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Universidad Central de Venezuela

Universidad Central de Venezuela

Universidad Central de Venezuela, the leading university of Venezuela, founded by royal decree as the Royal and Pontifical University of Caracas on 22 December 1721. It was the only university in the province of Venezuela during colonial days. A defender of the king's law and privilege and keeper of the purity of the Catholic faith, the university provided courses in theology, law, and medicine.

The university's elite and ecclesiastical orientation was modified after independence, when Simón Bolívar promoted its academic renovation with the help of José María Vargas and José Rafael Revenga. It was named the Central University of Caracas in 1827. The reform was intended to transform the university into a self-supporting scientific and academic center. New courses were created; measures which impeded the entrance of nonwhites were eliminated; costs of the right to a degree were lowered; staff salaries were raised; and courses were taught in Castilian rather than in Latin. Results, however, were mixed: between 1830 and 1899 the university experienced both splendor and decadence both financially and academically.

In the absence of organized political parties during the Juan Vicente Gómez regime, the university became a focus of opposition to the dictator. Gómez responded by shutting down the university from 1912 to 1922, gradually reorganizing each department to his liking. In 1943 the construction of a university city was decreed by President Isaías Medina Angarita, and the process of scientific and academic modernization was resumed. Gradually, new colleges were established and new areas of specialization were added. In the early 1990s, the university consisted of eleven colleges, thirty-five schools, forty-one research institutes, more than 8,000 professors, and about 70,000 students. In the late twentieth century, it considerably broadened its activities, including the development of postgraduate courses in numerous disciplines.

See alsoGómez, Juan Vicente; Venezuela: The Colonial Era.


Juan De Dios Méndez y Mendoza, Historia de la Universidad Central de Venezuela, 2 vols. (1911, 1924).

Ildefonso Leal, Historia de la Universidad Central de Venezuela, 1721–1981 (1981).

Additional Bibliography

López, Alexander. La Universidad Central de Venezuela y el debate político nacional, 1958–1970. Caracas: Universidad Central de Venezuela, Facultad de Ciencias Jurídicas y Políticas, 1998.

                                        InÉs Quintero

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