The Aristotle University of Thessaloniki was founded in 1925 during the premiership of Alexandros Papanastassiou. It was the second Greek university at that time, following the University of Athens, and its establishment was legislated under Law 3341/14-6-25.
According to Eleftherios Venizelos' plans right after the end of the First World War, Smyrni was intended to be the seat of the second Greek university, while the third university was to be established in Thessaloniki. However, Smyrni was not part of Greece at that time and these plans fell through after the outcome of the Greco-Turkish War in Asia Minor. Nevertheless, in 1924 Alexandros Papanastassiou decided to found a university in Northern Greece in order to boost the local economy and culture.
The chronological development of the University, which was renamed the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki in 1954, can be divided into three stages, each covering a period of approximately twenty-five years.
The University was built on top of the remains of what had once been the Jewish cemetery in Thessaloniki, until the cemetery's tragic destruction during the Nazi occupation.
During the first stage of its operation (1926–1950), the development focused on those Schools which were generally accepted as constituting one educational Institute, namely the Faculty of Philosophy, the Faculty of Physics and Mathematics, the Faculty of Law and Economics, the School of Theology and the Medical School. The first stage of development ended with the foundation of the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine in 1950, which was the only faculty of Veterinary Medicine in Greece for many years. After this period, some of the aforementioned faculties were extended by integrating more departments. In more detail, the Departments of Pharmacy and Dentistry were founded in 1955 and 1959 respectively and they were incorporated into the Medical School. Moreover, the Faculty of Philosophy was expanded by integrating the Institutes of Foreign Languages (English, French, German and Italian).
During the second stage (1951–1975) the focal point of development was the Faculty of Engineering, also known as the Polytechnic Faculty. At the beginning, this faculty constituted an independent institute also called the Polytechnic or Technical University. Therefore, for the first fifty years of its operation the Aristotle University consisted of two distinct institutes which operated independently. Subsequently these two educational institutes where unified. The various Schools within the Faculty of Engineering were founded in the following order: School of Civil Engineering (1955–56), School of Architecture (1956–57), School of Rural and Surveying Engineering (1962–63), School of Mechanical and Electrical Engineering (1972–73), School of Chemical Engineering (1972–73), School of Mathematics, Physics and Computational Sciences (1982–83) and School of Urban-Regional Planning and Development Engineering (2004). The School of Mechanical and Electrical Engineering was split in two independent schools (School of Mechanical Engineering and School of Electrical and Computer Engineering) in 1976.
Finally, during the third stage of its development (1975-today), new Schools and Departments were founded along with the aforementioned Engineering Schools. Moreover, the university acquired a small number of departments which operated in the past as independent institutes of Higher Education. During this period, the Faculty of Fine Arts was established, along with all its constituent Schools (Drama, Film Studies, Music Studies, Visual and Applied Arts). Additionally, the School of Journalism and Mass Media Studies and the School of Physical Education and Sports Sciences were created as independent schools. Overall, the third stage of development of the Aristotle University is characterized not only by the establishment of new Faculties, Schools and Departments, but also by many major changes in the structure of the university itself. These changes include the downgrade of some former Faculties into Schools or Departments and the upgrade of others.
Today, the Aristotle University comprises 12 Faculties, 36 Schools and numerous other units (laboratories, study rooms, libraries, clinics, research centres etc.), which make it the largest university in Greece and southeastern Europe in terms of number of staff, undergraduate and postgraduate students and the facilities offered.
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