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Ghent University (Dutch: Universiteit Gent, abbreviated as UGent) is a public research university located in Ghent, Belgium. It was established in 1817 by King William I of the Netherlands. After the Belgian revolution of 1830, the newly formed Belgian state began to administer the university. In 1930, it became the first Dutch-speaking university in Belgium, whereas French had previously been the standard academic language. In 1991, the university was granted major autonomy and changed its name accordingly from State University of Ghent (Dutch: Rijksuniversiteit Gent, abbreviated as RUG) to its current designation. The University supports the University Library and the University Hospital, which is one of the largest hospitals in Belgium.

Ghent University
Universiteit Gent
Seal of Ghent University
Latin: Academia Gandavensis
Former names
State University of Ghent
Motto "Inter Utrumque"
Motto in English
"In Between Both"
Type Public
Established 1817
Rector Rik Van de Walle
Administrative staff
Students +41,000
Location Belgium Ghent, Belgium
Campus University town
Affiliations CESAER
Erasmus Student Network
European University Association
Santander Network
Ghent University logo.svg

UGent is one of the largest Flemish universities, consisting of 41,000 students and 9,000 staff members. In contrast to the Catholic University of Leuven or the Free University of Brussels, it considers itself a pluralist university in a special sense, i.e. not connected to any particular religion or ideology. For this reason, its motto Inter Utrumque ('In Between Both Extremes') means the acquisition of knowledge and wisdom can only happen in a country in peace and when the institution is fully supported by the government.

Ghent University consistently rates among the top universities not only in Belgium but also throughout the world.



The university in Ghent was opened on October 9, 1817, with JC van Rotterdam serving as the first rector. In the first year, it had 190 students and 16 professors. The original four faculties consisted of Humanities (Letters), Law, Medicine and Science, and the language of instruction was Latin. The university was founded by King William I as part of a policy to stem the intellectual and academic lag in the southern part of the United Kingdom of the Netherlands, later to become Belgium.

After peaking at a student population of 414, the number of students declined quickly following the Belgian Revolution. At this time, the Faculties of Humanities and Science were broken from the university, but they were restored five years later, in 1835. Ghent University played a big role in the foundation of modern organic chemistry. Friedrich August Kekulé (7 September 1829 – 13 July 1896) unraveled the structure of benzene at Ghent and Adolf von Baeyer (Johann Friedrich Wilhelm Adolf von Baeyer), a student of August Kekulé, made seminal contributions to organic chemistry.

In 1882, Sidonie Verhelst became the first female student at the university.

French became the language of instruction, taking the place of Latin, after the 1830 Revolution. In 1903, the Flemish politician Lodewijk De Raet led a successful campaign to begin instruction in Dutch, and the first courses were begun in 1906.

Painting of the establishment of the State University of Ghent in 1817 when the city was under Dutch rule

During World War I, the occupying German administration conducted Flamenpolitik and turned Ghent University into the first Dutch-speaking university in Belgium. A Flemish Institute (Vlaemsche Hoogeschool), commonly known as Von Bissing University, was founded in 1916 but was disestablished after the war and French language was fully reinstated. In 1923, Cabinet Minister Pierre Nolf put forward a motion to definitively establish the university as a Dutch-speaking university, and this was realized in 1930. August Vermeylen served as the first rector of a Dutch-language university in Belgium.[1]

In the Second World War, the German administration of the university attempted to create a German orientation, removing faculty members and installing loyal activists. However, the university became the focal point for many resistance members as the war progressed.

After the war, the university became a much larger institution, following government policy of democratizing higher education in Flanders during the 1950s and 1960s. By 1953, there were more than 3,000 students, and by 1969 more than 11,500. The number of faculties increased to eleven, starting with Applied Sciences in 1957. It was followed by Economics and Veterinary Medicine in 1968, Psychology and Pedagogy, as well as Bioengineering, in 1969, and Pharmaceutical Sciences. The faculty of Politics and Social Sciences is the most recent addition, in 1992.

In the 1960s to 1980s, there were several student demonstrations at Ghent University, notably around the Blandijn site, which houses the Faculty of Arts & Philosophy.[2] The severest demonstrations took place in 1969 in the wake of May 1968.

The university officially changed its name from Rijksuniversiteit Gent (RUG) to Universiteit Gent (UGent) in 1991 following an increased grant of autonomy by the government of the Flemish Community.

On 1 October 2013, Anne De Paepe succeeded Paul Van Cauwenberge as rector.

Academic ProfileEdit

Organisation and structureEdit

Ghent University consists of eleven Faculties with over 130 individual departments. In addition, the university maintains the Zwijnaarde science park and Greenbridge science park.

List of facultiesEdit

  • Faculty of Arts and Philosophy[3]
  • Faculty of Bio-science Engineering[4]
  • Faculty of Law[5]
  • Faculty of Sciences[6]
  • Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences[7]
  • Faculty of Engineering and Architecture[8]
  • Faculty of Economics and Business Administration[9]
  • Faculty of Veterinary Medicine[10]
  • Faculty of Psychology and Educational Sciences[11]
  • Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences[12]
  • Faculty of Political and Social Sciences[13]


Standing on the Blandijnberg, the Boekentoren houses the Ghent University Library, which contains nearly 3 million volumes. The University Library has joined the Google Books Library Project. Among other notable collections, it preserves Papyrus 30, an early manuscript of the Greek New Testament.

Reputation & rankingsEdit

University rankings
Times World[14] 118

Ghent University consistently ranks among the best universities in the world (top 100). Most recently, in 2017, it was ranked, globally, 69th by the Academic Ranking of World Universities (or Shanghai ranking)[15] and 125th by QS World University Rankings.[16] For 2018, Ghent University has been ranked, worldwide, 88th by U.S. News & World Report[17] and 107th by Times Higher Education.[18]

International relationsEdit

The university maintains many partnerships within Belgium, across Europe, and throughout the world. For instance, Ghent University supports the Belgian Co-ordinated Collections of Micro-organisms and the Vlaams Instituut voor Biotechnologie. Within Europe, it is a member of the Santander Network and the U4 Network. It also participates in the Conference of European Schools for Advanced Engineering Education and Research. In addition, the University cooperates with numerous universities for the Erasmus and Erasmus Mundus programs; within the framework of the latter, it heads the International Master of Science in Rural Development.

Outside of Europe, Ghent University conducts exchange programs on all six continents.[19]

Associated contributions and innovationsEdit

Ghent University has been instrumental in the development of COinS and Unipept.


Notable alumniEdit

Notable facultyEdit

List of rectorsEdit


See alsoEdit

Notes and referencesEdit

External linksEdit