Ruprecht Karl University of Heidelberg

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Template:Infobox German University The Ruprecht Karl University of Heidelberg (German Ruprecht-Karls-Universität Heidelberg; also known as simply University of Heidelberg) was established in the town of Heidelberg in the Rhineland in 1386. The Latin name is Ruperto Carola Heidelbergensis.

It is a member of the Coimbra Group and the LERU.



It was founded at the behest of the Count Palatinate and Elector of the Holy Roman Empire, Ruprecht I, in order to provide faculties for the study of philosophy, theology, jurisprudence, and medicine. The Great Schism in 1378, which split European Christendom into two hostile groups, was initiated by the election of two popes after the death of Pope Gregory XI in the same year. One successor was in Avignon (elected by the French) and the other in Rome (elected by the Italian cardinals). The German secular and spiritual leaders voiced their support for the successor in Rome, which had far reaching consequences for the German students and teachers in Paris: they lost their stipends and had to leave. Palatine Elector Ruprecht I recognized the opportunity and initiated talks with the Curia, which ultimately lead to the creation of the Papal Bull of Foundation which can be considered the establishment of the University of Heidelberg. On October 18, 1386 a ceremonial fair commemorated the opening of the doors of the university. As a motto for the seal, Marsilius von Inghen, the first Rector of the university chose "Semper apertus" - the book of learning is always open. At this point in time the city of Heidelberg could not have had more than 3500 inhabitants and in the first year of existence the university had almost 600 enrolled. On October 19, 1386 the first lecture was held. Thus, the University of Heidelberg is the oldest German University.

The aula in the .
The aula in the Alte Universität.
Missing image
The Studentenkarzer (student prison) in Heidelberg: wall paintings by arrested students representing themselves in Studentenverbindung costume from 1901

During the second half of the 16th century the University underwent a flowering time and was converted into a calvinistic institution. It attracted scholars from all over the continent and developed to a cultural and academic centre of Europe. However, with the beginning of the Thirty Years' War in 1618, the intellectual and fiscal wealth of the university declined. In 1622 the then world-famous Bibliotheca Palatina, the library of the university, was stolen from the Heiliggeistkirche (the University Cathedral) and brought to Rome.

It was not until 1803 that this decline stopped. In this year, the University was reestablished as a state-owned institution by Großherzog Karl-Friedrich of Baden and since then bears his name together with the one of Ruprecht I. During the late 19th century, the Ruperto Carola housed a very liberal and open-minded spirit which was deliberately fostered by Max Weber, Ernst Troeltsch and a circle colleagues around them. In the Weimar Republic, the University was widely recognized as a centre of democratic thinking, coined by professors like Karl Jaspers, Gustav Radbruch, Martin Dibelius and Alfred Weber. Unfortunately, there were also dark forces working within the university: Nazi physicist Philipp Lenard was head of the physical institute during that time. Following the assassination of Walther Rathenau he refused to half mast the national flag on the institute, thereby provoking its storming by communist students.

With the advent of the third reich the University, just like all other German universities, lost many of its professors (among them Emil Gumbel and went into decline. But since Heidelberg was for the most part spared from destruction during the war, the reconstruction of the University was realised rather quickly. With the foundation of the Collegium Academicum, Heidelberg became the home of Germany's first and, until today, only self-governed student hall. Newly laid statutes obligated the University to "the living spirit of truth, justice and humanity".

During the sixties and seventies, the University grew dramatically in size. On the outskirts of the city, in the Neuenheimer Feld Area, a large campus for Medicine and natural sciences was constructed. Today, most buildings of the arts and humanities faculties are located in the old part of the town while the largest parts of the natural sciences and medicine faculties buildings, including three large university hospitals, are situated in the Neuenheimer Feld.

Left-wing Student Protests

During the 1960s and 70s, the university developed slowly but ultimately to one of the core cells for the political rumors among students (see student protests), eventually even creating connections to the Red Army Faction.

In 1975, a massive police force arrested the entire student parliament "AStA". Shortly thereafter, the "Collegium Academicum", a progressive college in immediate vicinity to the universities main grounds was stormed by over 700 police officers and closed once and for all. Although political actions of Heidelberg students have seldom occurred since then, the city still has one of the highest ratios of policemen per capita in Germany and the student body has kept a rather left-wing orientation. During the first and second gulf wars, the headquarters of the United States Army Forces in Europe, situated in the southern part of Heidelberg, was the destination of numerous (peaceful) demonstrations by students, pupils and citizens.


Today, about 25,000 students are enrolled for studies at the Ruperto Carola. More than 15,000 academics and over 400 Professors make it one of Germany's larger universities. After a structural reformation, the University, as of 2003 consists of 12 faculties:

Each faculty offers a range of different degrees which will change drastically in the upcoming years as a consequence of the Bologna process. Apart from the faculties, a number of independent research institutes take part in the educational tasks. A very incomplete list of them might include

  • the German cancer research centre (DKFZ - Deutsches Krebsforschungszentrum)
  • the European Molecular Biology Laboratory EMBL
  • Max-Planck-Institutes for astronomy, nuclear physics, medical research and comparative public law and international law.
  • an interdisciplinary centre for scientific calculations (IWR - Interdisziplinäres Zentrum für wissenschaftliches Rechnen)
  • an institute for astronomical calculations (ARI - Astronomisches Recheninstitut)
  • the Heidelberg Academy of Sciences (Heidelberger Akademie der Wissenschaften)

As one can see from the aforementioned lists the Ruperto Carola is strongly dedicated towards fundamental research in humanities, natural sciences and medicine. Although there are some links to commercial sponsors, the University depends mostly on financial support by the state.


Thinkers associated with the university



See also: Mediaeval university

External link

Coimbra Group
(of European research universities)
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de:Ruprecht-Karls-Universität Heidelberg he:אוניברסיטת_היידלברג ja:ハイデルベルク大学


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