The National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, founded in 1837, is the first university not only in Greece but also both the Balkan peninsula and the Eastern Mediterranean region. The National and Kapodistrian University of Athens is the largest state institution of higher learning in Greece, and among the largest universities in Europe. It is a self-governed legal entity of public law and all major policy issues are determined by the Ministry of National Education and Religion. Retaining its academic autonomy, it fully respects the constitutionally secured right to everyone for a free education. This is possible because it is funded by the state. All funds are invested into the management and operation of educational, research and cultural programmes, and student and staff services and grants.