Established in 1973, the University accepted its first students in 1977-78. It now has 16 Departments in 5 Schools (Philosophy, Education, Social, Economic & Political Sciences, Sciences & Engineering, and Medicine) as well as a number of affiliated research-oriented institutions, including the Skinakas Observatory, the Natural History Museum, and the University General Hospital.
Crete currently benefits from an academic and technological environment of international standards which has been built up over the last 30 years through a cluster of research orientated institutions including the University, the Institutes of the Foundation for Research and Technology-Hellas (FORTH), which has its headquarters in Heraklion, Institute of Marine Biology, Biotechnology and Aquaculture (IMBBC), and the University General Hospital (PagNi), as well as other HEIs in the region – the Technical University (TUC) the Technological Educational Institute (TEI),and the Mediterranean Agronomic Institute of Hania (MAIch).
Research and research training activities at the University are organized along the lines of the Divisions within each Department. Research activity follows the classic academic model insofar as it is driven by the initiatives of scholars and scientists in developing their own curiosity-driven or practice-based projects or working in collaboration with other research groups.
The modern purpose built central library in Rethymnon and campus libraries in Heraklion have one of the largest collections in Greece of printed academic titles and journals, including an important collection of rare books on Greek history and civilization, as well as digital information sources (e-journals, databases, and other materials in digital format).
The organizational structure of University administration is subject to detailed, frequently amended, rules and regulations as determined primarily by the Ministry of Education. Administrative, academic and related support services have evolved within and around this framework, in line with the development and associated needs of the University and the University community. This is an on-going process.