Eleftherios Venizelos was the first politician to start efforts to found a university in Thessaloniki at a time when Northern Greece had just been liberated and when reinforcing the “New Territories,” as the newly liberated areas were then called, emerged as a national need. Plans provided also for founding a university in Smyrna. However, the Asia Minor disaster thwarted these plans.
It was due to the initiative taken by the government of Alexandros Papanastasiou that the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki was founded in 1925. After considerable discussion, the founding act of the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki (no. 3341/14-6-25) was signed on June 5th, 1925 by the constitutional assembly of the time, and was published in the Government Gazette on June 22nd, 1925.
Problems continued to exist, however, after the enactment of the act, because of the political upheaval of the time. Thus, the Aristotle University first opened its doors a year later, in 1926. Georgios Chatzidakis was the first Head of the university and the second one was Christos Tsountas.
In order to meet the needs and demands of the time, special emphasis was placed on the development of the humanities. Thus, the Faculty of Philosophy was the first to open its doors in 1926. At first, it was housed in the “Allatini” building, which now hosts the Prefecture of Thessaloniki services. Soon, however, the location proved to be problematic and, in October 1927, the Faculty of Philosophy was transferred to a mansion in Ethnikis Amynis street, which previously housed the 2nd Military Hospital. The building was repaired and a third floor was added a little later. Today, it is the historic building of the university and houses part of the Faculty of Philosophy.
The Faculty of Physics and Mathematics opened its doors in 1927. Much later, one of its schools, the School of Forestry, along with the School of Agriculture became part of the newly created Faculty of Agriculture and Forestry which opened its doors in 1937. The Faculty of Law and Economics opened its doors in 1928, whereas the Faculty of Medicine and the Faculty of Theology were founded later, in 1941. The School of Veterinary Medicine was founded in 1950, the Institute of Foreign Languages in 1951, the Faculty of Engineering in 1955, and the School of Dentistry in 1959 as part of the Faculty of Medicine (it acquired its present status as an independent School in 1971).
In 1982, Law no. 1268 providing for the structure and operation of Greek Higher Educational Institutes brought about a complete restructuring of the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, since it promoted the school as the basic academic unit, a restructuring of faculties and the organization of schools into new faculties: the Faculty of Theology, the Faculty of Philosophy, the Faculty of Sciences, the Faculty of Law and Economics, the Faculty of Geotechnical Sciences, the Faculty of Health Sciences, and the Faculty of Engineering.
The Faculty of Education was founded in 1983, the Faculty of Fine Arts in 1984, the independent school of Physical Education and Sports Sciences in 1983 and the independent School of Journalism and Mass Media in 1991. The School of Education in Florina was founded in 1993 and is now part of the University of Western Macedonia. New schools were added in the already existing faculties, such as the School of Political Sciences in the Faculty of Law, Economics and Political Sciences, the School of Psychology in the Faculty of Philosophy, and the School of Informatics in the Faculty of Sciences. Among the newer schools are the following independent schools: the School of Energy Resources Management Engineering in Kozani (1999), the School of Balkan Studies (1999) and the School of Education (1993) in Florina, which are part of the University of Western Macedonia as of January 1st, 2004 (Senate meeting 2753/28-8-2003). Two new schools were founded in 2004: the School of Film Studies, part of the Faculty of Fine Arts, and the School of Urban-Regional Planning and Development Engineering (in Veroia), part of the Faculty of Engineering. It needs to be noted that the Senate has decided to abolish the Faculty of Health Sciences and the Faculty of Geotechnical Sciences, and organize their schools into single-school faculties. Only the School of Pharmacy has retained its status as an independent school.