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The creation and consolidation of the University of Extremadura

The birth of UEx represented the achievement of a long-term goal which the society of Extremadura had been fighting for over many years. Extremadura was the only region in Spain that did not have a university and despite the fact that a high demand for this kind of study had existed for a long time, never before had it become so intense. Regional and local authorities, schools, chambers of commerce and savings banks, along with cultural and social associations (like the “Royal Extremadura Economic Society for Friends of the Country” and, above all, “Friends of the University of Extremadura”), participated in a great number of protests for the approval and creation of the University of Extremadura.

Finally, in the BOE (Official State Bulletin) of May 18th 1973, the Decree 991/1973 was published, dated 10th May, acknowledging the creation of the University of Extremadura. Its district would be made up of the provinces of Cáceres and Badajoz and included in it would be the Faculty of Sciences in Badajoz, the University Teacher-Training Colleges in Cáceres and Badajoz and the School of Technical and Agricultural Engineering in Badajoz. The University College in Cáceres was also included.

The creation of UEx encouraged a great show of gratitude and enthusiasm throughout Extremadura, as was shown by the regional daily newspapers of that time, and gave way to a period in which the university received, without doubt, the greatest of support from institutions, both political and social, in the form of subsidies or aid to resolve problems with infrastructure (assigning buildings, improving access areas or the surrounding gardens), as well as the organisation of cultural acts in different areas around the region, demonstrations in the street, or by simply enrolling at one of the centres in order to increase student numbers.

The first real growth of UEX was witnessed in 1973, the same year of its birth. In July, the University School of Business Studies in Badajoz was created, followed in October by the Faculty of Medicine in Badajoz and the Faculty of Philology (which became the Faculty of Arts and Humanities a year later) and the Faculty of Law, in Cáceres, complying in this way with what had been set out in the Decree for the creation of the University in order to place the Faculties of Science, Medicine and other subjects in Badajoz, and in Cáceres those of Humanities and Law. With the running of these new centres during the 1973-74 year the total number of students rose to 3,198.

In previous years – 1975, 1982 and 1988- new teachings were introduced to the academic offer of UEx, but, without doubt, the year which stands out the most for its influence on the university structure is 1982. In 1982 the Faculties of Economic and Business Sciences in Badajoz and Veterinary Studies in Cáceres were created, as well as the addition of the Computer Science Degree in the University Polytechnic School. Thus, what had previously been established in the Founding Decree of the University concerning the division of scientific, medical, humanitarian and law degrees between the two regions was broken.

In April 1992, the Social Council approved an ambitious project for the planning of future studies: Project UEx. The outcome was a range of 43 degrees for the University of Extremadura, expandable in accordance with the General Guidelines belonging to each degree. The proposal intends, on the one hand, on creating an economy of human methods and materials, having taken into account the resources already in existence at the University. It also aims to implement degrees which are related to the regional environment and its necessities and, finally, to enhance the areas of excellence of the University of Extremadura and avoid the repetition of degrees across campuses, in order to reduce university fees.

On 4th April 1995 the Public Administrations Minister -Jerónimo Saavedra- and the Education and Science Minister - Gustavo Suárez Pertierra- led the meeting of the Joint Committee of Representatives from both the regional and national governments for the transfer of administration competencies and signed over the competencies of the University to the Government of Extremadura. From then on, and in agreement with what is established in the Statutes of the University, the approval of teachings leading to a degree from the University of Extremadura was entrusted to the Government of Extremadura.

In line with this competence, between 1995 and 2000 the number of degrees offered by UEx was increased to 85 at different centres (16 of which are taught at more than one centre) and 6 degrees at affiliated centres: Cultural Santa Ana and the Nursing School of the SES (Extremadura Health Service). This increase of degrees meant that the affiliated centres of the University in Merida and Plasencia would become fully owned centres of the University. These centres set up with financial aid from public funding were a demonstration of the interest from Administrations in Extremadura in offering degrees to university students from our region that would avoid their need to travel long distances to reach other universities outside of our community. This integration was not exempt from controversy due to the logical ambition of some Town Halls for some of these degrees to be taught in their area, meaning that two campuses already in existence would need to be expanded. The University debated upon this topic and the expansion of degrees put forward by the UEx Project was approved at the University Senate held on 25th February 1997.

This increase in the number of degrees has seen, as expected, an important rise in the number of students enrolled at different centres of the University, for example, during the 2003-2004 course a total of more than 26,816 students was reached, of which 1,103 were third-cycle students and 25,713 were from the first and second cycles.

The future of higher education in Extremadura