Our heritage, our future

The early years: a ‘young’ University with ancient origins

Also known as ‘La Statale’, the University of Milan is, relatively speaking, one of Italy’s younger university institutions. It was founded in 1924 thanks to the tenacious efforts of doctor and gynaecologist Luigi Mangiagalli, who in creating La Statale, realised his long-held dream of building a university for Lombardy’s regional capital.

Indeed, up until that point, it was the University of Pavia, founded in the fourteenth century and the main education centre in northern Italy, that housed the traditional university faculties. Over the centuries, however, the numerous educational institutions and schools of excellence which sprang up in Milan would later be incorporated under the University of Milan.

These included the Accademia Scientifico-Letteraria (Academy of Letters and Science) founded in the nineteenth century, which laid the foundations for the Faculty of Humanities; the Scuole Palatine (Palatine Schools), established at the start of the seventeenth century, which numbered intellectuals and scholars such as Paolo Frisi, Cesare Beccaria and Giuseppe Parini among its teachers; the Scuole superiori di Veterinaria e di Agraria (Schools of Advanced Studies in Veterinary Medicine and Agriculture); the Osservatorio astronomico di Brera (Brera Astronomical Observatory) and - another of Luigi Mangiagalli’s visions - the Istituti Clinici di Perfezionamento (Clinical Specialisation Institutes) established in 1906, for the training of young doctors.

A representative of the Chamber of Deputies in 1902 and later mayor of Milan, Mangiagalli, together with a group of Milanese members of the Association for the Promotion of High Culture, set about creating the city’s very first university. The project finally became a reality when in 1913, the City Council of Milan granted them some land on the eastern fringes of the city, an area that Mangiagalli himself had earmarked as a “Città degli Studi” (“City of Studies”), a name still used today to refer not only to the University but to the entire district in which it is located. Building work began in 1915 and was completed more than a decade later.

Founding of the University of Milan.
Establishment of the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine.
The new Faculty of Agriculture brings the number of University Faculties to six.
Restoration work begins on Ca’ Granda Hospital.
The number of degree programmes increases from 47 to 74 as a result of the education reform.
The process of designing a new Campus starts.

The City Council of Milan signs an agreement granting an area of farmland on the eastern fringes of Milan large enough on which to build the Polytechnic, the Scientific-Literary Academy and the Schools of Advanced Studies in Veterinary Medicine and Agriculture.  

Construction of the university complex “Città degli Studi” begins.

Official founding of the University of Milan envisioned by Luigi Mangiagalli.

Si concludono i lavori per la “Città degli Studi” dove, rispetto al progetto originario, saranno dislocate le sole facoltà scientifiche.

Creation of the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, formerly the old school of Veterinary Medicine.

The new Faculty of Agriculture brings the number of University Faculties to six.

Restoration work begins on Ca’ Granda, the old hospital allocated to the University.

Creation of the Faculty of Foreign Languages and Literatures.

Following the restoration of some of its buildings, the Rector’s Office and the faculties of Humanities and Law move to former hospital Cà Granda.

Establishment of the faculties of Pharmacy and Political Sciences.

1980 - 1990
The Città Studi centre for science  is extended to Via Celoria. The University acquires the building in Via Conservatorio, home to the Faculty of Political Sciences.

Restoration of the building in Piazza Sant’Alessandro to house the Faculty of Humanities is completed. Palazzo Greppi, in Via Sant’Antonio, becomes home to the administrative offices.

Opening of the Crema campus, which will house the Computer Science Department. 

The Faculty of Exercise and Sport Sciences is established.

With the reform of the university education system, the University increases the number of degree courses to 74.

The delocalised Faculty of Agriculture in Edolo (Brescia province) is recognised as a University Centre of Excellence and given the name “Università della Montagna” (Mountain University).

Inauguration of the Department of Cultural Heritage, in the Via Noto site, and the Department of Language Mediation and Intercultural Communication in the new centre at Sesto San Giovanni, which is also home to the Master in Journalism.

The Board of Directors approves the first resolution relating to the project to transfer the University’s scientific faculties to the former site of the 2015 Expo. Following the decisions of the academic bodies, the execution stage of the new project and the redevelopment of Città Studi get underway.

The Faculty of Veterinary Medicine moves to the new university centre in Lodi and the Department of Computer Sciences moves to a new site in Via Celoria 18, Milan.

The founding of the University of Milan in 1924 came about with the institution of the first four faculties: Law, Humanities, Medicine and Mathematical, Physical and Natural Sciences. The event was officially celebrated on 8 December of the same year with a ceremony at Castello Sforzesco (Sforza Castle).

The early years in the history of the University, of which Mangiagalli was Rector until 1926, were followed by a period of continuous growth up until World War Two: the number of students reached 3,000 and the number of faculties increased to six (the Faculties of Agriculture and Veterinary Medicine having been added in the ‘30s), located in Città Studi, home to the scientific faculties, and in the historic city centre.

The Anglo-American bombardments in 1943 partially destroyed the buildings housing the Faculties of Humanities and Law in the city centre, rendering them unfit for use. This meant that, in the immediate aftermath of the war, operations had to be moved to the Collegio delle Fanciulle in Via Passione until the university could move into its permanent home: Ca’ Granda in Via Festa del Perdono, the old ‘Hospital for the Poor’ commissioned by the Sforza family in the fifteenth century, a building of enormous historical importance and still the symbol of, and a source of great pride for, the University.

At the end of the war, the Ca’ Granda complex – which had served as a hospital for five centuries – was allocated to the University. The serious damage to the building as a result of the military bombardments was repaired thanks to a major restoration project supervised by Polytechnic architect Liliana Grassi. Restoration work started in 1949, along with a project to completely redefine the spaces. The initial works on the newer part of the historical complex were completed in 1958 when the Rector’s Office and the Faculties of Humanities and Law were moved to their permanent location in Via Festa del Perdono. The restoration of the older parts continued in later years.

In the 1960s, the University of Milan experienced a huge rise in the number of student enrolments due, on the one hand, to the extension of compulsory education and, on the other, to the upturn in Italy’s economic situation. Student numbers grew from 7,461 in 1959 to almost 20,000 in 1969-70.

The “protest” years had a major impact on the University from the outset, as a result of the sit-ins and clashes with public security forces that took place in February and March 1968. For the Milanese university, it was a period of change and important decisions that would shape its subsequent development.

In the 1970s, agreements with 8 hospital centres in the Milan area led to a significant increase in the number of healthcare facilities for training and specialising young medics whose studies, up until that point, had been confined to the Policlinico hospital.

This decade also saw the continued restoration of historical buildings and the acquiring of premises in which to accommodate the university’s new and increasingly diversified teaching activities. In 1978-79 the number of students at the University reached 63,642, an increase of more than 40,000 students in ten years.  

For the University, the 1990s marked the start of a process centred around the two-fold increase in the number of Faculties with the highest number of enrolled students. Thanks to a special national law on mega-universities, this process resulted in the establishment of the University of Insubria and the University of Milan-Bicocca.

Another key step forward came with the reform of the university system which introduced the distinction between the Laurea triennale (Bachelor's degree) and the Laurea magistrale (Master's degree). Since the reform was first applied by the University in the 2001-2002 academic year, the number of degree courses on offer has increased from 47 to 74. In 2006-2007, the number of students enrolled in the University surpassed 62,000, with a further 7000 students enrolled on postgraduate programmes.

A multidisciplinary, innovative educational offering and a continuous focus on the new professional skills demanded by a rapidly evolving labour market have characterised the University since its early days. Over the years the University has also strengthened its commitment to technology transfer and to the practical application of scientific research results in the economic-production context.

In recent years, this commitment has taken on the form of a project to create a science Campus within the new Milan Innovation District (MInD), the site of Expo 2015, now set to become the home of a prestigious centre for science and technology. Approval of the project by the academic bodies in 2015-2016 paved the way for transferring the science faculties to the future Campus; further support is provided by another project that aims to redevelop the Città Studi buildings and area.

The historical home of the University. From pioneering hospital to university: post-war reconstruction, architectural developments, restoration works.

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Excellence in the University’s recent history: biographical profiles, expertise, and initiatives undertaken by the Association of Emeritus Professors.