Who we are

Who we are



Our institution
Mission and Vision

Strategic Plan 2019-2024

Our institution

The Catholic University of Uruguay (UCU), located in Montevideo and other cities in the country, is the oldest private university in Uruguay with the widest coverage of the national territory.

UCU was initially founded in 1882 by the first Archbishop of Montevideo, Monsignor Mariano Soler. It then reopened and was entrusted to the Society of Jesus in 1985, representing the main work of the Catholic Church in Uruguayan higher education. Its commitment to academic excellence, ideological pluralism, ecumenism and interreligious dialogue has made it a leading institution in Uruguay’s cultural life.

From its creation, the Catholic University of Uruguay set itself the challenge of becoming a different and better option in higher education. This has led the institution to focus on areas that had not been considered before, and to play an innovative role in the development of new educational methodologies as well as in the evangelization of culture. Today, with 9,000 enrolled students and several dozens of academic programs, it goes through a consolidation phase, in which the university faces the challenge of responding to the new requirements of Uruguayan society.

We serve the community by spreading knowledge, promoting human formation, and disseminating culture.

Back to top

Mission and Vision


We are a higher education institution, pluralistic and open to the world, committed to achieving excellence, to building a more inclusive and fair society, and to the evangelizationof our culture; we educateopen-minded people from the educational tradition of the Church and the Society of Jesus.


We will bean appealing and challenging ethos, which invites and motivates young and adult students, professors and graduates, tolive a human and academic experience, characterized by an innovative profile, excellence in interdisciplinary and cross-curricular learning, the creation, discussion and diffusion of knowledge, institutional dynamism and personal, community and global commitment.

Back to top


Our university was created as the result of a long process which began in the 19th century, through which the Uruguayan Catholic Church continuously claimed the constitutional right of freedom of education at all levels, including higher education.

The oldest, most accurate record dates back to 1876, when Father Mariano Soler founded the Lyceum of University Studies that became the Free University in 1878, with the approval of the government of Uruguay. The founding of the Lyceum of University Studies is part of the significant process of redefining the Catholic Church’s attitude towards the modern world. Through his encyclicals, Pope Leo XIII charted the course that the Church should follow to face the great problems of society from a Christian perspective. Catholics attached great importance to the creation of educational establishments. In Uruguay, the Lyceum of University Studies set out to train young Catholics by combining science and faith. The Free University operated until 1886, when economic problems and restrictive regulations in secondary and tertiary studies led to its closure.

It was not until the middle of the 20th century that new Catholic initiatives in the field of higher education appeared in the country. The founding of the Institute of Philosophy in 1954, its slow but steady growth in the 1960s and 1970s, and the unsuccessful projects of the Catholic University of 1961 characterize this as the first phase of the process.

In September 1953, the Congress of the National Union of Catholic Education (UNEC) met in Montevideo, presided over by Monsignor Antonio Maria Barbieri. This congress saw the first specific proposals for the creation of a Catholic center of higher studies. This resulted in the founding of the Institute of Philosophy in March 1954 at the initiative of the Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the approval of the Archbishop of Montevideo. In the strongly secularized Uruguayan society, the aim was to provide solid humanistic training in Christian fundamentals. In 1967, the Institute of Philosophy, which had extended its educational work to other areas of knowledge, was renamed Institute of Philosophy, Sciences, and Letters. In 1962, it became a member of the Episcopal Conference of Uruguay. Archbishop Antonio Corso, Archbishop Andres Rubio, and Monsignor Carlos Mullin successively held the position of rector.

In the 1960s, there were two sides among Catholic circles. One of them was in favor of a strong evangelizing effort within the University of the Republic, while the other supported the need to create a Catholic university in the country. The Institute of Philosophy courses, the Inter diocesan Seminary of Toledo, and courses of law organized by the Jesuit Fathers were proposed as the first stage of the projected university.

On March 7, 1961, the Uruguayan Episcopate issued a statement of support for freedom of education at all levels, including in higher education, and the creation of the Free University, “a clear postulate of Catholic conscience”, in Uruguay.

Several factors led to the failure of the 1960 university project. Besides, a lack of definition and a confusing environment within the Uruguayan Church, disagreements and unstable political support added to the failure. The project’s lack of maturity led to its gradual decline.

In 1979, the Institute of Philosophy, Sciences, and Letters was entrusted to the Society of Jesus, with Manuel Gutierrez Semprún SJ appointed rector. A new stage began in which the old institution was redefined. At the heart of the renewal of the institute was the development of the new Catholic University project. Beginning in 1979, the private university project took off, faced serious obstacles around 1983, but slowly but surely was completed in 1984.

The Holy See, the Uruguayan Church, and the successive national governments participated in the birth of the new institution.
In 1981, the Uruguayan Episcopal Conference publicly stated its willingness to create a Catholic University in the country. On November 11, the Uruguayan bishops issued an important statement offering “the Institute of Philosophy, Sciences, and Letters, with its almost 30 years of educational experience as the basis of a potential ‘Private University’ to the Uruguayan society.” A complex process thus began, implying new efforts and responsibilities for the Uruguayan Church at the service of the national society.

On August 22, 1984, by decree 343/984, the Catholic University of Uruguay “Dámaso Antonio Larrañaga” was authorized, and the curricula and programs were recognized. Another presidential decree of the same date ceased the intervention of the University of the Republic that had begun in September of 1973. New times began for university life in Uruguay.

On October 23, 1984, the law on the validity of professional degrees awarded by private universities was approved. Law 15.661 established that for professional qualifications awarded by private universities to be valid they had to be registered with the Ministry of Education and Culture, and that once registered, they would have the same legal effects as those issued by the University of Republic.

The year 1984 marked great achievements for the Catholic University project. It was also a year of conquests for Uruguay. Democratic elections were held in November, and in February, 1985, the first freely elected parliament would be set up after eleven years of de facto rule. On March 13 the necessary formalities were observed for the creation of the Catholic University in Law 15.738.

On January 25, 1985, at the ecclesial level, the Sacred Congregation for Catholic Education decreed the erection of the Catholic University of Uruguay “Dámaso Antonio Larrañaga”.

His Holiness Pope John Paul II had expressed his support for the Uruguayan Catholic University in January of 1985 at the “ad limina” visit of the Uruguayan bishops to Rome. The pope said that he had seen “with joy the recent founding of the Catholic University ‘Dámaso Antonio Larrañaga’ in Uruguay. It is my fervent desire”, said the Pope, “that through this university, the presence of Christian thought can be made public, stable, and profound in an effort to promote higher culture.”

With the papal support, the Catholic University was inaugurated on March 5, 1985. All the efforts leading to this opening were entrusted to the leadership of the Society of Jesus by the Uruguayan Episcopal Conference. Father Luis del Castillo SJ was its first rector, succeeded by Father José Squadroni SJ, Father José Luis Mendizábal SJ, Father P. Carlos Vázquez SJ, and Father Antonio Ocaña SJ.

The Catholic University of Uruguay began its activities as the “other” university, neither similar nor opposed to the University of the Republic, but “qualitatively different and complementary, although equally consecrated to the service of Uruguayan society for its research and teaching”.

The Catholic University of Uruguay set itself the challenge of offering a different option in higher education. Its intention is to be complementary and not competing with the University of the Republic, as it covers neglected areas, and plays an innovative role in education and in the area of evangelization of culture. The new university was attractive and so was its style.
The Catholic University of Uruguay is currently a consolidated institution that faces the challenges of seeking quality, as well as fast and effective adaptation to the new requirements of the Uruguayan society. The creation of a pluralistic university system and the tangible proof of the benefits it has entailed for Uruguay’s society and for culture are its great contributions to the future of the country.

The Catholic University of Uruguay is a member of the Association of Universities Entrusted to the Society of Jesus in Latin America (AUSJAL) and to the International Association of Jesuit Universities (IAJU).


Back to top

Events Calendar