History of the University of Debrecen
The roots of higher education in the city of Debrecen appear in the 16th Century. The Calvinist College of Debrecen, founded in 1538, played and essential role regarding the preservation and development of Hungarian education and culture for several centuries. According to the historical data, by the end of the 17th Century the College already had 5 departments, three of which were focused on teaching philosophy. In 1908, a big change took place when the Calvinist Academy of Humanities started with the training of teachers, although within a very narrow framework.
1912 – 1949
The Collegue provided a wide range of improvements in higher education, which, thanks to the generosity of the citizens of Debrecen, aided to a great extent to the foundation of the Hungarian Royal University in 1912, coinciding with the foundation of Bratislava. The new University was created out of three academic sections (nowadays known as faculties): the section of Theology, the section of Law and the section of Humanities. To these we have to add later the Medical School, whose teaching function was based on the city’s general hospital. Teaching started at the four faculties in 1914. Some of them, such as the Faculty of Arts, were placed in the former buildings of the Calvinist College of Debrecen. The Faculty of Medicine was the first to be located on an independent area, when the building of the university hospital during the World War I took place. Around a thousand people took part in its construction, most of them war prisoners. Charles IV, the last king of Hungary, inaugurated the central building of the Faculty of Medicine in 1918, being the medical campus finished by 1927. The new building, which hosts the departments of theoretical medicine, was built in 1973. Meanwhile, from 1921 the University was known as Istvan Tisza, the former Hungarian Prime Minister. In May 1932 another important improvement occured when the University’s main building – “the most beautiful European university building” – was finished. This, which was for many years the largest building in the city, was erected under an eclectic and baroque style. The main hall is specially astonishing with its glass roof of 29 metres high. Since this building, the faculties and departments of the University were officially independent from the old Calvinist College of Debrecen. The main building also houses the university library which, with more than 6 million items, is the second biggest library in the country. At the end of the World War II and the arrival of the communist government, the development of the University changes its path, so university life went through big and deep changes. In 1949 the Faculty of Natural Sciences was created, and 20 years later most of its departments moved to a new building erected in 1970 – the Chemistry Building, located at the northeast of the main building.
1949 – 2000
In 1949 – 1950 the University was restructured. The Faculty of Theology was moved again to the old Calvinist Collegue of Debrecen. The Faculty of Medicine became an independent University. The Faculty of Law closed, which caused the firing of excellent professors and teachers from the University. The English, French, Italian, German and Classical Philology departments were also closed. On the other hand, the Department of Russian Philology expanded widely. The teaching of western languages was restablished after 1956 (except for Italian, which would reappear at the end of the 90s). In 1952 the Faculty of Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities and the Faculty of Natural Sciences joined to form the university of Lajos Kossuth. The new universities – the Medical University, the Agricultural University and the University of Lajos Kossuth – continued coexisting as separated institutions until 2000, when the broken University of Debrecen unified again.
2000 – Present
On 1 January 2000 the Colleges and Universities of Hadjú-Bihar joined, and as a result of this, the University of Debrecen grew to 5 Universities and 3 Colleges of University level, housing 20,000 students. The three biggest universities which took part in such unification were the Agricultural University, the University of Lajos Kossuth (with the Faculties of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences, Natural Sciences, Institute of Economic Studies and Business Management, Institute of Law and the Faculty of Engineering) and the Medical University. Later, other additional faculties were added on an independent basis: the University Conservatory of Debrecen, the schools of the Universities in Hajduboszormeny and Nyíregyháza. Three of the so-called academic institutes (Dentistry, Pharmacy and Law) became Faculties. Finally, the summer school of Debrecen is also worth mentioning, which is also located on the campus, tough it doesn’t belong to the University. The school was founded in 1927 and since then it has grown until being one of the biggest institutions in the teaching of Hungarian language and culture for foreigners. The courses offered by the summer school are divided into different levels and attract hundreds of students each year.
1538 – Creation of the Calvinist Collegue of the Reformed Church in Debrecen.
1567 – Beginning of the higher education in the Collegue.
1912 – Creation of the Hungarian Royal University with the Faculties of Law, Art, Medicine and Theology.
1914 – Some parts of the university start to function in the building of the College.
1918 – Opening of the main building of the Faculty of Medicine by King Charles IV of Hungary.
1921 – Beginning of teaching in the Faculty of Medicine.
1932 – The main building is finished.
1949 – The only year when the University has 5 faculties.
1950 – Closing of the Faculty of Law. Creation of the Faculty of Sciences.
1951 – Split up of the University in three parts (Academy of Theology, Faculty of Medicine and University of Lajos Kossuth of Science and Arts).
1991 – The University Association of Debrecen is founded.
1998 – Foundation of the University Federation of Debrecen.
2000 – The Federation becomes the unified University of Debrecen with all its faculties housing 20,000 students.