The University during the Reign of Isabella II

The University during the Reign of Isabella II

Throughout the first three decades of the nineteenth century the university was affected  by the conflicts between liberalism and absolutism. During the three-year period of liberalism (1820-1823) a General Regulation on Public Instruction (Reglamento General de Instrucción Pública) was debated and finally approved in the Parliament in 1822. The Regulation stipulated that The Central University should be responsible for The Royal Studies of San Isidro (Los Reales Estudios de San Isidro), The Museum of Natural Sciences  (El Museo de Ciencias Naturales) and the Cisnerian University  (La Universidad Cisneriana)

The conservative government suppressed the regulations of the  liberals  and the Central University (Universidad Central) was once again moved to Álcala de Henares.  This period of Spanish history is know as  the Ominous Decade and  lasted from 1823 to 1833. Subsequently, this return to  absolutism produced conflicts in the Academic Senate and frequent interruptions in the usual course. In 1833, with  the arrival of a liberal government at the beginning of the Reign of Isabella II, the university was moved back to Madrid, where it has been ever since.  A Royal Order of 29 October 1836 approved the move, thus ending the presence of the university in Alcala de Henares  after three centuries.

The institution of higher education in Madrid was initially called The Literary University of Madrid (Universidad Literaria de Madrid)  and had name until 1850 when it  became the Central University. The University was referred to in  this way until the original name of "Complutense" was restored in the 1970s

The higher education system of liberalism was  consolidated between 1837 and 1845. The Minister Pedro José Pidal approved a plan for general studies in 1845, which focused on the principles of democratic liberalism that included  secularization, freedom of thought  and free education under a unifying framework. In this sense, the Goverment became responsible for all matters pertaining to  higher education.

The Pidal Plan established “Major Faculties” like  Theology, Jurisprudence, Medicine and Pharmacy and Instituions of Higher Education  such as Philosophy and Sciences. The PhD studies programmes of the mentioned disciplines were to  be studied exclusively  at the University of Madrid. In addition, the Plan implemented a new system with a single district for each university and the Rector became the highest authority for higher education at all levels. As far as the Complutense University is concerned, the single district comprised the provinces of Madrid, Salamanca (transferred to the district of Salamanca in 1852), Ciudad Real, Cuenca, Guadalajara, Segovia and Toledo.

In 1850, a new plan brought about the centralization of Spanish university studies. The  Central University  not only maintained the exclusivity of PhD programmes but also all its Faculties remained the same except that the distinction between Major Faculties and Institutions of Higher Education   would disappear.

The basic principles of the university system were stipulated in the” Public Instruction Act” proclaimed in September of 1857 and carried out by Claudio Moyano. The regulation established six Faculties:  Arts and Humanities, Exact Sciences, Physics, Natural Sciences, Pharmacy, Medicine, Law and Theology. The Moyano Plan consolidated the centralization and took control of the  administration of the Central University. Along with the description of study programmes, the regulation insisted on the importance of educational training in order to alleviate the lack of facilities in which to receive a more  practical learning. Prior to this regulation, some of the scientific institutions established in Madrid during the age of enlightenment had joined the university, such as The Museum of Natural Sciences, The Royal Botanic Garden and the Royal Astronomical Observatory. The regulations considered The Schools of Engineering and Professional Educational Centres as professional learning institutions not linked with the university.

Even though the university system established by Moyano would survive until the beginning of the 20th century, some conservative reforms took place. The final stages of the Reign of Isabella II represented the peak of conservative performance and caused a reaction on the part of the university community in Madrid, known as the  first university question (primera cuestión universitaria).