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University reform in Argentina

The Argentine university reform of 1918 was a general modernisation of the universities, especially tending towards democratisation, brought about by student activism. The events started in Cordoba and spread to the rest of Argentina, and then through much of South America.


Ever since the Jesuits founded the first university in Argentina in the 17th century, education was managed by the clergy and conservative upper-class citizens. The universities' authorities were selected by them, and professors were appointed for life. Professors also decided on the subjects to be taught, usually following the preferences of the Church and suppressed modern ideas such as Darwin's theory of evolution.

By the end of the 19th century many changes were taking place in Argentina. With the arrival of European immigrants in large waves, new ideas arrived with them which were opposed to the old oligarchic conservatism. The 1912 Saenz Pena Law of the secret vote brought the less conservative Hipolito Yrigoyen to the presidency in 1916.

It was in 1918 that the students of the Universidad de Cordoba, probably the most conservative in Argentina at the time, demanded a revision of the university's statutes to modernise and democratise them. They succeeded in creating student centres, but their demands were ignored.


The demands of the students can be summarized in four main topics:

University autonomy: the right for the university to choose its own government, professors and studies without the intervention of the government or any other organism.

Co-government: the equality of all parties in the university to participate in the election of the above.

Scientific modernisation: a review of the contents of curricula, to include modern scientific knowledge to the study material.

No tuition: the right for every student to acquire university education at a state university without any cost.


The conflict started with a lateral problem, the cancellation of the patients beds at the Hospital de Clinicas university hospital in late 1917.

On March 31 1918, when classes should have been restarted, the students organised another strike, with demonstrations, that finally forced the national government to intervene the university.

Jose Matienzo was named intervenor of the university, and he confirmed most of the irregularities described by the students. He declared vacant the positions of Rector of the university and Deans of the faculties, and commanded the democratisation of the university's statutes. But the students were not to be part of this process, since the conservative Antonio Nores was voted Rector of the University, against the wishes of the students.

The students occupied the faculties' premises, so classes could not be restarted regularly. They resisted the police and were finally driven out by force by the national army. This produced a general uneasiness of the public throughout the country, which forced President Yrigoyen to appoint his Minister of Justice and Public Education, Jose S. Salinas, as a new intervenor of the university. The decree of the university reform was redacted on October 12 1918.


The success of the students' demands in Cordoba soon spread to other important universities such as the Universidad de Buenos Aires and the Universidad Nacional de La Plata, from which it extended to other Latin American countries: first to Peru, then Chile and Cuba, Colombia, Guatemala and Uruguay. In the 1930s, a second Latin American wave of university reforms shook Brazil, Paraguay, Bolivia, Ecuador, Venezuela and Mexico.

Since University Reform, student organisations have maintained close links with workers' organisations and labor unions, frequently joining them in demonstrations and protests. Another consequence has been the politicizing of the student centres for the elections inside the universities, with which they are usually connected, identified with, and supported by national political parties.

See also

Federacion Universitaria Argentina



Patagonia rebelde

External links

History of Education: Cordoba's University Reform of 1918 (English)

Cordoba Manifestum (Spanish)

La Reforma Universitaria de 1918 (Spanish)

History and consequences of the University Reform (Spanish)

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This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article University reform in Argentina

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