in Cadiz of two Mathematics Chairs was announced in the Official Gazette. On the 2nd May 1804, these were endowed with an annual income of 12,000 Reales de Vellon, and they were occupied by Joaquin Riquelme and Magin Vallespiner, residents of Madrid at that time. The Consulate itself designated two language professors, one of French and Tuscan and another of English. This same year was when the first School of Commercial Studies of Spain started its activities.

The same year of 1804 the architect Pedro de Albisu, who had been a disciple of the Royal Academy of Fine Arts of San Fernando and of notable activities in Cadiz and its bays at that time, carried out the plans, views and profiles of a good building with an architecture very characteristic of Cadiz. His sober and functional factory, with no less than 264 feet of façade, was designed with three bodies -the first with a mezzanine- concluding in an airy cornice and a roof with parapets.

Following classical proportions, and rising up to twenty-one rods high, determined by the strict Ordinances of the police of the city, the School of Commerce building presented an elegant and beautiful perspective. Whilst the building was being built, commerce classes were held in the Academy of Fine Arts.

The Consulate of Bilbao, in spite of being the initiator of these studies in Spain, didn’t receive the approval for their own Rules of the School of Commerce until the 9th July 1818, and they were presented to the Council of Castile the following year, with studies being inaugurated the following 28th of December, fourteen years later than Cadiz.

The city of Cadiz was therefore granted the honour of being the first to offer Commercial Studies in contemporary Spain. The University of Cadiz has had, since its creation in 1979, one President and four Rectors. Felipe Garrido, Professor of Surgery, was the President of the Managing Commission that proposed the constitution of the first Senate of the UCA, which on the 24th of February of 1984 Mariano Penalver Simo, Professor of Philosophy, was elected as Rector, under whom the Statutes of the UCA were elaborated and approved on the 26th of December 1985.

The second elections took place on the 17th of June 1986, with Jose Luis Romero Palanco, Professor of Legal Medicine, being elected as Rector, and then re-elected on the 16th of October 1990. The third elections took place in December 1994 after which Guillermo Martinez Massanet, Professor of Organic Chemistry, was elected, and re-elected at the beginning of 1999. More recently, the latest elections for Rector of the University of Cadiz took place on June 7th 2001. These were called after Diego Sales’ two consecutive mandates as head of the institution (May 2003-July 2011). Eduardo Gonzalez Mazo, professor of Physical Chemistry is now the new Rector of the UCA, after being inaugurated in the Presidency of the Andalusian Regional Government headquarters on July 12th.

In recent years, the institution has worked hard to face the rising demand for higher education studies. During the academic year 1979-1980, the UCA had 6,000 students. Currently, we have around 22,000 students.

During this time and as a result of an ambitious multi-annual programme, the UCA has decisively developed the necessary infrastructures to become a high-quality university. Since 1990, the following infrastructure projects were executed: the new Faculty of Philosophy and Literature, the Higher Andalusian Complex of Marine Studies, the Faculty of Economic and Business Studies, the Faculty of Work Sciences and the Lecture Hall La Bomba, all of these belonging to the Cadiz Campus. The refurbishment of the Faculty of Law service building and the constructions of new buildings for the Campus of Jerez were carried out, such as new service buildings: the library, research institutes and the Integrated Centre of Information Technology located in the Campus of Puerto Real, and the School of Health Sciences on the Algeciras Campus.

In October 2004, the new University Campus of Jerez was inaugurated, hosting all the centres which were previously distributed around this city. The academic year 2005-2006 started with the opening of a new building of Heath Sciences in the Cadiz Campus.

The future challenges faced by the UCA in the next decade are related to the new legislative framework derived from the approval of the LOU; the establishment of the number of students due to the demographic reduction, the activation of the new Andalusian university financing programme, which has contemplated the introduction of degree quality evaluation programmes for years, the emergence of new information and communication technologies and their adaptation to education, and last but not least, permanent collaboration with institutions and socioeconomic sectors from the province of Cadiz, to thereby contribute to its development.