The Albert-Ludwigs-University

Freiburg im Breisgau

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  History of the University

The University of Freiburg was founded by the Archduke Albrecht VI of Austria in 1457 at a time of economical and cultural prosperity. The founding of the "Albertina" was primarily for political reasons. Archduke Albrecht was more likely planning to secure the sovereign authority of "Vorderösterreich" (a part of early Austria) and to ensure well trained civil servants and a theologically educated priesthood. At the same time the desire for new, worldly, educational subject matters arouse. In April 1460, Matthäus Hummel was elected as first rector of the University of Freiburg. Course instruction consisted of 4 faculties (departments) Theology, Jurisprudence, Medicine and Facultas Artium (today known as Philosophy). The less than 200 students led a very supervised life within student associations. Todays Collegium Sapientiae Hall of Residence has its name from one of the oldest student associations in Freiburg.

The 16th century was a time of turbulence and change. The Reformation had its effects on Freiburg. The Cathedral Councellor of Basel and Erasmus of Rotterdam found refuge here. During the course of the Reformation Freiburg increasingly became the stronghold of Roman Catholicism in Vorderösterreich and also an instrument of the Counterreformation. In 1620, the Austrian government decreed the establishment of the Jesuits in Freiburg against the will of the university. The Jesuits immediately took over the management of the "Albertina" and the Freiburg University developed into a bulwark of the Catholic confession. Simultaneously the affects of the Thirty Year War was felt by the city. There were only 2,000 inhabitants in 1632. Until the Peace of Westfalen ("Westfälischer Frieden") of 1648, it was almost at a standstill. Not until 1656 with the aid of Archduke Ferdinand Karl was the University saved from total closure. He ensured by law that the University instructor's salary be paid out of the Archduke's tax yield.

During the French occupation of Freiburg in the war between Ludwig XIV and the German Empire, and after handing-over the city to France in 1679, part of the University faculty fled to Konstanz. There they founded an exile University as the legal successor of the "Albertina". Not until 1697, after the return of Freiburg to Austria, did the "Albertina" take up operations again. The largest architectural charge in Freiburg occurred during the years when Freiburg was the French frontier town. Ludwig XIV had his master-construction draftsman, Vauban, rebuilt Freiburg as a fortress. The fortress consisted of 8 bastions in a star-shaped lay out.

Important for the University in the 18th century was the shift toward the modern educational demands with the expansion of subject offerings and the converting of the "Albertina" into an absolutist oriented government institution of Maria Theresia. In this context the Austrian government (1773) consistently pressed ahead with the dissolvement of the Jesuit order. The road to opening up new scientific branches was thus cleared.

In 1805 Austria lost Freiburg through Napoleon's alliance with Baden for good. Freiburg along with the Breisgau became part of the newly founded Grand-duchy Baden. This integration caused the "Albertina" great worry because Baden already had a highly esteemed University in Heidelberg. The closing of the University of Freiburg was considered. Thanks to the intervention of Carl von Rotteck (the professor of world history), the Grand Duke Karl II secured the continual existence of the University. Carl von Rotteck had written a memorandum on the confessional differences of both Universities. He pointed out the resulting advantages for a progressive image of Baden. The Grand Duke's successor, Archduke Ludwig (1820) was finally able to definitely secure the Universities continual existence with the foundation of a yearly government subsidy regulated by law. To thank him the "Albertina" integrated the name Ludwig into its title. Henceforth the University was called "Albert-Ludwigs-Universität".

The number of students increased with the foundation of the Empire: a supply of north German students soon helped the University to grow out of its medieval walls. From about 200 immatriculated students in 1870, the number rose to 1,000 students in 1885. In 1904, there were already 2,000 students to be celebrated by and showered with presents from the city. The 3,000th student was invited to lunch by the owner of the "Restaurant im Martinstor" for one semester. With the 4,000th student, the town stopped celebrating. This exponential increase in student numbers recommenced after the Second World War.

  General Information

Today the Albert-Ludwigs-University Freiburg has about 24,000 students and 2,800 professors and academic members. With the humanities and the University Library in the centre of town, the institute quarter (natural sciences) in the north, its large clinic and the technical faculty to the west of the old part of town, the University has grown together with the city. This is one of the attractions of the University which has made studying here so popular. In addition to the freetime value of the city, the surrounding area and its vicinity to Alsace and Switzerland, it is the scientific variety that compels so many students to choose the Freiburg University as their alma mater.


There are 65 major area of study to choose from fifteen faculties. The fifteenth faculty for applied sciences on the airport grounds with two major areas of study, informatics and microsystem technology, has expanded the existing subject canon by a technical branch.

Freiburg is one of the most important centres of interdisciplinariy polymer research. The pioneer work of the Freiburg Nobel Prize winner Hermann Staudinger in organic and macromolecular chemistry was the basis for the development of plastics.

There is also a wide spectrum of research in the Faculty of Biology. The tradition of research in biology is going back to biologists known world-wide, such as Weismann, and the Nobel Prize winners Spemann, Oehlkers and Köhler.

The emphasis of geological research is on current problems such as the understanding and evaluation of natural resources, their exploition by humans, and saving raw materials and the environment. Examination and testing on the spot is just as important here as the forestry faculty, in which projects researching the causes of forest deseases form the most important and extensive focus of research.

The Faculty of Medicine enjoys high international repute with its large body of experimental and clinical research. Almost 7,000 nursing staff, doctors, and other employees work in the University clinic, which, with 2,000 beds and 13 special units has expanded to a hospital offering maximum possible care.

Traditionally, the humanities have played a very important role at the University of Freiburg. Excellent performance in philosophy, the philology of various European languages, and research in history are connected with names and publications of Freiburg scholars, such as Carl von Rotteck, Edwin Husserl, Martin Heidegger, or Hugo Friedrich.

The entire spectrum of law is covered by the faculty of jurisprudence. In addition, social economics is the main focus of the faculty of economics, which is connected with the names of Walter Euken, the founder of the ordoliberal "Freiburg School" and the Nobel Prize winner Friedrich August von Hayek.

The University Library, built in 1978, offers the opportunity to acquire a wide range of information. More than two million books - 56 continued kilometres if lined up - await the borrower. In the past year over 30,000 people made use of this offer. The Studium Generale is intended for citizens and students, organizing series with scientists and artists.

More than 2,000 students come from foreign countries. In the summer months the jumble of languages in Freiburg University is much louder. Since 1911, the International German language summer courses have taken place in July and August.

Freiburg lies in the middle of a well-known wine growing region, and even the University has become a wine grower: for many years, it has owned donated vineyards on nearby Kaiserstuhl and the Tuniberg, on which University's wine grows. Admittedly wine no longer has the significance for students that it did formerly in the student dining halls in Freiburg in the Middle Ages, when the deprivation of wine at meals was considered a harsh punishment.

To balance the excessive epicurean pleasure of Badian cuisine, the sports institute offers all students and other people associated with the University the General University Sports Association with 35 types of sport.

Freiburg ranks in the top group of cities which, statistically, the population of Germany would most like to live. The "Capital of the Black Forest", as Freiburg calls itself, is compact, but is still able to provide the cultural offerings in theatre, concerts, and art of a big city. Approximately 12,000 employees have made the University the largest employer in southern Baden.

The University has also opened up the France centre, which offers besides research an extension study course to aquire competence in matters relating to France. Beyond this, the University gave an important impulse to European integration in the University system with the "European Confederation on the Upper Rhine" (EUCOR), of which it, along with the Universities of Basel, Strasbourg, Mulhouse and Karlsruhe, is a founding member.

Modified after: 'Freiburg Official Guide' (Freiburg Wirtschaft und Touristik GmbH)

Layout: Dr. J. Normann