In 1588, with the Constitution "Immensa," Pope Sixtus V erected the "Congregatio pro universitate studii romani" to supervise the studies at the University of Rome and other notable universities of the time, including Bologna, Paris and Salamanca.
Leo XII, in 1824, created the "Congregatio studiorum" for the schools of the Papal States which, starting in 1870, began to exercise authority over Catholic universities. The 1908 reform by St. Pius X confirmed this responsibility. Seven years later, Pope Benedict XV erected in this Congregation the section for seminaries (which existed within the Consistorial Congregation), joined to it the "Congregatio studiorum," and gave it the title of "Congregatio de Seminariis et Studiorum Universitatibus."
Pope Paul VI in 1967 gave it the name "Sacra Congregatio pro institutione Catholica." The name - the Congregation for Catholic Education (for Seminaries and Institutes of Study) - was received in 1988 with John Paul II's "Pastor Bonus."
With the Apostolic Letter issued Motu Proprio, “Ministrorum institution” of 16 January 2013, Benedict XVI transferred to the Congregation for the Clergy the competences related to the promotion and governance of everything pertaining to the formation, life and ministry of priests and deacons, to vocation ministry and to the selection of candidates for Sacred Orders, including human, spiritual, doctrinal and pastoral formation in seminaries and in centers for permanent deacons, as well as those that concern their ongoing formation. As regards priestly formation, the Congregation for Catholic Education continues to be responsible for the organization of academic studies in Philosophy and Theology. With the same Motu Proprio, the Pontifical Work for Priestly Vocations was transferred to the Congregation for the Clergy.
Corollary to this document, the name of the Congregation underwent a change, passing from Congregatio de Institutione Catholica (de Seminariis atque Studiorum Institutis) to Congregatio de Institutione Catholica (de Studiorum Institutis).
The competence of the Congregation for Catholic Education covers two sectors: a) all the Universities, Faculties, Institutes and Higher Institutions of ecclesiastical or civil studies that are dependent on ecclesiastical juridical persons, physical or moral, as well as on the Catholic Institutions and Associations having scientific purposes; b) all the Schools, and pre-university learning and educational Institutions of any order and grade, which are dependent on the Ecclesiastical Authority, and are directed toward the formation of young laity, excluding those Institutions dependent on the Congregations for the Oriental Churches and for the Evangelization of Peoples .
Within the University Office, there is a Department for International Organizations charged with the task of following the activities of these International Organizations and, in particular, the Agreements of the Holy See with various countries on recognition of studies and academic qualifications.