From The Beginning...
The first settlements in the place of today's Rijeka emerged as early as the Roman Era, probably due to the fact that even back then the coast of the Rijeka Gulf was considered a safe harbour for ships of that period, while the clear Rječina River provided an abundant supply of drinkable water. Proof of that are castrum remnants located in the city’s very centre today.

During the Middle Ages Rijeka based its development firstly through various opportunities provided by its good trading position, however, considering its relative proximity to large and important Italian ports, this development is rather modest. Still, in those times of frequent political and military turmoil, the significance of education was clearly recognized within the request of the city fathers for the establishment of Jesuit schools and institutes as early as 1623. Following the request the Jesuit Gymnasium commenced teaching on November 23rd, 1627, when lectures on Moral Theology had started. Keeping in mind the existence of their own library, the date marked the beginning of higher education in Rijeka. With the Charter of King Ferdinand II from July 31st, 1633, students attending the Jesuit course were granted the same rights and privileges the students of the University of Graz, Vienna and elsewhere in Europe had.

The next step was taken on February 4th, 1724, and it also includes the City Council, which requested the establishment of Philosophy Studies, which it would subsidize. The Emperor Karl VI gave his approval on June 1st that same year. The Faculty of Philosophy was established in 1726 as a two-year study programme. The Theological Faculty held classes intermittently from 1623, and on a regular basis as of 1728.

Unfortunately, the dedicated Jesuit activities were brought to an end with the termination of their Order in 1773. From then until 1780 the public Royal Academy was active. The higher education of priest apprentices was continued by the secular clergy at the Higher Philosophy and Theological College in Senj, with minor interruptions, from 1806 to 1940.

In the 18th and 19th century Rijeka became a significant European industrial and trade centre, whose daily was printed in four foreign languages, and a city where all European achievements were  easily accepted. Rijeka had its first printing-house as early as 1530; the Sugar Refinery and the Rope Factory started operating in 1750, the Paper Factory and the Ganz-Danubius Shipyard (today's “3. Maj”/ “3rd May” Shipyard) in 1833, the first gas plant in this part of Europe started operating in 1852, while the Petroleum Refinery in 1882. The ever-present inclination towards new technologies is underlined by the fact that the first torpedo was invented and constructed in 1866 at the Rijeka Technical Institute (in reality, a steam boiler and machine factory), while in 1866 Peter Salcher photographed the path of a bullet and thereby confirmed the Mach theory of sound barrier in Rijeka.

The revival of higher education in Rijeka took place in the 19th century. The Imperial Royal Naval Academy (K.u.K. Marine Akademie) was established with transference from Trieste in 1857, but just for a year, only to continue its work in 1866, until 1918. In Pula, the Imperial Royal Naval-Technical Committee (K.u.k. Marine-Technisches Komitee) existed from 1866, and the Marine Library (K.u.k. Marine-Bibliothek) from 1869.

In the period from 1912 to 1918 the Hungarian Royal Export Academy in Rijeka (A Fiumei Magyar Kiralyi Kiviteli Akademia) functioned as a higher level educational institution. The part-singing of Croatian, Latin, Italian, German and Hungarian languages, which had set a European tone in classrooms for centuries, faded away between two World Wars. At that point in time all higher education activity ceased to exist in Rijeka and Sušak.

Higher education was revived in Rijeka with the foundation of the Theological College on October 15th, 1947, the Merchant Marine College on April 4th, 1949, the Teachers School of Professional Higher Education (1953), the Hospitality and Catering School of Professional Higher Education in Opatija (1960) and especially with the founding of the Faculty of Medicine in 1955, the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering (1960) and the Faculty of Economics (1961) and the Higher Technical and Civil Engineering (1969). Institutes were also opening throughout Pula and Gospić in close cooperation with higher education institutes established in Rijeka: the Higher School of Economy (1960), the Teachers School of Professional Higher Education (1961), as well as the Teachers School of Professional Higher Education in Gospić (1963).

Today’s University was founded on May 17th, 1973. It was active under the name of “Vladimir Bakarić” from 1983 to the early nineties, when it once again changed its name to the “University of Rijeka.” The University directed its educational and scientific activities towards the area of the then Municipal Districts of Rijeka and spread over the area of Western Croatia, especially the areas of the Istria, Lika and Gorski Kotar as well as the Kvarner Islands. The already existent higher education institutions were improved while new institutions were being established at the same time, such as the Faculty of Law (1973). The development of its members had since successfully continued, and in the early 80s the majority of them had profiled themselves into respectable scientific centres.

Up to the Republic of Croatia’s independence, the University of Rijeka consisted of 10 faculties (Faculties of Economics, Hospitality and Tourism Management, Civil Engineering, Medicine, Education/Pedagogy, Maritime, Law and Engineering, respectively) in Rijeka and two (the Faculties of Economics and Tourism and Faculty of Pedagogy) in Pula, followed by two University libraries (in Rijeka and Pula). At that time the Student Centre was already active within the framework of the University of Rijeka, and its main objective was taking care of the student living standard (accommodation, meals and occasional student employment). During the late nineties the Faculty of Pedagogy changed its name to the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, the Faculty in Pula following suit.

Following the Republic of Croatia’s independence and particularly its development which ensued with the end of the Croatian War of Independence the University has been provided with new possibilities and it has been striving to strengthen its educational, research and scientific capabilities. In regard to that, employment of young teachers and researchers has been particularly emphasized, as has the all-around strengthening of educational and research support and equipment. During the late nineties, the return of eminent Croatian researchers who are scattered all over the world has been set as a priority in addition to numerous young people employed at the University. At the same time, the City of Rijeka, all the while remaining a cosmopolitan city, has slowly but surely changed its identity from a one-time industrial centre towards service activities at its core. The derelict industrial edifices are morphing into valuable cultural heritage, frequently as a unique scene for numerous cultural events as well as scientific meetings. In such circumstances the University attempts to facilitate the development of a knowledge-based society thus actively participates in the development of the City of Rijeka and the Primorsko-goranska County.

The development of the University Campus on Trsat began in 2003 when the former military area was handed over to the University of Rijeka for further use. As a result of the handover, a new University unit was founded in 2005, namely, the Academy of Applied Art, which is the first of its kind in the Republic of Croatia. At the same time, the University of Rijeka commenced with the implementation of the Bologna Process, thus transforming and upgrading all its study programmes.

The year 2006 brought further restructuring changes, and therewith the Teachers School of Professional Higher Education in Rijeka became the Faculty of Teacher Education. Furthermore, in November of the same year, the Istria-based constituents separated, namely, the Faculty of Philosophy in Pula, the Faculty of Economics and Tourism “Dr. Mijo Mirković“, the Department of Teacher Training in Pula and the University Library Pula. With the development of the higher education system in the Republic of Croatia the need for founding a new university in the Northwest part of the country had arisen. Therefore, the youngest Croatian University “Juraj Dobrila“ was founded in Pula.

In late 2007 the University of Rijeka founded the first University Departments: the University Departments of Mathematics, Physics, Information and Computer Science as well as the University Department of Biotechnology, founded in early 2009.

Today the University consists of 9 faculties, an Academy of Applied Arts, 4 University Departments, a University Library and Student Centre.

Finally, in late 2010, along with the Academy of Applied Arts, the University Campus on Trsat gained new tenants: the Faculties of Humanities and Social Sciences and Teacher Education, while the Faculty of Civil Engineering relocation as well as that of all University Departments is expected in the near future.