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University of Alcalá
Universidad de Alcalá
Established Historical University 1499 Official Modern University 1977
Type public
Endowment 160 million EUR
Rector Dr. Virgilio Zapatero Gomez
Students 22,836
Location Alcalá de Henares, Madrid, Spain
Campus Urban and Outskirts
Faculty 1,616
The plateresque facade of the university.
Roofed courtyard of the School of Architecture.

The University of Alcalá (Spanish: Universidad de Alcalá) is a public university located in the city of Alcalá de Henares, to the east of Madrid in Spain. Founded in 1499, it was moved in 1836 to Madrid. In 1977, the University was reopened in its same historical buildings. The University of Alcalá is especially renowned in the Spanish-speaking world as it presents each year the highly prestigious Cervantes Prize.



Although by 1293 King Sancho IV of Castile had already given his approval to the establishment of a "Studium Generale", the University of Alcalá was founded by the Regent of Spain, Cardinal Cisneros, in 1499 as a totally new educational project which fused the best of the traditional Paris and Salamanca models with more innovative models, such as those of Bologna and Louvain. Cardinal Cisneros's ambition for the University-coeval with the modern age and Spain's harbinger of the European Renaissance and renaissance humanism-was for it to be a crucible where not only the ordained and lay clergy could be educated in readiness to undertake ecclesiastical reform, but also the new and efficient functionaries required by the Spanish monarchs. The fulfilment of that ambition led to Alcalá's transformation into the seat of an aristocratic university which would prepare the ground for Spain's "Siglo de Oro" ("Golden Century").

In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the University of Alcalá became the pre-eminent centre of academic excellence. In its lecture rooms taught and studied figures of the stature of Nebrija, Tomás de Villanueva, Ginés de Sepúlveda, Ignatius de Loyola, Domingo de Soto, Ambrosio de Morales, Arias Montano, Juan de Mariana, Francisco Vallés de Covarrubias, Juan de la Cruz, Lope de Vega, Quevedo, and so on. At the same time, the prestige of its learning and teaching soon converted it into the model to be followed by the new universities in the Americas.

The eighteenth century, especially the last three decades, was a turning point in Spanish university education, with university teaching methods undergoing root and branch reform. Nevertheless, this period also saw the arrival of Melchor de Jovellanos at the university and the awarding of a doctorate in philosophy for the first time in Spain to a woman, María Isidra de Guzmán y de la Cerda.

In the mid-nineteenth century, the university was moved to Madrid as a consequence of the selling-off of church lands. From that time onwards, the aspiration to one day win back the university was kept alive by the Condueños Society. The fervour of the people of Alcalá, the university's celebrated past, the recovery of the collective memory, and the new boost given to Spanish education by the transition to democracy meant that the University of Alcalá's lecture rooms were opened again in 1977. Ever since then, the teamwork and tenacity of its governors have allowed its intellectual, cultural and architectural heritage to be recovered. Due to its distinctive university model, its contribution to the arts and sciences throughout history, and to the beauty and wealth of its buildings, the University of Alcalá was declared by UNESCO a World Heritage Site on December 2, 1998.

The university today

Today's University of Alcalá preserves its traditional humanities faculties, a testimony to the university's special efforts, past and present, to promote and diffuse the Spanish language through both its studies and the Cervantes Prize, which is awarded annually by the King and Queen of Spain in the Paraninfo (Great Hall). The University has added to its time-honoured education in the humanities and social sciences new degree subjects in scientific fields such as health sciences or engineering, spread out across its different sites (the Alcalá Campus, El Encín, and Guadalajara), all of which, together with the Science and Technology Park, are a key factor in its projection abroad, while also acting as a dynamo for activities in its local region.

The University of Spanish Language

Because of its rich tradition in humanities fields, the University of Alcalá presents several programs of Spanish language and literature studies. Also, it presents a specific Spanish-language program for foreign students. Alcalingua is the Department of the University of Alcalá in charge of Spanish Language and Culture courses to foreigners, as well as the development of teaching materials for the teaching of Spanish as a foreign language. The Universidad de Alcalá, together with EDUESPAÑA, grants the CEELE, Certificado de Calidad en la Enseñanza del Español como Lengua Extranjera (Quality Certificate for Teaching in Spanish as a Foreign Language).

International agreements

The University of Alcalá is a party to various bilateral agreements with Institutions in non-European countries, above all with universities in Latin America and USA. Some of these agreements stipulate exchanges for first and second stage students. Like Erasmus Programme students, foreign students who take advantage of these exchange schemes are exempt of payment of tuition fees to the University of Alcalá, though they must meet their own costs of travel, accommodation and upkeep. Application to take part in these exchanges should be carried out in the university of origin. Once selected, the university of origin will inform the University of Alcalá.

Notable teachers (present day)

Rodrigo Rato Figaredo, former Manager Director of the International Monetary Fund Manuel Marín González, former speaker of the Spanish Congress of Deputies and long-time member of the European Commission (Responsible for the presentation of the proposal for the Erasmus Programme). Virgilio Zapatero Gómez, former Spanish minister (1986-1993)

Facilities and other services

The University of Alcalá is spread across three main sites:

  • The renovated sixteenth and seventeenth century buildings located in the city centre of Alcalá de Henares are home to studies in the traditional fields of Humanities, Social Sciences and Law, as well as to the School of Architecture.
  • Health Sciences, specialised experimental sciences, and the new technologies are to found in Faculties and university schools built from scratch on the Campus just outside the city of Alcalá de Henares.
  • Part of its recent process of expansion, the development of the Guadalajara Campus deserves special mention. Here, as well as the long-standing Escuela de Magisterio (primary education teacher-training college) and the Castilla-La Mancha Health Service Nursing College, both attached to the University, may be found the Multi-departmental Building, which is home for Technical Architecture, Business Science, and Tourism.

The University of Alcalá boasts an extensive network of 14 libraries spread across its three campuses. Offering long year-round opening hours, in exam periods they never close. The University also offers a wide range of sporting activities. Some of them are aikido, archery, badminton to fencing, rugby or yoga. There are also courses in snorkelling, horse-riding and mountaineering, among other popular sports such as football. The University has a Hall for music, dance, theatre or flamenco, as well as the University Choir, "Tuna" (traditional student music group), and Film Club.


Many buildings on the campus of Texas Tech University in Lubbock, Texas borrow the architectural elements from those found at University of Alcalá.[1]


  1. ^ Barrick, Nolan (1985). Texas Tech... The Unobserved Heritage. Lubbock, Texas: Texas Tech University Press. pp. 18, 23. ISBN 0-89672-125-6.  

External links

Coordinates: 40°28′57″N 3°21′40″W / 40.482536°N 3.361151°W / 40.482536; -3.361151



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