The oldest Spanish universities date from the early thirteenth century, and they reached a peak of prestige in the Renaissance period. In the eighteenth century they came under the influence of the Enlightenment, with the introduction of new syllabi in the 1760s under Charles III, and the loss of their traditional autonomy. This was the beginning of a centralizing and regalist policy under the Bourbons which was continued in the nineteenth century, when the universities became an extension of the state administrative apparatus. This process was complete by 1857, when the socalled Ley Moyano placed the universities fully under the tutelage of the state, represented by the Rector. Thereafter, apart from a brief interlude during the radical liberal regime of 1868 to 1875, when freedom of education became government policy, the universities remained under state control until 1919.
   In that year, the universities were granted their autonomy, a decision which reflected the reformist currents of the late nineteenth century, mainly associated with the Institution Libre de Enseñanza (Free Institute of Education), an independent body founded in 1875 by dissident professors who refused to accept the re-imposition of state control of higher education. The Institute continued to exercise considerable intellectual influence until the outbreak of the Civil War.
   The work of reform was continued by the government of the Second Republic. It was during the period of the Republic, in the session 1932– 3, that the Universidad Popular (People's University) began to function, with staff provided by the Federation Escolar Universitaria (University Academic Federation), a body which had considerable influence on government policy on higher education. A systematic overhaul of the universities was planned, but the increasing ideological polarization of the later years of the Republic prevented its implementation. With the outbreak of the Civil War, all academic activity was interrupted, and most of the staff enlisted. In the 1940s, especially after the University Reform Law of 1943, higher education once more came under the control of the state, and its content was determined by "National Catholicism". Nevertheless, from the 1950s, the gradual acceptance of the Franco regime by other countries, and the progressive opening up of Spain to external influences, brought about a transition, especially in the period 1956–62, from a "spiritualized" and ideologically determined model of higher education to a more technocratic one. However, the tenure of the Ministry of Education by Lora Tamayo saw a greater influence of the church, and especially of Opus Dei, in higher education, and greater support by the government of private Catholic Universities, notably the University of Navarre, founded by Opus Dei. The most far-reaching reform of the structure and financing of education during the Franco regime was the 1970 legislation introduced by the then Minister, Villar Palasí, which was an attempt to adapt the system to the developing needs of Spanish society. The transition to democracy, in the years 1976–82, was a period of uncertainty, owing to the fragile parliamentary majority commanded by the government party, UCD. The PSOE victory of 1982 opened the way to a comprehensive reform programme, reflected in legislation on the right to education (the LODE), on university reform (the LRU) and on the general reorganization of the system of education (the LOGSE).
   The increase in student numbers in the 1980s and 1990s has necessitated the creation of new universities. About half of the fifty-four universities in Spain (of which ten are private institutions) have been founded since 1970.
   Further reading
   - Álvarez de Morales, A. (1972) Génesis de la Universidad española contemporánea, Madrid: Instituto de Estudios Administrativos (despite its age, still a useful overview).
   - Carreras Ares, J.J. y Ruiz Carnicer, M.A. (eds) (1991) La universidad española bajo el regimen de Franco (1939-1975), Zaragoza: Institución Fernando el Católico (a symposium of essays which offers the most up-to-date account of this period).
   - Hooper, J. (1995) The New Spaniards, Harmondsworth: Penguin (chapter 19 gives a good overall account of the development of education at all levels).

Encyclopedia of contemporary Spanish culture. 2013.

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