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The history of the Università di Sassari

Founded c.a. 450 ago as a Royal Institution, this is Sardinia's first university

Italian version

Towards the middle of the XVI century, the towns of Cagliari and Sassari fought against each other to host the first Royal University in Sardinia. The Università di Sassari owes its foundation to Alessio Fontana, a clerk at Emperor Charles V's chancellery, who, in his will of 1558, donated his belongings to the municipality of Sassari for the establishment of a college in this town. It was not until the XVII century, however, that an academic institution was formally established on the island, when, on 9th February 1617, King Philip III acknowledged the status of first Royal University of Sardinia to Sassari's Jesuit college.

In 1765, Sassari's small university introduced its first enlargement plan, which entailed the launch of four historic faculties. These were the faculties of Philosophy and the Arts; Theology; Law; and Medicine. Academic professors from Piedmont were brought in to enhance the quality of teaching and to open the local institution to European culture and its Enlightened panorama. One of the positive outcomes was that more attention could be drawn to the local reality, its problems, its financial and natural resources as well as its potential. Throughout the XVI century the universities of Sassari and Cagliari welcomed the circulation of new ideas, and thus contributed to the emergence of a modern ruling class.

In the 1820s and 1830s, the university of Sassari faced a period of decay, so much so that in 1847 the Savoy government decided to close it down (Legge Casati). The local community and its political representatives strongly opposed and managed to delay temporarily the enforcement of the law. In 1877, Sassari's university was ranked equal to secondary schools, and so it entered a new phase of its history.

The years between the end of the XIX century and the beginning of the XX century saw a rebirth of the university, largely due to the atmosphere of the day, and to the positivist culture and development of scientific disciplines, medical studies and law. Eminent professors taught at the university during that period, including Pasquale Piga (Pathology and Surgery), Antonio Conti (Pathologic Anathomy), Francesco Coletti (Statistics), Claudio Fermi (Hygienics), Enrico Besta (History of Law), Achille Terraciano (Botanics), Flaminio Mancaleoni (Roman Law), Giacomo Pitzorno (Human Anathomy).

During the 1930s the university entered the National academic network, with a significant impact on its prestige. Professors like Angelo Roth (Medicine), Luigi Maggiore (Ophtalmology), Massimo Severo Giannini (Administrative Law), Lorenzo Mossa ed Antonio Segni (Commercial Law) were appointed as Rectors of the University. In 1934 the faculties of Pharmacy and Veterinary were established; and in 1950, the Faculty of Agronomy also opened, with a view to the local population and to a rebirth of the region's economy.

In the 1970s the Faculty of Arts (initially called "Magistero" and later Letters and Philosophy) was launched. With it, also the faculties of Political Sciences, Foreign Languages, and Economics were established. Since 2002, when the Faculty of Architecture opened, the Università di Sassari has had 11 faculties.


G. Fois, A. Mattone (ed), Per una Storia dell'Università di Sassari in "Annali di storia delle università italiane", Anno 6, 2002, Clueb (Bologna).
G. Fois, Storia dell'Università di Sassari : 1859-1943, Roma, Carrocci 2000.

The History of the Università di Sassari  (file PDF - 44 Kb)
Compiled by the Centro Interdisciplinare per la Storia dell'Università di Sassari (2006).

The Università di Sassari (English version) 
File Power Point (10 Mb).

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