Universidad de Alcalá
Although by 1293 King Sancho IV had already given his approval to the establishment of an "Estudio General" (General School), 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 in our 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 2 December 1998.
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 our projection abroad, while also acting as a dynamo for activities in our local region.