One hundred years after the University Reform of Córdoba: a necessary reflection


One hundred years after the University Reform of Córdoba: a necessary reflection


A cien años de la Reforma Universitaria de Córdoba: una reflexión necesaria



Fidel Arístides Díaz Sosa, Adrián Alfonso Izquierdo, Lisandra Lara González

Villa Clara University of Medical Sciences. Cuba.



To the editor:

One hundred years is enough time to reflect on the importance of a process: the University Reform of Cordoba is one of those moments on which it is essential to return again and again.

On April 11, 1918, the Argentine University Federation was founded and this summoned the First National Congress of University Students, its representatives met in Córdoba, in July of that year. The topics to be debated were related to university co-government (students and teachers) and university autonomy.1

It is true that the students' concern went beyond the purely academic fields and went into topics such as the democratization of society and the participation of students in national life; hence, this movement will soon reach a social and political dimension.

The Congress approved a "University Law Project" and a "Statutory Bases Project", with the principles on which the new university should be organized. The reform is summarized in the objectives: open the university to broader sectors of students regardless of their origin and social position, free assistance to facilitate access for workers, welcome into teaching all competent intellectuals and professionals, regardless of their ideologies and origins, democratize university government and the achievement of autonomy, and link the university with the people and the life of the nation, what they called the university social mission.1

The publication of the "Manifesto of Córdoba" with these estimates, soon reached great repercussion in the entire region, because the Latin American universities and the societies had the same problems. The debate that was generated brought the university and its place in national life to the forefront. The reform movement spread to countries such as Chile, Uruguay, Colombia, Mexico and Cuba in which it had the greatest impact.

Many personalities were related to the reform movement, because it served as a catalyst for the posing of diverse demands of the popular forces, but its great figure, guide and inspirer was the Argentine philosopher and doctor José Ingenieros. It is difficult not to overvalue his thinking and influence on Latin American youth, he was the greatest representative of a very Latin American positivism, his ideas are closer to Marxism, with books as influential as "The mediocre man", "The moral forces" and "Towards a moral without dogmas ". He was a true mentor for those young people eager for change. To speak of his relevance, it is enough to mention his influence on the thought of Julio Antonio Mella and to have been recognized as one of the foundations in the formation of such important personalities as Raúl Roa, Fidel Castro and Ernesto Guevara.

The decade of 1920 in Cuba opens with the airs of the University Reformation; a new generation enters these grounds and poses novel challenges. The First National Congress of Students presided by Mella, agreed in 1923, to fight for the same principles enunciated by the youth of Cordoba and approves a declaration of rights and duties of the student, which incorporates the main claims of that, only that for Mella, a process of social changes should go side by side with the university reform, so he seeks for a "new generation" and not just a "new university" as proposed by the movement of Cordoba.2

On January 10, 1923, the Federation of Students of the University of Havana published the Manifesto of Cordoba to spread their claims about the reform. On January 15 the university occupation took place, and on the 22nd the Mixed Commission of Teachers and Students was constituted. Throughout this process the influence of the Reform of Córdoba and José Ingenieros was evident; but Mella imposes a touch of radicalism that leads him to transition from a university reform to the conception of a popular university, especially with the creation of the "José Martí" Popular University.2

Other elements which characterized the movement of the cuban university reform were the demands of a scientific teaching instead of the predominant scholastic one and the participation of the university in social life; it is to stand out the support to this movement given by distinguished professors like Enrique José Varona y el Dr. Eusebio Hernández

Graciella Pogolotti, from the height of her teaching, published an article entitled: "My university" in the Juventud Rebelde newspaper of January 7, 2018, where she assessed the specificity of the reform movement in Cuba by assuming that: "Mella understood the scope of the challenge. Teacher reform and transformative revolution were inseparable".

The Cuban reform of 1923 provided a light, but it could not materialize its deepest intentions; it was truncated by the advent of the Machado dictatorship. It was the university reform led by Fidel Castro and the triumphant revolution that materialized, in all its scope, the renovating and transforming purpose of Córdoba and Ingenieros and the generation of the 1920s.

When the Cuban Revolution carried out the university reform of 1962, it did it on January 10, because Mella represents the socialist university reform, the connection between Ingenieros, Córdoba and the socialist university. The university revolution led by Mella was a historical antecedent and reference of the reform carried out by the Revolution in 1962, as well as for other transformations impelled in Cuban higher education, characterized by the impetus to the indissoluble link university-society and the revolutionary commitment of these institutions and their students.

One hundred years may seem to be a long time, but going back to Pogolotti: "In the centenary of the reformist movement in Córdoba, we can not revisit history from an archaeological perspective. It is a propitious occasion to unleash a brainstorm at the service of the great challenges of contemporaneity". Then, this celebration is worthwhile to promote the necessary debate around the university in Cuba today and tomorrow.


Declaration of interests

The authors declare no conflict of interest.



1. Tunnermann C. 90 años de la Reforma universitaria de Córdoba (1918-2008). Buenos Aires: Consejo Latinoamericano de Ciencias Sociales, 2008.

2. Rodríguez Rodríguez CR. La Reforma Universitaria. Economía y Desarrollo [Internet]. 2012 [citado 25 Ene 2018];148(2):[aprox. 19 p.]. Disponible en:



Submitted: January 18 2018.
Accepted: February 27 2018.



Fidel Díaz Sosa. Villa Clara University of Medical Sciences. Cuba. E-mail:

Copyright (c) 2018 EDUMECENTRO