Zadar has a centuries-old university tradition, the longest in Croatia: following the tradition of ecclesiastical education, first mentioned in the 10th century, a Dominican higher education institution Studium generale, later known as the Universitas Iadertina, was founded as early as 14 June 1396. The town of Zadar was not chosen as a university centre by chance: at the time, it flourished as the most important naval point in the Austro-Hungarian Empire, where the seats of governmental institutions were situated, including the seat of the Austro-Hungarian Ban and the Hungarian-Croatian War Navy. The first Rector of the University was John of Dyrrachium, since Zadar’s General University succeeded the previously founded University of Dyrrachium, that retreated to Zadar amid the mounting Turkish threats in South-eastern Europe. From 1396 to 1553 (with the interruption from 1481 to 1495 due to the Ottoman invasion) Zadar’s Studium generale was the first university consisting of two faculties, the lower and higher level studies of Philosophy and Theology. In 1553 it received the status of “the privileged university”, with the right to award the highest academic degrees, including a doctorate. Given that the number of doctorates was limited by the provinces of the Dominican Order, since 1692 the Dalmatian province was allowed to award 10 doctoral and 6 baccalaureate degrees. According to preserved records from 1553 to 1807, 105 doctoral, 96 baccalaureate and 214 lecturer degrees were awarded. In the epoch of the Napoleonic Wars, when Dalmatia became a part of the French Empire, the French government abolished the University of Zadar on 8 January 1807. The professors of the abolished university were given a state pension, and some of them continued their work with exceptional results such as Nikola Budrović, who became the translator and editor of the Croatian section of Zadar's „Kraljski Dalmatin“, the first newspaper in the Croatian language.
The abolition of the University of Zadar did not signify the end of the higher education in Zadar. As early as 24 October 1806, a lyceum that consolidated high school education (the gymnasium) and higher education was founded. The Zadar’s Lyceum offered a higher education level in surgery, medicine, chemistry and law. In 1809, after a three-year activity, the civil governor of Dalmatia, Vicenzo Dandolo, ordered special university studies to be formed out of the Lyceum, where students could earn a diploma to become a doctor, junior or senior surgeon, pharmacist, architectural engineer, surveyor and lawyer. Amid political turmoil, the aforementioned cluster of studies was initiated by the foundation of the Central School in 1810, when the study of Theology was also introduced. The first and only academic degrees were awarded to twenty graduates. Despite the initial successful achievements, the first modern university in Croatia was abolished due to financial scarcity on 12 December 1811, by the decree of Henry Bertrand, Governor of Illyrian provinces. Parallel to the Zadar’s Dominican University and to the Central School, the study of higher Theology at Theological Seminary Florio, founded in 1656, also existed in Zadar. After the Archdiocese of Zadar had become the seat of Dalmatian ecclesiastical province, the study of Theology progressed to a higher study in Theology , the Studium Theologicum, at the central Seminary for Dalmatia (1828-1922).
During the revolutionary years in the middle of the 19th century, a private law school was active in Zadar (1848-1851). Furthermore, Zadar was the centre of the Orthodox Seminary from 1869 to 1920.
The modern development of higher education in Zadar started in 1955 with passing of the Act on Founding the University of Zagreb's Faculty of Philosophy in Zadar. Miroslav Krleža, a Croatian writer, had a significant role in founding the faculty, with the intention to emphasize a Croatian component of higher education development on the eastern coast of the Adriatic. At the time, some scientists were writing about the nucleus of the “Adriatic” university that would have a seat in Zadar. The lectures at the newly founded Faculty of Philosophy in Zadar, a division of the University of Zagreb, started in 1956. In 1974, the Faculty of Philosophy in Zadar was affiliated to the University of Split. During the first working years of the University of Split, the Faculty of Philosophy in Zadar was its largest institution. In fact, considering the number of its sections, teaching staff and students, the Faculty of Philosophy was the largest higher education institution on the Croatian coast of the Adriatic. In 1961, the Pedagogical Academy was also founded (in 1979 it was incorporated into the Faculty of Philosophy), and in 1988 the Teacher Training College was separated from the Faculty of Philosophy in Zadar. The Teacher Training College, together with the faculty of Philosophy, made the basis of the University of Zadar that the Croatian Parliament founded in 2002, or more precisely renewed regarding its 14th century higher education tradition. In 2003, when the formal work of the University of Zadar commenced, 607 years of continuous higher education had passed since the time of the founders: Raimun de Vineis from Capua, the Master of the Dominican Order, and Reverend John of Dyrrachium, the Rector.
In 2002, 46 years after the beginning of its work in 1956, the Faculty of Philosophy in Zadar comprised 16 divisions and 17 different study groups, 6 postgraduate studies, part-time and complementary study programmes with 3400 students, 240 employees, out of which 180 teaching staff and associates (including 60 external associates and foreign lecturers). By founding the University of Zadar on 4 July 2002, and in accordance with its Founding Act, the aforementioned institutions, together with the Students’ Centre in Zadar, were reorganised into 16 university departments and 9 expert services. The University of Zadar was registered at the Commercial Court in Zadar on 29 January 2003. An election for the composition of the Senate was called in February 2003. Upon completion of the election on 25 March 2003, the first constituting session of the Senate of the University of Zadar was summoned. The Statute of the University was adopted in the session, and the election for the rector was called. The date was later chosen as the Day of the University of Zadar (Dies Academici) and it has been marked annually since then.
Today, the University of Zadar is the largest integrated University in the Republic of Croatia, which includes 25 university departments: English Department, Department of Archaeology, Department of Classical Philology, Department of Croatian and Slavic Studies, Department of Ecology, Agronomy and Aquaculture, Department of Economics, Department of Ethnology and Cultural Anthropology, Department of French and Iberoromance Studies, Department of Geography, Department of German Studies, Department of Health Studies, Department of History, Department of the History of Art, Department of Italian Studies, Department of Library and Information Sciences, Department of Linguistics, Department of Pedagogy, Department of Philosophy, Department of Psychology, Department of Sociology, Department of Teachers’ and Preschool Teachers’ Education, Department of Teacher’s Studies in Gospić, Department of Traffic and Maritime Studies, Department of Tourism and Communication Sciences, Department of Theology.
Departments perform studies on three levels: undergraduate, graduate and postgraduate.
In order to organise and promote scientific-research activities, the University has founded four scientific-research centres as its constituent units. These include: the Centre for Adriatic Onomastic Research, Centre StjepanMatičević, Centre for Karst and Coastal Research and Centre for Interdisciplinary Marine and Maritime Research - CIMMAR.
In addition, there are two active centres for professional and teaching activities: the Centre for Gymnastics and Student Sport and the Centre for Foreign Languages.
The total number of students in the above mentioned studies is 6000, and the total number of the University’s employees is 588, out of which there are 413 teaching staff (287 Doctors of Science (Dr. Sc.) or Doctors of Arts (Dr.A). and 22 Masters of Science (MSc) or Masters of Arts (MA)). The University’s services employ 175 staff members, and the University’s Business Centre employs 38 staff members.*
In the area between Suhovare and Islam Grčki, the University has leased 195 hectares of agricultural land (the University’s agricultural estate Baštica) on which various cultivars of apples and vine are grown. Besides apples, apple products such as 100% natural apple juice and apple chips can also be purchased. High quality wine, made out of selected grape varieties characteristic for our climate, is also produced.
Since 2010, the bookstore Citadela operates within the University premises. All University publications, but also the publications of various Croatian and foreign publishers used for scientific research and classes, are available in the bookstore. In addition, the visitors can buy different souvenirs with motifs of the University of Zadar, as well as the products of the Baštica estate.
The University of Zadar cooperates with numerous Croatian and foreign institutions and academic associations, through membership in international organisations and communities, and through cooperative contracts with other universities.
The University actively encourages the participation of its units in international competitive projects; incoming and outgoing mobility of students, academics and academic administration; joint studies with foreign universities; contacts and encounters with domestic and foreign representatives of the academic, political and economic communities (diplomats, rectors, representatives of international organisations and government, representatives of religious institutions, etc. ).
Special attention is given to the cooperation with local and regional communities through preparation and execution of joint projects, participation in creation of strategic development planning documents, the encouragement of the civil society development, organising various activities with the aim to popularise science, encourage research and sustainable regard for cultural and natural heritage.
Owing to the diligent and responsible work of its staff and students, the University of Zadar performs scientific, teaching and professional work, grows and progresses each day and contributes to general development.
* Data from 9 May 2016