The history of UENF

The foundation of a public university had been an old dream of the population of Campos dos Goytacazes, State of Rio de Janeiro (RJ), when the mobilization of an organized section of the town's society managed to include a popular amendment to the State's Constitution of 1989, which stipulated the creation of State University of Northern of Rio de Janeiro, UENF. The initiatives involved social organs, associations and political leaders. At least 3,000 signatures were needed, but the organizers obtained 4,431, apart from several thousands of other signatures that did not qualify for the petition.

According to the Article 49 of Transitory Statements of the State's Constitution, the university that was a dream of several generations of citizens of Campos should also be present in the cities of Itaocara, Itaperuna and Santo Antônio de Pádua. In the beginning of the 1990's, the great challenge of the popular movement that desired the creation of UENF was to meet the legal deadlines, under the penalty of seeing the constitution amendment losing validity.

This deadline was 1990. After an intense collective effort to convince authorities, the State's Congress finally passed the law creating UENF, enforced by the then Governor Moreira Franco, on the 11th of August, 1990. The Act 1,740 then signed authorized the Executive Power to establish Darcy Ribeiro State University of Northern of Rio de Janeiro, UENF, with its central campus in Campos dos Goytacazes. On the 27th of February 1991, Act 16,357 created UENF and passed its statute.

When Leonel Brizola was elected Governor of the State of Rio de Janeiro, and took office in 1991, the project of establishment of UENF gained new directions. Keeping a campaign promise made in Campos, Leonel Brizola put the realization of UENF to practice, investing Professor Darcy Ribeiro with the task of conceiving the institution's model and coordinating the establishment of the University. Darcy had been the initiator and first rector of Universidade de Brasília (UnB), being also the author of several projects of establishment or remodeling of universities in Costa Rica, Algeria, Uruguay, Venezuela, and Peru.

When given the mission of founding UENF, Darcy accepted the challenge to make of it its best project. He conceived an innovating model, in which departments — that, in UnB, had represented a progress in that they replaced chairs — would give in to theme and transdisciplinary laboratories as cell of the living academic organism. He called renowned thinkers and researchers to prepare the project of UENF, and presented it as "The University of the Third Millennium". He envisaged the presence of UENF in the city of Macaé, RJ, where the Laboratory of Petroleum Engineering and Exploration (Lenep) and the Laboratory of Meteorology (Lamet) would be constructed.

The process of implementation of UENF started effectively on the 23rd of December, 1991, when Act 17,206 established the Academic Commission for Implementation, by the Extraordinary Secretary for Special Projects. On the 10th of December 1992, Act 2,043/92, by Congressman Fernando Leite Fernandes, was passed and created the Fenorte, Fundação Estadual Norte Fluminense. Its mission was to maintain and promote the development of UENF, and put into practice and improve the High Technology Complex of Norte Fluminense.

The milestone of originality and braveness that Darcy gave his last grand project of a university became visible. UENF was the first university in Brazil where all professors had a PhD. Emphasis on research and on post-gradaution, with no parallel in the history of Brazilian universities, entitles UENF to be a university to educate scientists.

Due to the fact that UENF was the university with the highest number of former undergraduate research students to finish a MSc and PhD, in 2003 the university was given the prize Outstanding Achievement in Scientific Initiation, an award given by CNPq (Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Científico e Tecnológico). Due to the regulations concerning the award, any winner university has to stay out of the competition for a while. As soon as UENF was once again entitled to take part, the university won the award again, in 2009 (see below).

UENF is also a pioneer university in the creation of distance college education, in tandem with the mission conceived by its founder's vision of the future. Through the Consortium Cederj, UENF would become the first university in Brazil to offer a distance education degree in Biological Sciences, in 2002.

The first SAT at UENF was held on the 3rd of June, 1993. The first tuition in the UENF campus was given on the 16th of August of the same year, the date considered as that of the beginning of the university's activities. On the 8th of August, 1993, the Casa de Cultura Villa Maria was opened. It is established in an old manor house built in 1918, of eclectic architecture. It is a symbol of the close connection UENF has with the city of Campos dos Goytacazes. The house had been left by Maria Tinoco Queiroz, known as Dona Finazinha, deceased on the 18th of December of 1970, in her will, to be the site of one university, in the future.

On the 23rd of October, 2001, UENF is given its administrative autonomy, now independent from its former trustee, in accordance to Complementary Act 99, enforced by the then Governor Anthony Garotinho. With this autonomy, the institution incorporates the name of its founder in its own name, being then called Darcy Ribeiro State University of Northern of Rio de Janeiro, as previously stipulated by Act 2,786, from the 15th of December, 1997.

The right to its autonomy, a landmark in UENF's history, was obtained after a fight with no truce by professors, students and technical and administrative workers, supported by the community of Campos and important sectors of the press. Based on the recognition of its administrative autonomy, UENF starts an intense approach to shorten the distance between the university and communities of the region, including city councils, foster agencies, other universities and different bodies of the organized society.

In this sense, another stage of the history of Darcy Ribeiro's masterpiece in the north of the State of Rio de Janeiro was accomplished. If the foundation of UENF sprung from an epic initiative by the society of Campos dos Goytacazes, in keeping with the most legitimate yearnings of the Brazilian scientific community as a whole, the obtainment of its autonomy in administration and property would be the fruit of a heroic campaign held by the academic community, side by side with the community of the region.

In 2008, UENF was given the National Human Rights Education Award, in the category University Extension Studies, by the Organization of Ibero-American States for the Education, Science and Culture (OEI), and the Ministry of Education (MEC), in a partnership with the Special Secretary for Human Rights of the Presidency of the Republic (SEDH), and sponsored by SM Foundation.

In 2009, CNPq awarded UENF, for the second time, the award Outstanding Achievement in Scientific Initiation.

In 2007, 2008, 2009, and 2010, UENF was acknowledged by Ministério da Educação (MEC) as one of the 15 best universities in Brazil, based on a calculated reference index called Índice Geral de Cursos (IGC, 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2010). IGC is a compilation of a series of parameters of quality of all undergraduate and post-graduate courses of one university. In 2011, according to IGC, UENF was acknowledged by Ministry of Education the best university of Rio de Janeiro State and one of the 11 best universities in Brazil.

Check the special edition of the magazine Nossa UENF, which shows images of the university, since the construction of the campus to more recent events.