The first steps on the path of what is now the University of Beira Interior (UBI) were given in the 70, when the Instituto Politécnico da Covilhã (IPC) was born, in 1973. The city, once considered "The Portuguese Manchester", by its long tradition, dynamics and wool quality, was struck, in this decade, by an industrial crisis: large and small factories had begun to reveal serious weaknesses that would lead to their closure, with disastrous social and economic consequences for the region.
It was in this panorama, and since the beginning of the activities of the working group for the Regional Planning of Cova da Beira, that the idea to create a higher education institution in the region came up, in order to provide their inhabitants the possibility to pursue post-secondary studies without the obligation to move to other parts of the country, most of the times forever.
Thus, after the publication of the Decree-Law 73/402, of 11 August, in the context of the so-called "Veiga Simão Reform", which led to the expansion and diversification of higher education, the IPC was created and received, in 1975, his first 143 students, in Textile Engineering and Administration and Accounting courses. In July 1979, six years later, the institution becomes Instituto Universitário (University Institute) of Beira Interior (IUBI) (Law 44/79 of 11 September).
IUBI conversion occurred in 1986 (Decree-Law 76-B/86, of 30 April), having the expansion areas and protection of Poles I, II and III been regulated by Government Decree No. 33/87, of 2 November. Pole IV came afterwards, in 1996, with courses in Social Sciences and Humanities.
The first Rector of UBI was Professor Cândido Manuel Passos Morgado, which would keep himself in office between August 21, 1980 and January 19, 1996, date on which Professor Manuel José dos Santos Silva began his functions as Rector until June 19, 2009. On this date Professor João António de Sampaio Rodrigues Queiroz takes over as the third Rector of the institution. He was followed by Professor António Fidalgo, who took over the September 5, 2013 and remained in office until June 8, 2021, when the fifth and current Rector, Professor Mário Lino Barata Raposo, takes over.
The UBI's statutes were revised in accordance with the Legal Regime of the Higher Education Institutions (Law 62/2007 of 10 September). One of the most interesting of UBI’s physical features is the fact that the institution is the result of the recovery of ancient buildings, of great historic, cultural and architectural value. At the same time, it has been possible to preserve some historical landmarks of the city and revitalize them in spaces conceived for teaching and research.
The construction of the IPC had already begun through the recovery of its previous building in the headquarters of Batalhão dos Caçadores 2, settled in Real Fábrica dos Panos (Royal Rags Factory, from the time of Marquis of Pombal), located in one of the traditional centres of industrial concentration in Covilhã, next to the Ribeira da Degoldra.
During the conversion works, in 1975, some buried archaeological structures were found, which belonged to the dry cleaners of the Real Fábrica de Panos, an important wool factory, built in the 18th century by the Marquis of Pombal. After two campaigns of archaeological intervention and a broad investigation, the structure that would give place to the first nucleus of the UBI’s Wool Museum was built. It was opened to the public in 1996.
Thus, the old industrial buildings located at the south entrance of Covilhã became, almost naturally, not only a logical solution and of continuity as regards the University physical expansion, but also an option that resulted in a huge benefit to the city, in urban terms and environmental impact, through the recovery of abandoned buildings or ruins that constituted a significant part of the Covilhã industrial heritage making the UBI a unique case in the Portuguese University.
In the 90s, the University was expanded to the far north of the city, along the Ribeira da Carpinteira. In 2006, the construction of the Faculty of Health Sciences was concluded, thus fulfilling the setup program of the Medicine course infrastructures, which started functioning in 2001/2002.
Currently, the UBI hosts more than 8 thousand students spread across five faculties – Arts and Letters, Sciences, Health Sciences, Social and Human Sciences, Engineering – with a formative offer adequate to Bologna, as well as laboratory and research structures to support the teaching process and with strong links to society and to the business world.