The origins of the university are in the House of Teaching of Santo Tomás, founded in 1814 and that from 1843 became the University of Santo Tomás.
After 45 years of contributions, it was closed for political, economic and academic reasons, but its work was perpetuated through the Faculties of Law, Agronomy, Fine Arts and Pharmacy, which continued to function independently.
On the legacy of the University of Santo Tomás, the University of Costa Rica was created on August 26, 1940, through the Law of the Republic No. 362. Its doors were opened in March 1941.
On March 7, 1941, the University of Costa Rica opened its doors in the central González Lahmann neighborhood of the capital, with 719 students enrolled.
It is structured in a tripartite manner by the University Assembly, the University Council and the Rectory. From its beginning, the autonomy that the university has today was part of its organizational model, dreamed of this way by Luis Demetrio Tinoco, and was indicated in article 4 of its constitutive law that sought government, administrative and financial autonomy. From the beginning, the university’s status as public was proposed, as it is a service that guarantees equal opportunity of access to education and is linked to democracy.
From the discussion of this congress the creation of the Vice-rectory for Research emerged; and in 1974 the Vice-rectory of Social Action was created, which covers three areas: social service by the student body (University Community Work), the cultural extension of the University and the dissemination of university work through various communication media.
In 2001, the University of Costa Rica was declared by the Legislative Assembly as a Meritorious Institution of Education and Culture of Costa Rica, through decree No. 8098.
In this first decade of the new millennium, the University stands out for its link with the productive sector through the technological transfer of research carried out in its centers, institutes, laboratories and experimental stations. Also for its expansion in social action projects, especially University Community Work, continuing education and cultural extension in various parts of the country.
Alma Mater continues to exercise its social role with participation in struggles such as the ICE Combo, the Free Trade Agreement, open-pit mining, among others and through its media: Radioemisoras UCR, El Semanario Universidad and the UCR Channel, strengthening public opinion and opening alternative cultural spaces.
The University of Costa Rica is among the 500 best universities in the world. In 2018, it went from the 471-480 range registered in 2017 to the 411-420 range, improving 60 positions, according to the “2018 QS World University Rankings”.