UERN, initially established in Mossoró, has now become a prestigious university not only in Rio Grande do Norte, but in Northeast Brazil as a whole. Its reputation has attracted students from across the Northeastern states, with a particular concentration from Ceará and Paraíba. Created in 1968 by Municipal Law no. 20/68, UERN has undergone a process of territorial and academic expansion, and is consolidating itself as a socially referenced institution. UERN’s importance is solidified by this context as the university is essential for the social and economic development of the state of Rio Grande do Norte. In 2021, the implementation of Law 11.045/2021 granted UERN financial and property management autonomy, ensuring the necessary institutional stability for the execution of its financial planning and the achievement of its annual strategic goals. Today, the university has 6 campuses, in the cities of Mossoró, Assú, Caicó, Natal, Patu, and Pau dos Ferros. The Apodi campus has also been established and is currently in the implementation process. Recently, with the establishment of new courses by the Directorate of Distance Education (DEaD), the institution has expanded its territorial reach with 15 face-to-face support centers for courses offered remotely. UERN’s presence in the state is so widespread that there is not a single city more than 70 km away from one of these university units.

UERN slogan reveals much about the worldview of its founders and their vision for the role of a university: Liber vi spiritus – free through the power of the spirit. These humanists believed in the transformative power of education for the emancipation of individuals and a region. They also believed in the power of a university to bring about this emancipation. Led by Professor João Batista Cascudo Rodrigues, UERN founders understood the crucial relationship between the university and regional development. Throughout its existence, UERN has effectively acted as an agent of change in at least three key areas: developing human resources, generating knowledge about the region, and proposing solutions for its development.

UERN currently offers 58 undergraduate courses, including 1 technology course and 6 distance learning courses, with more than 11,000 students enrolled. Each year, the institution admits around 2,500 students. It currently offers several graduate courses, attended by more than 1,400 students, including 22 master’s degree programs in various fields such as Physics, Computer Science, Linguistics and Literature, Natural Sciences, Education, Social and Human Sciences, Health and Society, Teaching, Social Service and Social Rights, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Professional Master’s Program in Linguistics and Literature, Planning and Territorial Dynamics of the Semi-arid, Economics, Geography, Language Sciences, and Biology. The institution also provides four doctoral programs in the fields of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Linguistics and Literature, and Physiological Sciences. In addition, it offers three Medical Residency programs in Family and Community Medicine, Gynecology and Obstetrics, and a Multi-professional Residency in Basic Attention and Community Health.

In the research field, the institution has 114 certified research groups registered under the Directory of Research Groups in Brazil from the National Council for Scientific and Technological Development (CNPq), covering all areas of knowledge, namely: exact and earth sciences, applied social sciences, humanities, life sciences, linguistics, literature and arts. Regarding institutionalized research projects with the Directorate of Research and Innovation, there are a total of 374 active projects, with 287 projects from Research and Technological Initiation Programs under PIBIC, PIBITI, and PIBIC-EM Calls and 87 institutionalized through Continuous Flow Calls. Progress in teaching and research is also visible in the field of extension: many projects are approved, and a large number of actions are carried out.

Undoubtedly, UERN is a constantly evolving institution. To prove it, it is enough to verify that in 2009 the institution had 146 doctoral degree holders, and currently, its faculty is composed of 450 doctoral and 258 master’s degree holders, in a universe of 766 permanent teachers. But there are other indicators of this progress: the recognition of undergraduate courses by the State Council of Education, the good evaluation of many courses by ENADE (the National Student Performance Exam), adherence by candidates to the selection process by ENEM/Sisu (that is the entrance exam and admission system for universities in Brazil), the expansion in the offer of distance education, postgraduate education, strengthening of inclusive and internationalization policies, and various training programs. As a result of institutional actions, we can highlight the increasing approval of graduates in public exams, medical residencies, bar exams, and master’s and doctoral selections. The increase in resource mobilization, international collaborations, formalization of agreements and amendments at the municipal, state, and federal levels also validate this information.

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