History of the University

History of the University

UniBas - the University of Basilicata - was born in the aftermath of the severe earthquake which struck both the Basilicata and Campania regions on 23 November 1980 with a magnitude of 6.9 on the Richter scale (X degree of the Mercalli scale), and caused 2,914 casualties.

‘This is why we celebrate our annual dies academicus every year on 23 November, because this University is, to the people of Basilicata, a sign of rebirth and resurrection, of glorious return to life, of conscious hope for a brighter future’.
(Rector Cosimo Damiano Fonseca during his opening address on the occasion of Pope John Paul II's 1991 visit to the University of Basilicata)

In 1981, law no. 219 was enacted, starting the State-aided reconstruction process, in turn providing the grounds for the outlining of plans for a new university. As a matter of fact, the idea of establishing a university in the Basilicata region dates back to the previous decade when, on 13 February 1973, a workgroup within FORMEZ - the Training and Research Centre for Southern Italy - was tasked with delivering a preliminary study which had been commissioned by the newly-founded Basilicata administrative division on 9 November 1971.

It was only after the 1980 earthquake and the 1981 legislation, though, that the project experienced a significant and substantial impulse. In fact, the embryo of the University is included under articles 39-45 of the aforementioned law. In particular, article 39 virtually lays its foundation stone, reading: "Effective from academic year 1982-83, the State University of Basilicata, based in in Potenza, shall be established".

Immediately thereafter, all the relevant procedures for defining the academical structure, from a regulatory, organisational as well as logistical point of view, were set in motion: on 27 April 1982, a technical-administrative committee - which included representatives of the Regional administration, the Ministry of Education, and the local political class - was formed; on 21 July 1982, the Academic Senate was inaugurated at the Directorate General for University Education in Rome.

As of 1 November 1982, the presidencies of both the aforementioned committee and the Academic Senate were assumed by Cosimo Damiano Fonseca, first Rector of the University of Basilicata (position that he held until academic year 1993-94). Finally, the Statute of the newly-born University of Basilicata was approved by decree of the President of the Republic issued on 30 August 1983: pre-eminent members of the technical-scientific committee that drafted it included Sabino Cassese, Giovanni Marongiu, Giunio Luzzato, and Sergio Zoppi.

Four faculties were created (Agriculture, Engineering, Science, Humanities), offering 9 degree courses, two of which – Hydraulic Engineering, and Environmental and Land Planning Engineering – were hailed as being an academic innovation in that scientific field.

On 23 November 1983, the then-President of the Republic, Sandro Pertini, inaugurated the 1983-84 academic year, marking the start of UniBas' activities. During that first inaugural ceremony, Rector Fonseca presented the data on enrolment, ‘with enrolment figures much higher than expected’: 892 registered students (63% male; 37% female) as of 5 November of that year. 38% had chosen Agriculture, 31% Engineering, and 20% Humanities. By the end of the first academic year, students would amount to 904. Enrolment figures would rise to 1,530 (831 male and 698 female) during academic year 1986-87, 2,237 in 1989, and 4,167 in 1994, and 5,000 (in accordance with the initial forecasts) during academic year 1999-2000, eventually reaching 7,500 by 2002-03.

On 18 September 1984, President Pertini himself signed the decree granting the University its official logogram.

The first academic seat was the one built in via Nazario Sauro, Potenza, covering a surface area of 142 sq. m (as opposed to today’s overall surface area of 96,000 sq. m, considering both Potenza and Matera Campuses and facilities). By the end of 1986, the original inter-Faculty Library was opened in via Acerenza, Potenza, now located in via Nazario Sauro: it boasted about 56,000 items listed in its holdings, to which another 7,500 were added over time, from several donations.

July 13, 1988 marked another important day in the University of Basilicata's history: the then-President of the Italian Republic, Francesco Cossiga, welcomed UniBas' first graduates to his official residence in Rome, the Quirinale Palace.

On 26 November, Prime Minister Ciriaco De Mita attended the inauguration of the 1988-89 academic year. And it was still De Mita, in 1990, to participate again in the inauguration of the academic year. But this time, the ceremony represented a huge historical moment: a formal agreement was signed for the laying of the first stone of the Macchia Romana Campus, designed to supply the University with new premises in the city of Potenza, besides the original ones in Francioso.

In 1989, IRSUB (the Regional Institute for Right-to-Education and Higher-Education access) was established, which, in 1997 became ARDSU - the Regional Agency for Right to Higher Education, and Student Services (food, accommodation, financial aid, Socrates and Erasmus projects).

1991 was a year of great visits to the young University. The first was that of the Pope: on 28 April, John Paul II returned to Basilicata for the second time after his visit in the wake of the 1981 earthquake – the Holy Father had been very close to the people of Basilicata at that time – to receive the commemorative medal in honour of the 10th anniversary of the University's foundation from the Rector’s very hands.

‘University is devoted - as it is obvious - to producing culture in its most conscious and committed form. It therefore fosters an inherent and essential relationship with man. Cultural research, as a complex process of humanization, permeates all things/everything, from individuals to communities, from nature to technology, from social structures to institutions, and aims to make them more humane; that is, more appropriate to the dignity and freedom of mankind’.
(Pope John Paul II, speech in the UniBas' Great Hall)

Just under a month later, on 14 May 14 1991, President Francesco Cossiga - the second President to officialy visit UniBas after his predecessor, Sandro Pertini, who had seen the birth of the University - was also awarded the 10th anniversary commemorative medal.

‘To these young men and women, I wish to say that, above all, they should not lose this wonderful opportunity, I would say the magical occasion, offered by these years of study and research. For these years won't come again. I would also like to urge that you, Basilicata's youth, have the courage to hang on to this unfortunate South, this poor land of Calanchi’.
(President Francesco Cossiga's 1991 speech in the Great Hall of the Unibas, to the students of Basilicata)

After Cossiga, all the Presidents of the Republic would pay official visits to the University: on 6 December 1993, newly-appointed President Oscar Luigi Scalfaro attended the inauguration of academic year 1993-94; Carlo Azeglio Ciampi, on 19 September 2001; Giorgio Napolitano, on 2 October 2009.

In 1992, a new UniBas Campus officially opened in Matera: on February 7, the city of the Sassi hosted the 1992-93 academic year opening ceremony in the building that houses the Postgraduate School of Archaeology. Also in 1992, but on May 14, the first stone was laid for the construction of the Macchia Romana Campus in Potenza: the complex (whose preliminary design had been approved in 1987) was inaugurated on 11 February 2000. ***

From 2010-12, legislative reforms brought about a change in the University's overall organisation: Italian law no. 240/2010 - concerning 'university governance and organisation, academic staff and recruitment', and regulating how state universities must amend their statutes as regards governance and internal organisation - led to the establishment of six new Academic Divisions (four Departments: DiCEM - Department of European and Mediterranean Cultures, Environment, and Cultural Heritage; DiMIE - Department of Mathematics, Computer Science, and Economics; DiS - Department of Science; DiSU - Department of Humanities; two Schools: SI - School of Engineering, and SAFE - School of Agricultural, Forest, Food, and Environmental Sciences), which replaced the pre-existing twelve Departments and eight Faculties.

List of Rectors

1982-1994 Professor Cosimo Damiano Fonseca
1994-2000 Professor Gianfranco Boari
2000-2006 Professor Francesco Lelj Garolla Di Bard
2006-2009 Professor Antonio Mario Tamburro
2009-2014 Professor Mauro Fiorentino
2014 Professor Aurelia Sole


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