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History and Heritage  


The Birth

The University of Milan was founded in 1924, uniting two institutions that boasted a great tradition of medical, scientific and humanistic studies: the Accademia Scientifico-Letteraria (Scientific-Literary Academy), active since 1861, and the Istituti Clinici di Perfezionamento (Clinical Specialisation Institutes), established in 1906.

By 1928, the University already had the fourth-highest number of enrolled students in Italy, after Naples, Rome and Padua, distinguishing itself through the high profile of its teaching staff.

Its premises are located in Città Studi (the City of Studies), the university quarter constructed from 1915 onwards that is home to the scientific faculties, and in several buildings in the historic city centre, which house the humanities faculties.

At the time of its foundation, there were four “traditional” faculties  - Law, Humanities, Medicine and Mathematical, Physical and Natural Sciences; then, in the 1930s, the Faculties of Veterinary Medicine and Agriculture were introduced, after the aggregation of the old schools of Veterinary Medicine (1792) and Agriculture (1871).

At the end of the Second World War, the old Ospedale dei Poveri (Hospital for the Poor), known as “la Cà Granda” (the Big House), was assigned to the University. The building, one of the first Italian examples of civil architecture -  commissioned in the 15th century by the Sforza family, the dukes of Milan - was seriously damaged by the bombings of 1943. In 1958, after a complex series of reconstruction and renovation works, it became home to the University Rector’s Office, the administrative offices and the Faculties of Law and Humanities.


The 1960s Reformation

In the 1960s, due to the extension of compulsory school attendance and the subsequent liberalisation of access to university education, the number of people entering Italian universities progressively increased and the University of Milan enrolled more than 60,000 students.

The University added to its range of courses and at the same time increased its number of centres. Two new faculties were established, Pharmacy and Social and Political Sciences, which were based, respectively, in Città Studi and in Via Conservatorio, in the centre of Milan.

Città Studi was also the site of a new complex, intended entirely for the biology departments, which was the work of architect Vico Magistretti, one of the fathers of Italian design.

There was also an increase in the number of agreements with the city’s hospital facilities, where students from the Faculty of Medicine receive their clinical training.

In 1968, the University occupied approximately 127 thousand square metres; by the beginning of the 1980s this had increased to 205 thousand square metres. In 1989 there were 22 degree courses and 75 thousand enrolled students, a number which would rise to 90 thousand by 1993.


The 1980s Streamline Process

In view of this increase, the University began a process of streamlining and delocalising its facilities: from 1986 onwards, new centres began to appear in other areas of Milan, particularly in the Bicocca district, as well as in other parts of the region, in Como, Varese, Crema and Lodi.

In 1998, the University split in two and the city’s second public institution was founded: The University of Milan-Bicocca. The University of Insubria was also established in Varese, bringing together courses that were already offered at Varese and Como by the Universities of Milan and Pavia.

At the conclusion of this process, notwithstanding the reduction in the number of students, the University of Milan was still the largest institution in the Lombardy region and still one of the largest in the country.

The 2001 law that transformed the education system opened a new phase of change. The University updated its range of courses, adapting them to better suit the evolution of the social demand for education and the innovation of the production system: thus, the number of degree courses rose to 74 and there was a new increase in enrolments.

There was also an increase in the University’s commitment to providing student services (orientation, internships and training, online education) and in investments for new education and research facilities (covering approximately 80 thousand square metres).

The most recent phase of expansion concerned the fields of communication science, intercultural mediation and art, but there are also ongoing projects relating to the sectors of information technology, veterinary medicine and biomedicine.

Furthermore, there was also a strengthening of commitment to technology transfer and the practical application of scientific research results in the economic-production context.


The Present

At the present time, the University offers 8 faculties and 2 schools, 138 study programmes (divided between Undergraduate and Graduate courses), 31 doctoral schools (scuole di dottorato) and 76 specialisation schools (scuole di specializzazione).

Approximately 64,000 students are enrolled at the University. The teaching staff is composed of 2,000 tenured professors and researchers and approximately 500 adjunct professors.
More than 1,947 people work in the technical and administrative sector.

The University of Milan was one of the institutions that helped to found LERU, the League of European Research Universities, and is the only Italian University to be a member of the organisation.

Thanks to its commitment to basic and applied research, the University is among the top institutions in the main national and international rankings.