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History and profile of the Department

The University of Athens was founded in May 1837.  It was first housed in the residence of the architect Stamatis Cleanthes (1802-1862) at the foot of the Acropolis, which today hosts the Athens University Museum. It was the first university in the fledgling independent Greek state, and indeed in the newly created independent states in South- Eastern Europe.   Originally named “Othonian University”, after Otto [Otho] Wittelsbach, the Royal Prince of Bavaria and first King of Greece (r. 1833-1862), it became “National University” after Otto’s deposition.  In 1911, in fulfillment of the terms of a large bequest by Ioannes Dombolis, a merchant from Russia originating from Epirus and a personal friend of Ioannes Kapodistrias (1776-1831), the first governor of Greece, it was split into two universities:  The “Kapodistrian University” comprising the Faculties of Theology, Law and Philosophy, and the “National University” with the Faculty of Medicine and the Faculty of Physics and Mathematics.  In 1932 the two institutions were reunited to form the “National and Kapodistrian University of Athens”.   The original Othonian University consisted of four faculties: Theology, Law, Medicine and Philosophy, with 33 professors and 52 students.

In November 1841 the University moved to its new building, the work of the Danish architect Christian Hansen (1803-1883), on Panepistimiou Street, itself named after the University.  His younger brother Theophilus Hansen was responsible for the other two buildings flanking the University building, the National Library and the Academy of Athens, forming thus the trilogy of Neohellenic Classicism. In 1904, Physics, Mathematics and Pharmacy broke away from the Faculty of Philosophy to form independent Faculties, while later a new Faculty of Dentistry has been established. Between 1895 and 1911, approximately one thousand new students were enrolled each academic year. After the First World War, this number almost doubled.  Increased demand for a place at the University prompted the creation of a University entrance examination system in academic year 1927-28.

Political economy was taught at the University of Athens since its very inception.  A chair of political economy was created at the Faculty of Law.  Its first occupant was Ioannes A. Soutsos (1804-1890) who taught for fifty years until his death.  A student of liberal economist Pellegrino Rossi at the Collège de France, Soutsos preferred the term “plutology” for political economy. Other notable professors of political economy and public finance were Andreas M. Andreades (1876-1935) – whose obituary in the Economic Journal was penned by John Maynard Keynes, Angelos Angelopoulos (1904-1995), Xenophon Zolotas (1904-2004), governor of Bank of Greece and prime minister of Greece, Kyriakos Varvaressos (1884-1957) and Yiangos Pesmazoglou (1918- 2003).

From 1926 to 1967 economics courses were offered at the Faculty of Law.  After three years of a joint curriculum, students could opt for a fourth year that led to a degree either in Law or in Economics.  In 1967, these two directions led to the creation inside the Faculty of Law of two new departments: the Department of Law and the Department of Political and Economic Sciences. Students in the Department of Political and Economic Sciences faced a shared curriculum in the first three years, while a fourth academic year led to a specialized degree either in economics or in politics. Finally, in 1972, the Department assumed its present form with the split of the Department of Political and Economic Sciences into two separate departments: the Department of Economics and the Department of Political Science and Public Administration.

Since then, the Department of Economics is an independent department within the Faculty of Law, Economic and Political Sciences. It has 47 faculty members, 3,500 undergraduate and 140 graduate active students and awards 350 degrees in economics every year.   Faculty members are engaged in research in all fields of economics, but also in related fields, such as economic history, philosophy, mathematics, statistics and information science.  The Department of Economics of the University of Athens plays an important role in the production of economic knowledge, offering a critical analysis of economic relations and institutions.  Its research output enriches the Greek and international literature in economics and related fields.