The university reform of 1918: from Córdoba to Latin America


The university reform of 1918: from Córdoba to Latin America


La reforma universitaria de 1918: de Córdoba a Latinoamérica



Diego Martín Palomo, María Verónica Grunfeld Baeza, Manuela Soledad Salas

Department of Health Sciences. South National University. Bahía Blanca. Argentina.



To the editor:

In volume 2 of the current year of the EDUMECENTRO Journal we were pleased to read a letter to the editor1 referring to the university reform of 1918, which began in the city of Córdoba, in Argentina.

Those of us who assume social responsibilities as university professors, we must bear in mind that historical milestone, and this year, in which its centenary is commemorated, to vindicate with greater force that process that promoted a university transformation in Latin America.

We understand the university as the home of the students and the people and we are the teaching and non-teaching workers who should welcome them, as described in the manifesto of the reform, with an emotional bond. If that is not present in the long path of teaching, it will be fruitless and we would even say expulsive.

The action of the Cordovan people, product of a political and ideological tension from outside the classrooms, associated with the increasing irruption in the teaching staffs of the rising social sectors, collapsed the walls of the university. It was a struggle that took this institution by assault to impose changes that represented the popular sectors of the country and rebelled against the conservative social order. It is necessary to emphasize the character of struggle and confrontation that the reform had, since it was not the result of rational discussions of different positions and of consensus making, that image of orderly and correct students that our liberal history likes so much. No, it was an untidy, revolutionary and at times violent struggle:

"The demolition of a statue, erected in front of the Society of Jesus and the university, symbolized the reactionary spirit threatening to perpetuate itself cast in bronze, in spite of all the efforts and all the sacrifices, it is a simply beautiful vandalism".2

The cry and the Cordovan blow resounded throughout Latin America to dust off the teaching staffs and shake the classrooms. Youngsters, nerve and muscle of that revolution, lived its most glorious hours defeating frozen professors and the ruling classes in their conservative social reproduction.3 A reform that proposed a democratic, autonomous and service to the people that should not be separated from politics. Driven by young souls who believed in a better education, in a university that accepted teachers and students regardless of political ideology. This provocative and energetic reform proposed freedom of teaching, free attendance, free teaching, periodicity of university events, the public and free nature of teaching and an active intervention of students in all academic spaces. In number 10 of La Gaceta Universitaria, on June 21, 1918, the Manifesto of the F. U. de Córdoba was published, as can be seen in the figure.

In 1949, President Juan Domingo Perón decreed the Suppression of University Fees. Despite its importance and relationship with the Reform of 1918, this fact went unnoticed for traditional historiography. The dictatorships that followed in Argentina cut down the gains of the reform, and the weak democracy that emerged in 1983 could only take a few steps to recover them. During the presidencies of Néstor Kirchner and Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, 15 national universities were opened in predominantly popular sectors, which led thousands of young people to become the first generation of university students from their families. We believe fervently that these actions claim the 1918 reform and show that its spirit is not history, but that this legacy gives us the need to continue opening the doors of the universities to the people.

Although during the centennial year of the reform we have the conviction that this will not happen, the force of the reform and its stamp in the universities generated that in Argentina activities are proposed throughout this year, to remember and claim that historical and revolutionary fact. The Secretariat of University Policies, under the Ministry of Education of Argentina created a Web page to publish the activities designed to commemorate this centenary throughout the country, among them we have literary contests, conferences and opening of spaces related to the theme. In the National University of Córdoba, the cradle of the reform, activities such as the launching of the "Centenario de una gran libertad más" program are concentrated. It can be consulted at the following web site:

On the other hand, the Executive Power decreed 2018 as the "Year of the Centennial of the University Reform" and in this decree provides that throughout the year the official documentation of the National Public Administration must bear the legend "2018 - YEAR OF THE CENTENARY OF THE UNIVERSITY REFORM".4

Although the historical development of our country consolidated it as a liberal reform of the university, we believe it is important to recover the Latin Americanist, contestatory and revolutionary character of the university youth, the definition of a popular university, the struggle for an egalitarian co-government and mechanisms of decision.

Public education must be at the service of society, fulfilling the duty to provide knowledge to address social problems, and not those imposed from a scientism that only reproduces itself, looking at social reality through a microscope. For university education to be at the service of the people, it requires financing. Therefore, in a context of neoliberal policies such as those in Argentina today, there is a risk of the subordination of the production of knowledge to the demands of the market, rather than of society. This university with which the conservative sectors insist, responds to mercantilist values rather than democratic values and social and national development. To fight to defend the university at the service of the great majorities is also to honor the autonomy that was forged in this reform.


Declaration of interests

The authors declare no conflict of interest.



1. Díaz Sosa F, Alfonso Izquierdo A, Lara González L. A cien años de la Reforma Universitaria de Córdoba: una reflexión necesaria. EDUMECENTRO [Internet]. 2018 [citado 13 Abr 2018];10(2):[aprox. 4 p.]. Disponible en: /view/1116/html_347

2. Ratto AE. La revolución universitaria de Julio V. González. Perspectivas Revista de Ciencias Sociales [Internet]. 2017 [citado 3 Abr 2018];2(4):[aprox. 10 p]. Disponible en: /1.Ratto.pdf?sequence=3&isAllowed=y

3. González JV. La Revolución Universitaria. 1918-1919. Buenos Aires: Cooperativa editorial Nosotros; 1922.

4. Boletín Oficial de la República Argentina. Decreto 5/2018. [Internet]. Buenos Aires; 2018 [citado 30 Mar 2018]. Disponible en:!DetalleNorma/177225/20180108



Submitted: 27 de abril de 2018.
Accepted: 30 de abril de 2018.



Diego Martín Palomo. South National University. Bahía Blanca. Argentina. E-mail:

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