The Residencia de Estudiantes played a key role in the project of modernization led by the Institución Libre de Enseñanza (ILE), created in 1876 by a group of professors expelled from the university for their defense of academic freedom. Led by Francisco Giner de los Ríos (1839-1915), Gumersindo Azcarate, Segismundo Moret, Augusto Gonzalez, and Nicolás Salmerón were among the founding members. Intellectuals such as Joaquín Costa, Federico Rubio, and Manuel Ruiz de Quevedo worked with them. Manuel B. Cossío, Giner’s favorite student, became director of the ILE in 1915.
Their educational ideas advocated the teaching of both sciences and humanities and the dialogue between them; they were in favor of freedom of teaching and scientific research and considered education as an ongoing process. They abolished exams and established a tutorial system, and made experience -based on the observation and enjoyment of nature- the main source of knowledge. The Institución Libre de Enseñanza championed social and gender equality, women’s rights, the pursuit of peace and cooperation among nations, and the preservation of the environment.