Universidad de Antioquia was founded in 1803. Since 1789, the institution had served as high school, convent, and headquarters for the military forces. Currently, UdeA is the second most important public university in Colombia.
In 1789, the town of Medellín lacked institutions to provide education to its citizens. Schools were located in distant cities such as Bogotá and Popayán. By the end of the colonial period, the residents of Medellín requested permission from the Spanish Crown to establish a convent school. On February 9th, 1801, King Charles IV issued a royal decree granting permission to the Franciscan missionaries to create an educational establishment.
In 1822, twelve years after Colombia’s independence from Spain, Vice President Francisco de Paula Santander promoted the implementation of a new study plan. In 1827, President Simón Bolívar granted permission to begin teaching law.
During most of the 19th century, Colombia underwent several wars and conflicts as well as struggles between political parties and ideologies that affected the academic environment. The university closed intermittently due to these confrontations, and its facilities became the headquarters of several forces. However, the then fledgling university continued to make efforts to provide education to the community.
In the early 20th century, the university became the ideal place to solve the problems of the region and, therefore, the curriculum was redesigned, several laboratories were built, and skilled staff was hired.
It was also during this same period that the university began to conduct extensive research in the field of tropical diseases, launched anti-venereal disease campaigns, and got involved in tasks such as the culmination of the Antioquia railway (one of Colombia’s largest rail systems) and the expansion of Antioquia’s agricultural frontier.
An old building that had long served as headquarters for the Franciscan missionaries was revamped and turned into the new facility of the university. This iconic building became its major symbol and was declared cultural heritage of Colombia.
The university magazine as well as the radio station and the central library—which play an important role in outreach and cultural activities—were established during the 1930s.
The construction of the current main campus buildings began in the late 1960s through bank loans and international grants, which led to an increase in the number of students, academic staff, schools, and undergraduate programs.
In the late 20th century, as part of its regionalization program, the university opened campuses and facilities in several regions of the department of Antioquia and established the University Research Headquarters.
Today, the university continues to be Antioquia’s flagship institution. By 2016, UdeA aims to become the nation’s leading research university and one of Latin America’s top universities. The university is committed to providing excellence in education and training and aspires to become a leader in the socio-economic transformation of the country. It will continue to promote a learning environment conducive to diversity and dialogue based on respect for pluralism and the environment.
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