University of Vienna: oldest university in the German-speaking world

The University of Vienna is a public university located in Vienna, Austria. It was founded by Duke Rudolph IV in 1365 and is the oldest university in the German-speaking world. With its long and rich history, the University of Vienna has developed into one of the biggest universities in Europe, and also one of the most renowned, especially in the Humanities.

UNIVERSITY OF VIENNA

It is associated with 15 Nobel prize winners and has been the academic home of a large number of figures both of historical and academic importance.

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Phone: +43 1 42 770
Address: Universitätsring 1
Fax: +43 1 4277−176 99
Website: www.​univie.​ac.​at
Price: Tours: € 5 (adults), free (children under 6)
Hours: Sa 11:30 (English)
Bus: 1A, N25, N38, N41, N60, N66 (Schottentor); N43 (Landesgerichtsstraße)
Tram: 1, 37, 38, 40, 41, 42, 71, D, VRT (Schottentor); 43, 44 (Landesgerichtsstraße)
Subway: U2 (Rathaus)
Train: Rathaus

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History from the medieval age to the enlightenment

The University was founded on 12 March 1365 by Rudolf IV, Duke of Austria, and his two brothers, Dukes Albert III and Leopold III, hence the additional name «Alma Mater Rudolphina». After the Charles University in Prague and Jagiellonian University in Kraków, the University of Vienna is the third oldest university in Central Europe and the oldest university in the German-speaking world.

It was modelled after the University of Paris. However, Pope Urban V did not ratify the deed of foundation that had been sanctioned by Rudolf IV, specifically in relation to the department of theology. This was presumably due to pressure exerted by Charles IV, Holy Roman Emperor, who wished to avoid competition for the Charles University in Prague.

Approval was finally received from the Pope in 1384 and the University of Vienna was granted the status of a full university, including the Faculty of Catholic Theology. The first university building opened in 1385. It quite grew into the biggest university of the Holy Roman Empire, and during the advent of Humanism in the mid-15th century was home to more than 6,000 students.

In its early years, the university had a partly hierarchical, partly cooperative structure, in which the Rector was at the top, while the students who had little say and were settled at the bottom. The Magister and Doctors constituted the four faculties and elected the academic officials from amidst their ranks.

University of Vienna

The students, but also all other Supposita (university members), were divided into four Academic Nations. Their elected board members, mostly graduates themselves, had the right to elect the Rector. He presided over the Consistory which included procurators of each of the nations and the faculty deans, as well as over the University Assembly, in which all university teachers participated. Complaints or appeals against decisions of faculty by the students had to be brought forward by a Magister or Doctor.

Being considered a Papal Institution, the university suffered quite a setback during the Reformation. In addition, the first Siege of Vienna by Ottoman forces had devastating effects on the city, leading to a sharp decline, with only 30 student numbers enrolled at the lowest point.

For King Ferdinand I, this meant that the university should be tied to the church to an even stronger degree, and in 1551 he installed the Jesuit Order there. With the enacting of the Sanctio Pragmatica edict by emperor Ferdinand II in 1623, the Jesuits took over teaching at the theological and philosophical faculty, and thus the university became as stronghold of Catholicism for over 150 years.

It was only in the Mid-18th century that Empress Maria Theresa forced the university back under control of the monarchy. Her successor Joseph II helped in the further reform of the university, allowing both Protestants and Jews to enroll as well as introducing German as the compulsory language of instruction.

From the 19th century onwards

Big changes were instituted in the wake of the Revolution in 1848, with the Philosophical Faculty being upgraded into equal status as Theology, Law and Medicine. Led by the reforms of Leopold, Count von Thun und Hohenstein, the university was able to achieve a larger degree of academic freedom.

university_of_vienna

The current main building on the Ringstraße was built between 1877 and 1884 by Heinrich von Ferstel. The previous main building was located close to the Stuben Gate on Iganz Seipel Square, current home of the old University Church (Universitätskirche) and the Austrian Academy of Sciences (Österreichische Akademie der Wissenschaften).

Women were admitted as full students from 1897, although their studies were limited to Philosophy. The remaining departments gradually followed suit, although with considerable delay: Medicine in 1900, Law in 1919, Protestant Theology in 1923 and finally Roman Catholic Theology in 1946.

Ten years after the admission of the first female students, Elise Richter became the first woman to receivehabilitation, becoming professor of Romance Languages in 1907; she was also the first female distinguished professor.

In the late 1920s, the university was in steady turmoil because of anti-democratic and anti-semite activity by parts of the student body. Professor Moritz Schlick was killed by a former student while ascending the steps of the University for a class. His murderer was later released by the Nazi Regime.

Following the Anschluss, the annexation of Austria into Greater Germany by the Nazi regime, in 1938 the University of Vienna was reformed under political aspects and a huge number of teachers and students were dismissed for political and «racial» reasons.

In April 1945, the then 22-year-old Kurt Schubert, later acknowledged doyen of Judaic Studies at the University of Vienna, was permitted by the Soviet occupation forces to open the university again for teaching, which is why he is regarded as the unofficial first rector in the post-war period.

On 25 April 1945, however, the constitutional lawyer Ludwig Adamovich senior was elected as official rector of the University of Vienna. A large degree of participation by students and university staff was realized in 1975, however the University Reforms of 1993 and 2002 largely re-established the professors as the main decision makers.

However, also as part of the last reform, the university after more than 250 years being largely under governmental control, finally regained its full legal capacity back. The number of faculties and centers was increased to 18, and the whole of the medical faculty separated into the new Medical University of Vienna.

University of Vienna — Location

The University of Vienna does not have one joint campus. The academic facilities occupy more than sixty locations throughout the city of Vienna. The historical main building on the Ringstraße constitutes the university’s centre and is commonly referred to as «die Uni».

Most other larger university facilities and lecture halls are located nearby in the area of Vienna’s First and Ninth District: the so-called new Lecture Hall Complex the lecture hall complex Althanstraße (UZA), the campus on the premises of the Historical General Hospital of Vienna, the Faculty of Law (Juridicum) and others. The Botanical Garden of the University of Vienna is housed in the Second District, as are the Department of Biochemistry and related research centres.

Also worth mentioning is the Vienna Observatory, which belongs to the university, and the Institute for University Sports (USI), which offers training and recreational possibilities to all students of the university.

In addition, the University of Vienna maintains facilities outside of Vienna in the Austrian provinces of Lower Austria, Upper Austria and Salzburg. These are mainly research and experimental departments for Biology, Astrophysics and Sports.

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