Our alma mater, the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, was the second university to be founded by the modern Greek state.
Immediately after Greece’s success in the Balkan Wars, certain proposals came to light suggesting that Thessaloniki should be the seat of a new university.
In a series of proposals and memoranda, the well-known expert on international law and Athens University law professor George Streit and the famous mathematician Constantine Karatheodori, who worked as a professor at various German universities and was entrusted with organising the polytechnic at Breslau, both stressed – though independently of each other – the national need for the establishment of a university in the capital of Macedonia that would help the city to become the national and cultural centre of northern Greece.
After the end of the First World War the government of Eleftherios Venizelos decided to give priority to the establishment of a university at Smyrna, which had just been liberated by the Greek army. However, the painful reverses that Greece suffered in Asia Minor did not permit a university to be founded there, despite the serious efforts that had been made to achieve this goal.
The political decision to establish the new university in Thessaloniki, as a kind of successor to the ill-fated Ionian University, was recorded in the policy statements presented by the first government of Alexander Papanastasiou to the 4th Constituent Assembly on 24 March 1924: ‘In particular, we shall attend to the organisation of education in the northern provinces of the state, by supporting the teaching staff in whatever way we can and by establishing suitable kinds of schools, mainly of a practical nature, as well as founding a second university in Thessaloniki, which shall include the practical sciences and come into operation gradually. The good organisation of this university will both benefit the new provinces and promote our own scientific activity, thereby indirectly helping to improve the University of Athens’.
This was followed, on 5 June 1925, by the passing and entry into force, under the government of Andreas Michalakopoulos, of the founding Law No. 3341, which was published in the Greek Government Gazette of 22 June 1925. Initially, however, the foundation of Greece’s second university was fraught with numerous difficulties, which were due to the political instability of the times. It was not until some years later that the university’s organisation was completed with the publication of its fully elaborated organisational structure in the text of Law No. 1895/1939. Following a recommendation by the then rector Marinos Sigalas and a resolution by the Senate, the University was renamed as the ‘Aristotle University of Thessaloniki’ under Article 7 of Law No. 3108/1954.
One of the first five faculties that were provided for by Article 3 of the Founding Law was the Faculty of Law and Economic Sciences with two Schools: the School of Law and the School of Political and Economic Sciences, the latter of which commenced operations in the 1927-1928 academic year (Presidential Decree of 19/11/1927).
The Faculty’s essential teaching staff were recruited in accordance with the procedure laid down in Article 6 § 2 of Law No. 3341/1925. Thus a special committee was formed by the Athens University professors Andreas Andreadis, Kyriakos Varvaressos, Dimitrios Papoulias, Stylianos Seferiadis and Constantine Sfyris (who did not participate in the workings of the committee due to illness) and the latter’s deputy. This committee selected the first five professors in ordinary of the School of Political and Economic Sciences: Pericles Vizoukidis as Professor of the ‘Introduction to the Science of Law and Elements of Civil Law’ course (Vizoukidis was subsequently elected as the School’s first dean), Xenophon Zolotas as Professor of Political Economy, John Spyropoulos as Professor of Public International Law, Demosthenes Stefanidis as second Professor of Political Economy, and Thrasyvoulos Charalambidis as Professor of Commercial and Maritime Law. These appointments were subsequently ratified by the Presidential Decree of 4/4/1928.
The School of Law was established and commenced operations in the 1930-1931 academic year under the deanship of Demosthenes Stefanidis (Presidential Decree of 30/7/1930 and Greek Government Gazette A. 273 of 7/8/1930), but only after numerous initial difficulties and doubts which sprang from the view held by many government officials and others that the school’s foundation would only exacerbate the already existing problem of the country’s surplus of lawyers.
The beginning of the process to recruit the Law School’s essential teaching staff was marked by the establishment of a Chair of Civil Law (Pres. Decree of 1/5/1929) and the subsequent election of the first lecturer for this course, Alexander Litzeropoulos, who was immediately granted a teaching commission.
The structure of studies in the two schools of the Faculty of Law and Economic Sciences was modified by Ministerial Decision 152907 of 30/11/1971. Under this decision, the fields of teaching and research offered by the Faculty were redistributed between its two schools: the School of Law and the (renamed) School of Economic Sciences. The former, whose teaching and research were to focus on the science of law and political science, was to award degrees in legal sciences or public law, depending on the courses chosen by each student. The other school was to focus on economic science and award a degree in economic sciences.
Under Presidential Decree 203 of 3/9/1999 (Greek Government Gazette A.179 of 6/9/1999) a third school was established in our Faculty: the School of Political Sciences, which commenced operations in the 2000-2001 academic year.
The most recent restructuring of studies in our Faculty took place in 1982, with the entry into force of Law No. 1262/1983 ‘concerning the Structure and Operation of Higher Educational Institutions’ (and its subsequent amendments). Under this law, the Faculty was divided into two independent schools: the School of Law and the School of Economic Sciences, each covering the subject content of their respective disciplines.
The curriculum of the Law School, which was approved by the School’s General Assembly at session nos. 14 (21/6/1983), 91 (30/5/1989) and 113 (25/6/1991), provides instruction on all areas of the law within the School’s ambit through its taught semester courses, which aim to equip students with all the knowledge they need in order to acquire a law degree that is relevant to today’s needs. Finally, the Law School’s programme of postgraduate studies was approved by Ministerial Decision BI/809 of 15/11/1993, although postgraduate studies were originally established back in 1962 by Royal Decree 520 of 21/8/1962. Our Law School was the first of its kind in Greece to set up a programme of postgraduate studies and it has continued to run such programmes every year since then.