English homepage » THE DEPARTMENT » From Past to Present


The University of Athens, inaugurated on 3rd May 1837, was first housed in a neoclassical residence on the northeastern side of the Acropolis, renovated today and operating as the University Museum. Initially named "Othonian University" after Othon, the first king of Greece, it consisted of 4 academic units and 52 students. As it was the first university in the newly established Greek state, as well as in the Balkans and the Eastern Mediterranean region, its socio-historically significant role has been decisive for the production of particular knowledge and culture in the country.

In 1841 the administrative services and academic units were transferred to what is presently known as the "main building" of the University of Athens which, in 1932, was officially named the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, in honour of Ioannis Kapodistrias, the first governor of Greece in the independent Hellenic nation state. Today, this building houses the offices of the Chancellor and the three Vice-Chancellors, the Senate, the Great Hall of Ceremonies and important central services. Its forecourt, the propylaeum, has become a locus of socio-historical significance as a main site for political rallies and demonstrations by students and other groups involved in social rights movements.

Until the early part of the 20th century, the University of Athens was the only university in Greece that provided the Greek society with qualified professionals in medicine, in the physical and social sciences, in law and economics, in archaeology and in education as well as in the clergy. In its many years of operation, it has offered the country a centre of intellectual production, stimulating intellectual circles functioning inside and outside its premises. Nowadays, it still offers important social services as its academic staff regularly serves on national and international committees, implements educational and other research projects, plans and takes part in seminars for a variety of social groups, oftentimes in addition to their full-time work at the University. One of its most important contributions is in the national health scheme, since students of the health sciences in training, under the supervision of professorial staff, offer their medical services to the public.

Still perhaps the most prestigious university in the country, the University of Athens has established a tradition in scholarship and constructive participation in the social sphere. It also offers many opportunities for cultural life: many foreign but also Greek students say that they feel privileged to be living in the historic and cosmopolitan city of Athens, and to be studying in a university that has maintained its tradition and prestige for over 160 years.