The existence of a large university structure in the city of Bergamo dates back to 1961 with the opening of the High College of Journalism and Audiovisual Media, a two year post-graduate school born through the initiative of the Universitą cattolica del Sacro Cuore di Milano, and through the selection process of Bergamo City Council under the direction of Professor Mario Apollonio. This college, albeit lasting for a short time in the Bergamasc context, contributed significantly to the creation of new sensibilities. Its very location in the Town Hall (Palazzo del Podestą) in Piazza Vecchia, right in the heart of the city, signalled the beginnings of a new relationship with the Old Town, with significant effects upon the revitalisation of the area thanks to its new, noble function.
On the 16th November 1968 the constitution of the Board for the institution of university faculties in the city of Bergamo, attended by representatives from the City Council, the Provincial Council and the Chamber of Commerce, created the conditions necessary to the founding of new initiatives opened directly by the city and to the effective birth of the University of Bergamo.
Following the closure of the Foreign Languages course at the Bocconi University in Milan, in 1968 it was decided that the Institute of Foreign Languages and Literatures was to be founded through a regulatory committee presided over by Professor Vittore Branca. The statute of the University Institution was approved in December 1968.
Courses commenced immediately, from academic year 1968-69, with the aforementioned Professor Branca as Rector. Courses were offered in the five most important languages (French, English, Spanish, Russian and German).
In academic year 1974-75, under the Rector Professor Serio Galeotti, a degree in Economics and Business Administration was introduced, bringing with it a noticeable advantage in that it enriched the teaching body, led to an increase in the number of students and at the same time piqued the interest of financing bodies which noted with satisfaction that the university was also carrying out a role in support of economic activities and local administration.
Under the management of new Rector Giorgio Szėgo, the new Faculty of Economics (founded in 1985) further reinforced the University.
The separation into two faculties signalled an important turning point in the life and the organisation of the university. It was, however, Rector Pietro Enrico Ferri who was to inaugurate the Faculty of Engineering in Dalmine (1991) and complete the nationalisation of the institution (1992), newly christened Universitą degli Studi di Bergamo.
The widening and development of the range of courses proposed by the University led it thus to fully cover three major sectors, while interacting with local demand, not only on a small scale, but also within the larger context of the Region of Lombardy. The University continued to develop, and especially over the last, under the management of Rector Alberto Castoldi (1997-2009), it has grown significantly.
In 2001 the Faculty of Economics was transferred from Cittą Alta (the Old Town) to Bergamo Bassa (the New Town) in via dei Caniana. With the acquisition of the new area in St. Agostino and of the nearby Pensionato Baroni, which form the nucleus of a new centre of Humanities, and the transfer of some offices into newly acquired buildings in San Bernardino, the University has a ground space of 47,360m2 at its disposal (Information correct as of March 2008).
Also important is the consolidation of research activities which go beyond national boundaries. The University of Bergamo is, for example, the administrative headquarters of numerous PhDs and has at its disposal the resources of prestigious initiatives such as: the International Russian Language Seminar, the Italian Language and Culture for Foreign Nationals Course, a Centre of Excellence in Anthropology, the Observatory on Banking Mergers, a Centre for Area Studies, a Centre for Teaching and Learning Quality and the School of Management.
The system of active relationships with the local area is also both effective and original. Various associations from different categories have come together to finance the association Pro Universitate Bergamensi which assists the University in its initiatives, bearing witness to the collaboration existing between the University and the world of business. This cooperation has led to the creation of some degree courses which are found nowhere else in Italy, such as that in Textile Engineering, as well as to the financing of laboratories and of research projects in various fields.
The University of Bergamo is today a powerful and significant presence in the Bergamasc and Lombard contexts. Its disjointed presence in both historical complexes in the Old Town and in functional centres in the New Town, not to mention in the unique urban context of Dalmine with its state of the art laboratories renders evident its solid roots in the city and the local area.
Nowadays, the University of Bergamo, thanks to its constant drive for the renewal and broadening of its structures and of the courses that it offers, consists of six faculties (Economics; Educational Studies; Engineering; Foreign Languages and Literatures; Humanities; Law), 14 three-year (level one) degree courses, 15 two-year (level two) degree courses, 3 two-year (level two) degree courses taught in English, and a single cycle second level degree (five-year) in Law.
Didactic organisation makes good use of various opportunities open to students: Foreign exchanges (the percentage of Erasmus programme exchanges is among the highest in Italy), internships with companies and organisations based not only in the local area but also in the rest of Italy and the world, apprenticeships, tutoring, preliminary study courses, post-graduate specialisation courses and first and second level Masters.
The strengths of the University of Bergamo are, therefore, the wide range of courses offered (also through E-learning projects) the excellent use of the numerous laboratories available to students, the ambitious research centres, and, last but not least, the fact that the University operates in one of the most dynamic of areas, from both a cultural and an economic viewpoint.
From October 2009, Professor Stefano Paleari is the rector.