The history of UPO officially starts in 1998, but the first Studium generale dates back to 1228 and was established in Vercelli. It was the seventh university to be settled in Italy and the twelfth in Europe, according to the History of the University in Europe by Jacques Verger (1992).
We know that the medieval University cannot be compared to the present one, which is spread over three towns and is one of the most recent academic institutions in Italy.
In 1228 Vercelli was a wealthy, flourishing commune, which levied duties and taxes, provided financial support to the foundation of free villages, enlarged its urban area and built the majestic Saint Andrew’s Basilica, the world-famous symbol of the town made known thanks to the diplomatic mission of Cardinal Guala Bicchieri in England.
Little by little the town became suitable for an international community of scholars, according to the trend of endemic migrations that characterized the history of the very first European Universities.
That is why a group of Bononian students settled in Padua decided to move towards North-Western Italy. Two delegates of the commune of Vercelli – Alberto Bondono and Guglielmo Ferrario – and the representatives of the Paduan University endorsed the Charta Studii, which was the document that formally instituted the University of Vercelli. The commune of Vercelli placed 500 lodgings at students’ disposal, granted favourable loans and paid the salary to fourteen teachers.
This first university closed in 1341, with ups and downs, breaks and resumptions. Had so many centuries of silence not passed, we would have now celebrated the 788th year from the foundation.
It is only from 1969 that the name of the University of Vercelli starts to be used again. That year, on initiative of the Town Hospital and of the Faculty of Medicine and Surgery of the University of Turin, some academic courses are offered in Vercelli and, some years later, in Novara.
The forthcoming idea of founding a new University, totally independent from Turin, has roots in its past experience. Across the Eighties and the Nineties the University of Turin planned to develop the twin-centres of Alessandria, Novara and Vercelli, first as dependent faculties, then as autonomous, but networking centres.
On 30th July 1998 the University of Eastern Piedmont was evntually founded. On that day Luigi Berlinguer, former Minister of University and Scientific Research, signed the institutive decree. The dedication of the institution to the famous scientist Amedeo Avogadro was due to the necessity of giving a unifying characterization to the University that was spread over three different provinces. The Statute was published on 4th January 2002 and included seven faculties.
The local communities provided good support to the University settlement, along with remarkable investments made by the University itself. Today, every department is located in prestigious historical buildings that have been equipped with cutting edge technology.
Due to the reform of the University system in 2011, the older faculties disappeared and seven new departments were established; teaching and research are now linked and carried out together.