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Salamanca and Coimbra Universities

Prince of Asturias Award for International Cooperation 1986

The extraordinary contribution that both universities have made to forming the spirit of all the countries belonging to the Latin American Community.

Salamanca University

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Considered by many, along with the Universities of Bologna and Paris, to be the most important University in the world, it has been the model for many universities in Latin America and the Philippines. Figures of the intellectual stature of Fray Luis de León, San Juan de la Cruz, Luis de Góngora or, in this century, Miguel de Unamuno, have taught there. 

The first forerunner of the University of Salamanca was the Cathedral School which began to operate in the city 1131 and in 1179 gained the status of Cathedral School of Divinity (maestrescuela). Later, in 1218 Alfonso XI of León founded a "studium generale" which underwent important growth. Twenty-five years later, King Fernando III el Santo combined this college with that of Palencia, founded by Alfonso VIII of Castile. This unification gave a strong boost to the Salamancan institution, which was
definitively consolidated in 1254 when Pope Alexander IV granted it the privileges of a "studium generale". Alfonso X el Sabio established and endowed various chairs, exempted the students from taxes and created the post of librarian or "estacionario". This was also the monarch who drew up this university's first constitution. Pope Alexander IV, in a warrant issued in Naples in 1255, granted those examined and passed at Salamanca the privilege of reading and teaching sciences in all the world's universities, except for Paris and Bologna. This privilege is maintained today, as students of Medicine and Law who obtain their degree in this way are qualified to work, with no other requisite, in various Latin-American countries; in the rest of the universities they only require a test of competence. 

Between the reigns of the Catholic Monarchs and Philip II, the University of Salamanca reached world-wide fame, with students coming from all over Europe. At that time it had 70 chairs and 4 colleges. The internal struggles between professors and doctors, and external conflicts with the municipality and the diocese, lead to the decline of the institution. There, degrees in Medicine, Law, Pharmacy, Biological Sciences, Sciences, Philology, Geography and History, Philosophy, Education Sciences, Fine Arts, Chemistry, Management, Nursing and Industrial Engineering may be studied.

All the great figures of the Spanish Golden Age passed through Salamanca, doctors and theologians, scholars and poets: Fray Diego de Deza, Fray Domingo de Soto,
San Vicente Ferrer, Fray Luis de León, Fray Francisco de Vitoria, Antonio de Nebrija, Fray Félix Lope de Vega, Góngora, Calderón de la Barca, etc., etc. The renovation of Scolasticism and modern international law were forged in this university's classrooms.

Coimbra University 

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One of the oldest universities in Europe, and the only one in Portugal until 1910, it was an important centre of resistance to the dictatorship of Antonio de Oliveira Salazar, who sought to make it into an instrument of power. The determined opposition of teachers and students put a stop to the plans of Salazar's regime. 

The University of Coimbra was founded by King Dionisio in 1290. Later confirmed by Pope Nicholas IV, it began operating in Lisbon, teaching Grammar, Logic, Law, Canon Law and Medicine in its classrooms. In 1308 it was transferred to Coimbra and dedicated to St. Vincent Martyr, by a bull of Clement V, classes being taught in private houses while the College of St. Peter was being built. 

Under the reign of Alfonso IV, the university was move back to Lisbon, where it stayed from 1338 to 1354. During the next twenty-three years it maintained its seat in Coimbra, but in 1377 King Fernando ordered it to move to Lisbon for the third time, convincing Pope Gregory II to concede the institution the right to grant degrees of bachelor, master and doctor, and use the corresponding insignia. Juan I confirmed all the university's privileges and Prince Enrique took it under his protection and
established there the chairs of Geometry and Astronomy. In 1496, King Manuel extended the building and the number of chairs, and in 1537 Juan III moved it to Coimbra for good, calling upon foreign scholars to teach there and granting it the old royal palace for its installations. 

During the rule of Salazar, the University of Coimbra was characterised by its opposition to the authoritarian regime of the Portuguese leader, who established a new constitution -the "Estado Novo"-, heavily influenced by fascist ideas, in 1933. The "Carnation Revolution", which restored democracy in Portugal in April
1974, gave a new boost to the academic institution, which since then has concentrated on modernising its teaching methods and staying at the Forefront of European universities.

Coimbra was the only university in Portugal until, with the coming of the Republic in 1910, those of Lisbon and Oporto were established. The old academic centre then lost some of its privileges, among them, the so-called "academic charter". Currently, the University of Coimbra has seven faculties - Law, Medicine, Science and Technology, Arts, Pharmacy, Economy, and Psychology & Education Science -, which offer twenty-nine degree courses. 

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