Universidad San Francisco de Quito USFQ, so named in honour of the capital city of Ecuador, Quito, was founded in 1988 in response to the need of a high-quality private higher education institution in Ecuador. Its creation was promoted by the non-profit organization Corporación de Promoción Universitaria, a NGO founded by important Ecuadorian scientists and businesspeople and recognised in 1985 by the Ecuadorian Government.
USFQ opened on 1 September 1988 in a mansion located on Ave. 12 de Octubre 1983 and Salazar street, in the northern area of the city of Quito. It started with 130 students distributed on three colleges: College of Business, College of Applied Sciences, and College of Communications and Culture. On September 1990, the College of Environmental Sciences started. USFQ was officially recognised by the Ecuadorian government on October 1995 under Executive Decree 3166 of 18 October 1995, published in Official Registry 809 of 25 October 1995. The statutes of USFQ were approved by CONESUP (Consejo Nacional de Educación Superior) on 18 May 2001.
On September 1992, a new plan of colleges was established, with 6 academic units: College of Business, College of Communications and Arts, College of Environmental Sciences, College of Applied Sciences, College of Liberal Arts (originally named of Social Sciences and Humanities), and College of Languages. Subsequently, the College of Architecture (1993), the College of Health Sciences, and the College of Agriculture (1994) were opened.
USFQ and its professors have played a part in scientific and social advances in Ecuador, through extending higher education to indigenous people; by offering scholarships to over 40% of its students; by opening academic units specifically focused on working people and in different regions of Ecuador, such as Galapagos; and through health, environmental, and social programmes. Perhaps the most famous scholarly researches performed at USFQ are the work by Bruce Hoeneisen at the D0 Experiment and the genetic studies at the Institute of Microbiology, which include revolutionary discoveries about Rotavirus and Leptospira. In addition, USFQ has played a major role in many contributions to the conservation of biodiversity, including the discovery and description of a new genus of frog, Nymphargus, the first animal-genus described by Ecuadorian scientists, the publication of the book on Important Bird Area of Ecuador.
Currently, USFQ's student body numbers in the neighbourhood of 5,900, including 3,800 4-year undergraduates, 920 3-year students of the technology college, 700 international students from 40 countries (300 is the average number from the U.S.), and 200 graduate students.