The University of Pisa is a public institution with twenty departments, and high level research centres in the agriculture, astrophysics, computer science, engineering, medicine and veterinary medicine sectors. Furthermore the University has close relations with the Pisan Institutes of the National Board of Research, with many cultural institutions of national and international importance, and with industries, especially those based in information technology, which went through a phase of rapid expansion in Pisa during the nineteen sixties and seventies.
The University of Pisa was officially established in 1343, although a number of scholars claim its origin dates back to the 11th century.
The earliest evidence of a Pisan "Studium" dates back to 1338, when the renowned jurist Ranieri Arsendi transferred to Pisa from Bologna. He along with Bartolo Da Sassoferrato, a lecturer in Civil Law, were paid by the Municipality to teach public lessons.
The papal bull 'In supremae dignitatis', granted by Pope Clement VI on 3 September 1343, recognized the 'Studium' of Pisa as a 'Studium Generale'; an institution of further education founded or confirmed by a universal authority, the Papacy or Empire. Pisa was one of the first European universities that received this papal attestation, which guaranteed the universal, legal value of its educational qualifications.
The subjects taught first were: Theology, Civil Law, Canon Law and Medicine. In 1355 Francesco Da Buti, the well-known commentator of Dante's Divine Comedy, began teaching at the "Studium".
Pisa and its "Studium" underwent a period of crisis around the turn of the 15th century: the Florentines' conquering of the town ruined its economic and social life. However, there is a lack of documented evidence on the University's regular functioning for decades.
In 1473, thanks to Lorenzo dei Medici, the Pisan Studium resumed its systematic development and the construction of a building for holding lessons was built in 1486. The building - later known as Palazzo della Sapienza (The Building of Knowledge) - was located in the fourteenth-century Piazza del Grano. The image of a cherub was placed Above the Gate 'Dell'Abbondanza' (the Gate of Abundance), leading to the Piazza, which is still today the symbol of the University.
Following the rebellion against Florence in 1494 and the war following, the Pisan Studium suffered a period of decline, and was transferred to Pistoia, Prato and Florence. The ceremonial re-opening of the University, on 1 November 1543, occurred under the rule of Duke Cosimo I dei Medici, who was considered as a second inauguration. The statute of 1545 improved the quality of the University and the Pisan Athenaeum became one of the most notorious in Europe for teaching and research. Luca Ghini held the chair of "Semplici" (Botany), and was the founder of the world's first Botanical Gardens, succeeded by Andrea Cesalpino, who pioneered the first scientific methodology for the classification of plants and is considered a forerunner in the discovery of blood circulation. Gabriele Fallopio and Marcello Malpighi lectured in Anatomy and Medicine.
The University of Pisa has taken a key role in promoting European mobility since the first years of the Erasmus Programme, when it was a member of the ECTS Pilot Project. As a prestigious international university, whose role is that of promoting and enhancing the elaboration and transfer of knowledge at a level of excellence in an international framework, the University of Pisa has supported and participated not only in Erasmus mobility programmes since 1989, but also in Erasmus centralised actions and projects including Intensive Programmes, Curriculum Development programmes, Thematic and Academic Networks.
The University of Pisa is deeply committed to continuing this strategy and developing it further in the future phases of Erasmus. It salutes the opening of Erasmus to the wider world as an opportunity to coordinate and develop mobility between Europe and the world's other macro-regions, and to improve the tools that ensure the quality of that mobility. It has been since 2000 one of the promoters of the Tuning Process, in Europe, Latin America, Russia, Georgia and it is represented on the Tuning Management. At present it coordinates, from a scientific and academic point of view, the large-scale TuCAHEA Tempus Structural Measures project, which aims to create a Central Asian Higher Education Area aligned with the EHEA.