The University of Parma was already in existence during the eleventh century, due to an evolution of the Episcopal School, where liberal arts of the trivium and the quadrivium were taught.
Students used to gather in associative bodies (corporationes) which constituted the universitas. Professors were organized in collegia. Universitates and the collegia formed the Studium.
During the communal period the University of Parma knew alternating fortunes and during the age of Seigniories (Signorie) , it was occasionally closed and was often in competition with other universities, such as Bologna, Padua and Pavia. Under the Farnese seignory, its academic activity acquired greater stability and prestige. Humanistic disciplines (Arts, Philosophy and Theology) were mostly taught by Jesuits, in the Palace of San Rocco (which currently hosts the Department of Law and formerly the Faculty of Law). Scientific faculties (Law , Medicine, Sciences), located in the San Francesco Palace (near the area currently named Borgo degli Studi) were mostly composed of laic professors. In 1601 Ranuccio Farnese endowed the University with renewed statutes (costitutiones) and special privileges.
The University of Parma suffered a period of misfortune after the extinction of the Farnese family and under the Austrian domination (1736-48). It received new impulse by the Constitutions for new studies (1768) written by P. Maria Paciaudi, belonging to the order of S. Gaetano of Thiene, who was the closest collaborator of the Minister Du Tillot in the program of cultural and educational renewal of the Duchy. During this period, the Faculty of Law was reformed and the Botanical Gardens were created. Scientific faculties were provided with an anatomical theatre and with physics and chemistry labs. In 1802, under the French domination on Parma, the University was transformed into an Academy, regaining its independence and its original name only during 1816.
Due to the revolts of 1831, the Faculty of Law was transferred to Piacenza and moved back to the previous capital of the Duchy only in 1854. Shortly before the unification of Italy, under the dictatorship of Luigi Carlo Farini in the provinces of Emilia, the University of Parma (like the University of Modena ) was declared a “second-class” university and was deprived of the Faculty of Philosophy. In 1867 the Faculty of Theology was also suppressed, while that of Sciences was reduced to a two-years course. During the second half of the nineteenth and the first half of the twentieth centuries the following faculties have been active in Parma: Law, Medicine, Physics, Mathematics and Botany, Veterinary Science and Pharmacy.
In accordance with the recent national reform of the University system, the long-standing Faculty of Law, previously composed of “Institutes” and later of “Departments”, has been transformed into the Department of Law starting from 25 July 2012.