The Alma Mater Thessalonicensis 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 Karatheodoris, who worked as a professor at various German universities and was entrusted with organising the Polytechnic School 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 in 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 organization 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 organization of this university will benefit the new provinces and promote our own scientific activity, thereby helping indirectly to improve the University of Athens’.
This was followed, on 5 June 1925, by the enactment 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. However, the foundation of Greece’s second university was initially fraught with numerous difficulties, which were due to the political instability of that period.
It was not until some years later that the university’s organization was completed with the publication of its fully elaborated organizational 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 ‘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 academic year 1927-1928 (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. This committee selected the first five ordinary professors of the School of Political and Economic Sciences: Pericles Vizoukidis as Professor of the course “Introduction to the Science of Law and Elements of Civil Law” (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 academic year 1930-1931 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 many initial difficulties and doubts, which stemmed from the perception, held by many government officials and others, that the existing problem of the country’s surplus of lawyers would be exacerbated.
The beginning of the process to recruit the essential teaching staff at the School of Law 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 order.
Finally, the Law School’s postgraduate study programme, which was inspired by Professor Petros Vallindas, was established by the Royal Decree 520 of 21/8/1962, and commenced (first among the Law Schools of Greece) its uninterrupted operation until today.
The structure of studies in the two initial Schools of the Faculty of Law and Economic Sciences was modified by the Ministerial Decision 152907 of 30/11/1971. Under this decision, the fields of teaching and research offered by the Faculty were redistributed between the two Schools: the Science of Law and Political Science at the School of Law (which was to award degrees in legal sciences or public law, depending on the courses chosen by each student) and the Economic Science at the School of Economic Sciences (which was to award a degree in economic sciences). Under the 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 academic year 2000-2001.
The most recent restructuring of studies in our Faculty took place with the entry into force of Law No. 1262/1983 ‘concerning the Structure and Operation of Higher Educational Institutions’ (and its subsequent amendments). Under the subsequent Law No. 4009/2011 (Greek Government Gazette A.195) “Structure, Operation, Quality Assurance and Internationalization of Higher Educational Institutions”, as amended by Law No. 4076/2012 and other newer ones, the University and our School confronted new challenges and tribulations.
An important milestone in the history of law studies at our University is the conversion of the School of Law into a (single-School) Faculty of Law, in accordance with Article 3 (1) b of the Presidential Decree 98/5.6.2013 (Greek Government Gazette A.134) in conjunction with Article 7 of Law No. 4009/2011. This decree signaled the end of the establishment of the Law School at the (then) Faculty of Law and Economic Sciences (started in 1930), while at the same time fulfilled the wish expressed in the Greek Parliament by Skevos Zervos (member of the Greek Parliament), from the step of the rapporteur of the founding bill of the University of Thessaloniki: “… I, also, think that the Faculty of Law should not be missed in any way…”.
The new School, with aim to indicate its honor and recognition of the -until now- contribution of the Department of Law to science and society, has preserved, by a decision of the university authority, the logo of the Dean of the old Faculty of Law, Economics, and Political Sciences, the red color of the graduation gown and the 20 other symbols, as well as the octagonal seal with the bust of Aristotle in the center.
Significant points of reference in the history of our Faculty are the internal (2011) and external (2013) evaluation of our School, which confirmed its glamor and offer, as well as the reformed Foundations Curriculum of the Faculty and the new Study Regulations that will apply from October 2015. Equally important for the transparency and quality of the education provided is the exhortation of the Quality Assurance Unit, based on Article 14 of Law No. 4009/2011, to the students of our School, in order for them to evaluate the courses and their lecturers on a six-monthly basis, before the beginning of the examination period.