The University of Costa Rica (in Spanish, Universidad de Costa Rica, abbreviated UCR) is a public university in the Republic of Costa Rica. Its main campus, Ciudad Universitaria Rodrigo Facio, is located in San Pedro, in the province of San José. It is the oldest, largest, and most prestigious institution of higher learning in Costa Rica. Approximately 39,000 students attend UCR throughout the year. It also works as an autonomic institution.
The origins of the University dates back to the establishment of first university in Costa Rica, the University of St. Thomas (Universidad de Santo Tomás), established in 1843. That institution maintained close ties with the Roman Catholic Church. It was closed in 1888 by the progressive and mildly anti-clerical government of President Bernardo Soto Alfaro as part of a campaign to modernize public education.
The schools of law, agronomy, fine arts, and pharmacy continued to operate independently, but Costa Rica had no university officially, until 1940, when those four schools were re-united to establish the modern UCR, during the reformist left-leaning administration of President Dr. Rafael Ángel Calderón Guardia. Its current president for the term 2004-2008 is Yamileth Gonzalez Garcia (Ph.D. Catholic University of Leuven (Louvain), Belgium).
The government structure of the university is composed by a Legislative Body (Asamblea General), Board of Directors, Presidency, and the Offices of Extension, Administrative Affairs, Academic Affairs , Research and Student Affairs.
The UCR is divided into six major academic areas: Agricultural Sciences, Arts and Letters, Basic Sciences, Engineering, Health and Social Sciences. These areas are divided into Colleges, Schools and Departments, Research Centers and Institutes. The Graduate Studies System offers master and doctorate degrees in a variety of academic areas.
The University, while neutral on most aspects of Costa Rican life, defines itself as a humanistic institution, and therefore it considers that technocratic forms of government where citizens are not taken into consideration run against democracy. Social work and research extension activities are thus encouraged. The university is the most mentioned government institution in Costa Rican media, and its opinion is sought in scientific, ethic and economic matters. Costa Rica's president, Oscar Arias, many ministers, and heads of the country's public institutions are all UCR graduates.
The UCR is also part of the National Council of University Chairpersons (Consejo Nacional de Rectores), a watchdog body that overviews higher education quality.
The University has international cooperation alliances with the DAAD (the German Academic Trust), the governments of Japan, France, Mexico, Spain, Taiwan (R.O.C.), the European Union, the OAS and US research institutions such as the Organization for Tropical Studies, whose headquarters in Costa Rica are located within UCR's central campus (Rodrigo Facio campus).
Academic cooperation agreements have been signed with the governments of the following countries (in alphabetical order): Argentina, Austria, Belgium, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Cuba, Denmark, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Finland, France, Germany, Honduras, Iceland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Jamaica, Mexico, the Netherlands, Nicaragua, Norway, Panama, Peru, Portugal, Puerto Rico, Russia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan (R.O.C), Uruguay, the United States of America, and Venezuela.