Debrecen Reformed Theological University is a member institution of the Reformed College of Debrecen which was founded in 1538 and is one of the determining centres for the cultivation of theological sciences and training of ecclesiastical intelligentia in Hungary. By the middle of the 16th century the region called Tiszántúl had become Protestant and Debrecen had become its ecclesiastical centre. At that time the town school educated the ministers and teachers for the region. The Reformed College soon became an institution of national importance due to its professors who had studied at universities abroad, its extensive school network in the country, plus the protection and profuse support by the Princes of Transylvania and by the town of Debrecen. As the school of the poor it provided education for the lower social layers and supported social elevation. Former students include famous scientists, science organizers, and many well-known poets, writers and thinkers in Hungarian cultural history.
By 1820 with the growing number of departments, the academic training of ministers had become a five-year program: two-year theological training was built on a three-year basic education in philosophy.
In 1892 the Transtibiscan Reformed Church District which had run the Reformed College decided to establish an independent legal academy under the leadership of a dean and with a separate staff. The theological and the legal academies were active for 20 years at which time the state university was founded.
In 1855 the teacher training was separated from the training of the ministers and from 1959 it continued in a new state institution. In 1976 the Teacher Training Institute got the college rank and in 1990 it was named after Ferenc Kölcsey, one of its former students. In 1992 the Ferenc Kölcsey Reformed Teacher Training College became an ecclesiastical institution again run by the Transtibiscan Reformed Church District. In 2011 it was merged with the Debrecen Reformed Theological University. Thus, teacher training returned to the framework of the Reformed College.
The state university that was established in Debrecen in 1912 (currently: the University of Debrecen) was initially formed from the faculties of the Theological Academy of Debrecen and was situated in the Reformed College until 1932, when it moved to the newly constructed main building. The Theological Academy became one of the faculties of the University of Debrecen and was also moved into the new building at that time. With the establishment of the Faculty of Theology the church district established an institute for the practical training of ministers in the building of the Reformed College, which was also responsible for the ecclesiastical socialization of ministers.
Due to the pressure by the communist government in 1949, the Faculty of Theology returned to the Reformed College, and in 1950 it was separated from the University of Debrecen and became once again an independent institution known as Reformed Theological Academy and was funded by the church. The Academy became a higher educational institution with university rank because of its right to issue doctorate and its history. Since 1993 it has worked as the Debrecen Reformed Theological University (in Hungarian DRHE), an ecclesiastical university acknowledged and accredited by the state.
Our university was one of the founding members of the Universitas Association of Debrecen. Presently it is a joint institution of the University of Debrecen with which it is offering joint programmes and seeking further close collaborative ties.