Deusto Project – A brief history of the UD

Excerpt of the General By-Laws of the University of Deusto-17 June 2003

A brief history of the UD

In the last quarter of the nineteenth century, the Society of Jesus undertook a project to organise higher level studies which began in Anceis (Coruña) and later in La Guardia (Pontevedra). In 1881, in response to a request from a sector of Bilbao society, the Superior General of the Society of Jesus, Pedro Becks, decided to name Bilbao as the headquarters for what was called the Deusto “College of Higher Studies”.

With the creation of the higher learning centre entrusted to the Society of Jesus, the endeavours to found a university in the Basque Country during the nineteenth century were fulfilled. During this time, the University of Oñate was closed and different university projects were begun: Universidad Vasco-Navarra (Basque University-Navarre) (1866), Universidad Literaria de Vitoria (Literary University of Vitoria) (1869) and the Universidad Católica Vizcaína (Biscay Catholic University) project(1870).

In 1883, the cornerstone of the main building was laid beside the Nervion River. The following year, the name which the university has been known by since, the University of Deusto, was designated in a Biscay Regional Council Meeting. However, this was not the official name until 1963.

In the 1886-1887 academic year, the new building designed by Francisco de Cubas, received the first Deusto students. The degree programmes offered were Philosophy, Law and pre-Engineering. In 1916, economics and business studies were first offered under the auspices of the Biscay Aguirre Foundation. They were held in the “Universidad Comercial”, a pioneer in its time offering these programmes 50 years before state universities.

The socio-political climate in the first half of the nineteenth century interfered with the first period of the new university, resulting in its closure from 1932-1940 when the Society of Jesus was dissolved and the university building was seized. University life was resumed in 1940 and in 1943 the Universities Act expressly included Deusto as a Higher Learning Centre attached to the University of Valladolid.

One of the results of the 1962 agreement between the Holy See and Spain was recognition of Catholic universities. Thus, the University of Deusto was recognised as such by Spain in 1963 with the studies offered by the faculties being given official validation: firstly, Law and Philosophy and Arts, followed by the Faculties of Economics and Business Administration (formerly the Universidad Comercial) and Philosophy and Education.

During this period, two faculties of Ecclesiastical Studies became part of the university; the Theology Faculty (1957) and the Philosophy Faculty (1970), based in Oña, Burgo and Loyola Guipuzocoa to date. The former Faculty of Science was restored in 1954 and following some years devoted to Chemistry and Mathematics, it became the Computer Engineering Faculty. The Holy See’s erection of the Faculty of Political Science and Sociology (Sociology section) raised the status of the institute known by the same name and which was recognised as a faculty for civil law purposes in 1977. This was also the case of the Computer Engineering School which was recognised as a faculty for civil law purposes in 1979 to eventually become the Engineering Faculty (ESIDE) at the end of the last century.

In 1979, the university expanded to include the EUTG (University and Technical Studies of Guipuzcoa) in San Sebastian, which had begun as the ESTE (Higher Technical Business School) in 1956. The University of Deusto campus was expanded to San Sebastian in 1990, integrating the Faculty of Philosophy and Arts (today the Humanities Faculty) and the School of Tourism.

Other centres were also created, either attached to the faculties or as independent entities for training and research. The requirements and responsibilities stemming from this official recognition and the changes affecting universities and society as a whole would immediately give rise to the Apostolic Constitution of Catholic Universities “Ex Corde Ecclesiae” and call for a revision of the university’s internal regulations. The 1986 General By-Laws envisaged a new university structure that would replace the one established by the 1972 By-Laws.

The University of Deusto has undergone numerous internal and external changes since that time. Today the university spreads over three campuses (Vitoria 2002), with nine faculties and four university schools, in addition to numerous institutes, university chairs, new degree programmes, Deusto degree programmes (undergraduate and postgraduate) continuing education, university extension courses, a renewed network of ancillary services; all of which focus on its main tasks and shape its new image while bearing witness to its dynamism.

On 26 January 1999, the Congregation for Catholic Education approved the Statuary Regulations creating the University of Deusto Board of Governors with a view to better fulfilling the new organisational needs. One change that the current by-laws address is this body’s inclusion in the structure of the university. The focus is on maintaining the spirit of the previous by-laws that have been in effect since 1986 and setting the framework for a new period at the University of Deusto, based on the collaboration, participation and responsibility envisaged in the previous by-laws.

The University of Deusto Project

The University of Deusto aims to serve society through its contributions as a higher learning institution with a Christian approach to today’s realities.

As a university, its guidelines are love of wisdom, desire for knowledge and rigour in scientific research and methodologies. Therefore, it aims to achieve excellence in research and teaching. Another objective is to form free persons, who are responsible citizens and competent professionals, equipped with the knowledge, values and skills needed to take on the commitment to foster learning and transform society.

The university’s firmly rooted Christian tradition supports the belief that faith in God not only gives meaning to life but also inspires and stimulates increasingly deeper and more critical knowledge of every authentically human cultural process. On the other hand, this approach acknowledges that culture, science and technology provide valuable instruments to update our understanding of Christ’s message to mankind. All of these factors make the university a place for meeting and dialogue between faith and knowledge, transcendental hope and the quest for a more human future for all. This is what makes it a Catholic university.

The University of Deusto has been closely linked to the Society of Jesus’s mission from its beginnings. This makes it part of a worldwide university network and endows it with a teaching tradition centred on the individual as the most valuable asset. Our university shares the belief that serving the faith entails fostering justice in today’s world. For this reason, our university has taken on the commitment to make its voice heard through reflection on cultural issues and encouraging dialogue with social agents wherever man and society are forging their future. Our efforts focus on respect for life, implementing universal human rights, fair distribution of wealth, working for peace and protecting nature.

Within the universal scope of knowledge and general interest in mankind that make Deusto distinctive, our university feels especially close to Basque society. Our aim is to serve it as a university, responding to its cultural, social, technical and economic needs at all levels. Placing people first means that we understand university life as a community of men and women striving to achieve a social commitment model in which respectful dialogue fosters cooperation and friendship.