The University of Trento is one of the youngest Italian universities: founded in 1962 as a higher university institute for social sciences, it became the Faculty of Sociology with the aim of modernize a rather conservative and traditionalist society. In 1972 the Istituto Superiore di Scienze Sociali became the Libera Università degli Studi di Trento (a private university), which included a Faculty of Sociology, a Faculty of Sciences (awarding degrees in Mathematics and Physics), and a Faculty of Economics (awarding degrees in Political economics and Business studies).
The impact with the city was quite contradictory: the University was seen both as a motivating force for cultural openness and the creation of a new leading class, but also as a fracturing element of protest. Trento's prestige - for some to be forgotten and negative, for others fruitful and positive - started towards the end of the sixties. In these years in fact, there was a high presence in town of young people - inspired by ideals of changing the world - who gave a shake to the quiet city of Trento.
The academic project was once again improved in 1984 with the Faculties of Arts and Humanities and Law and in 1985 with the Faculty of Engineering. In 2004, the University Council of Administration officially instituted the Faculty of Cognitive sciences in Rovereto, which is now the seventh of the Faculties at the University of Trento. The newly-instituted Faculty brings together teaching and research activities begun in recent years in the fields of education, cognition and specialist teaching methodology.
In keeping with the special autonomous status of the Province of Trento, the University of Trento is now governed by a special statute of autonomy drawn up by its Council of Administration.