Inspired by a profound desire for cultural co-operation, the Rector of the University of Bari and a group of Universities professors combined to lay the foundations for a stable union of University Cultural Institutions. This collaborative undertaking aimed to promote the civil and social development of peoples which, despite their wide geographical divergence, have always been united by slender but enduring threads, not only due to geographical links but also of an ethical and religious nature.

The Community of Mediterranean Universities (CMU) was thus set up in 1983, to generate a process of renewal and modernisation which would help its adhering members to overcome many serious problems. As the years passed, this process has continued by means of a series of initiatives that have met with such widespread support that the CMU now numbers over 160 members.

In the course of nearly twentyfive years of activities, CMU has maintained an intense rhythm of activities, as demonstrated by the number of grants bestowed on young research workers from Universities in the Mediterranean area, by participation in research projects set up by at least three Universities from at least three Mediterranean countries, by the opening of the Mediterranean University Schools which aim to promote both scientific meetings and training courses for University researchers.

CMU also has strong connections with supranational organisation like UNESCO, the European Union, the European Council.
Afirst co-operative agreement signed with UNESCO on the 7.10.1992 was followed by another subscribed on the 2.8.97, which officially recognised the CMU as an NGO – formal relations (consultative).