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Leiden University (abbreviated as LEI; Dutch: Universiteit Leiden), founded in the city of Leiden, is the oldest university in the Netherlands.[5] The university was founded in 1575 by William, Prince of Orange, leader of the Dutch Revolt in the Eighty Years' War. The Dutch Royal Family and Leiden University still have a close relationship; Queens Juliana and Beatrix and King Willem-Alexander are former students. The university came into particular prominence during the Dutch Golden Age, when scholars from around Europe were attracted to the Dutch Republic due to its climate of intellectual tolerance and Leiden's international reputation. During this time Leiden was home to such figures as René Descartes, Rembrandt, Christiaan Huygens, Hugo Grotius, Baruch Spinoza and Baron d'Holbach.

Leiden University
Universiteit Leiden
Leiden University seal.svg
Latin: Academia Lugduno-Batava
Former names
Rijksuniversiteit Leiden
Motto Libertatis Praesidium (Latin)
Motto in English
Bastion of Freedom
Type Public research university
Established 8 February 1575[1]
Budget 588 million (2016)[2]
Rector Carel Stolker
Academic staff
Administrative staff
Students 26,900 (2017)[3]
Location Leiden and The Hague, South Holland, Netherlands
Campus Urban/College town
Colours      Dark Blue[4]

Leiden University has seven faculties (six in Leiden and one in The Hague), over 50 departments. The university is a member of the Coimbra Group, the Europaeum and the League of European Research Universities. Leiden University houses more than 40 national and international research institutes.

The University is associated with ten leaders and Prime Ministers of the Netherlands including the current Prime Minister Mark Rutte, nine foreign leaders, among them the 6th President of the United States John Quincy Adams, a Secretary General of NATO, a President of the International Court of Justice, a Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and sixteen recipients of the Nobel Prize (including renowned physicists Albert Einstein[6][7] and Enrico Fermi).



Foundation and early historyEdit

The Academy building of Leiden University

In 1575, the emerging Dutch Republic did not have any universities in its northern heartland. The only other university in the Habsburg Netherlands was the University of Leuven in southern Leuven, firmly under Spanish control. The scientific renaissance had begun to highlight the importance of academic study, so Prince William founded the first Dutch university in Leiden, to give the Northern Netherlands an institution that could educate its citizens for religious purposes, but also to give the country and its government educated men in other fields.[8] It is said the choice fell on Leiden as a reward for the heroic defence of Leiden against Spanish attacks in the previous year. Ironically, the name of Philip II of Spain, William's adversary, appears on the official foundation certificate, as he was still the de jure count of Holland. Philip II replied by forbidding any subject to study in Leiden. Originally located in the convent of St Barbara, the university moved to the Faliede Bagijn Church in 1577 (now the location of the University museum) and in 1581 to the convent of the White Nuns, a site which it still occupies, though the original building was destroyed by fire in 1616.[8]

The presence within half a century of the date of its foundation of such scholars as Justus Lipsius, Joseph Scaliger, Franciscus Gomarus, Hugo Grotius, Jacobus Arminius, Daniel Heinsius and Gerhard Johann Vossius, rapidly made Leiden university into a highly regarded institution that attracted students from across Europe in the 17th century.[9] Renowned philosopher Baruch Spinoza was based close to Leiden during this period and interacted with numerous scholars at the university. The learning and reputation of Jacobus Gronovius, Herman Boerhaave, Tiberius Hemsterhuis and David Ruhnken, among others, enabled Leiden to maintain its reputation for excellence down to the end of the 18th century.

At the end of the nineteenth century, Leiden University again became one of Europe's leading universities. At the world’s first university low-temperature laboratory, professor Heike Kamerlingh Onnes achieved temperatures of only one degree above absolute zero of −273 degrees Celsius. In 1908 he was also the first to succeed in liquifying helium and can be credited with the discovery of the superconductivity in metals.[10]

Modern dayEdit

The University Library, which has more than 5.2 million books and fifty thousand journals, also has a number of internationally renowned special collections of western and oriental manuscripts, printed books, archives, prints, drawings, photographs, maps, and atlases. It houses the largest collections worldwide on Indonesia and the Caribbean. The research activities of the Scaliger Institute focus on these special collections and concentrate particularly on the various aspects of the transmission of knowledge and ideas through texts and images from antiquity to the present day.

In 2005 the manuscript of Einstein on the quantum theory of the monatomic ideal gas (the Einstein-Bose condensation) was discovered in one of Leiden's libraries.[11]

The portraits of many famous professors since the earliest days hang in the university aula, one of the most memorable places, as Niebuhr called it, in the history of science.[citation needed]

In 2012 Leiden entered into a strategic alliance with Delft University of Technology and Erasmus University Rotterdam in order for the universities to increase the quality of their research and teaching. The university is also the unofficial home of the Bilderberg Group, a meeting of high-level political and economic figures from North America and Europe.

University and cityEdit

Gorlaeus building

The university has no central campus; its buildings are spread over the city. Some buildings, like the Gravensteen, are very old, while buildings like Lipsius and Gorlaeus are much more modern.[12] In recent years the university has also expanded to The Hague which has become home to Leiden University College The Hague a liberal arts and sciences college and the departments of Public Administration, International Relations and Politics. It occupies a number of buildings in the historic centre of the city including a college building in Lange Voorhout.

The Leiden University Medical Centre
Faculty of Law

Among the institutions affiliated with the university are The KITLV or Royal Netherlands Institute of Southeast Asian and Caribbean Studies (founded in 1851), the observatory 1633; the natural history museum, with a very complete anatomical cabinet; the Rijksmuseum van Oudheden (National Museum of Antiquities), with specially valuable Egyptian and Indian departments; a museum of Dutch antiquities from the earliest times; and three ethnographical museums, of which the nucleus was Philipp Franz von Siebold's Japanese collections. The anatomical and pathological laboratories of the university are modern, and the museums of geology and mineralogy have been restored.

A new professor's inauguration lecture in the Academiegebouw, 2008
The 'Academiegebouw'

The Hortus Botanicus (botanical garden) is the oldest botanical garden in the Netherlands, and one of the oldest in the world. Plants from all over the world have been carefully cultivated here by experts for more than four centuries. The Clusius garden (a reconstruction), the 18th century Orangery with its monumental tub plants, the rare collection of historical trees hundreds of years old, the Japanese Siebold Memorial Museum symbolising the historical link between East and West, the tropical greenhouses with their world class plant collections, and the central square and Conservatory exhibiting exotic plants from South Africa and southern Europe.

Campus The HagueEdit

The Hague is the political and administrative heart of The Netherlands, profiling itself as the legal capital of the world as well. In 1999 this made the University decide to establish a branch in cooperation with the municipality of The Hague. Here, the University offers academic courses in the fields of law, political science, public administration and medicine. Six of the seven faculties of Leiden University are now active in The Hague. Faculteit Governance and Global Affairs as established in 2011 and has its location completely and exclusively in The Hague, together with the University College. Also one of the largest programmes of the Faculty of Humanities, International Studies, is locates at Campus The Hague.


The university is divided into seven major faculties which offer approximately 50 undergraduate degree programmes and over 100 graduate programmes.


Undergraduate StudiesEdit

Most of the university's departments offer their own degree programme(s). Undergraduate programmes lead to either a B.A., B.Sc. or LL.B. degree. Other degrees, such as the B.Eng. or B.F.A., are not awarded at Leiden University.

Graduate StudiesEdit

Students can choose from a range of graduate programmes. Most of the above-mentioned undergraduate programmes can be continued with either a general or a specialised graduate program. Leiden University offers more than 100 graduate programs leading to either MA, MSc, MPhil, or LLM degrees. The MPhil is the most advanced graduate degree and is awarded by select departments of the university (mostly in the fields of Arts, Social Sciences, Archeology, Philosophy, and Theology). Admission to these programmes is highly selective and primarily aimed at those students opting for an academic career or before going into law or medicine. Traditionally, the MPhil degree enabled its holder to teach at the university levels as an associate professor. The MPhil degree is also common in elite universities in the UK (Oxford and Cambridge), and the Ivy League in the United States.

The Pieter de la Court-building, the main building of the Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences

Doctorate programmesEdit

In addition, most departments, affiliated (research) institutes or faculties offer doctorate programmes or positions, leading to the PhD degree. Most of the PhD programmes offered by the university are concentrated in several research schools or institutes.

Research schools and affiliated institutesEdit

Research building of the Leiden University Medical Centre
logo of the Leiden academy, founded in 2008.

Leiden University has more than 50 research and graduate schools and institutes. Some of them are fully affiliated with one faculty of the university, while others are interfaculty institutes or even interuniversity institutes.

ACPA Academy of Creative and Performing Arts
ASC African Studies Centre Leiden
CML Institute of Environmental Sciences (CML)[13]
CRC Crisis Research Centre[14]
CTI Centre for Language and Identity
CWTS Centre for Science and Technology Studies
The Meijers Research Institute Research School for Legal Studies
eLaw@Leiden Centre for Law in the Information Society
Grotius Centre Research Centre for International Legal Studies
GSS Leiden Graduate School of Science
Historical Institute Leiden University Institute for History
Huizinga Instituut Research Institute and Graduate School for Cultural History
IBL Institute of Biology Leiden
IIAS International Institute for Asian Studies
IIASL International Institute of Air and Space Law
IOPS Interuniversity Graduate School of Psychometrics and Sociometrics
ITC International Tax Centre (ITC)[15]
LACDR The Leiden Academic Centre for Drug Research
LCMBS Leiden Centre for Molecular BioScience
LEAD Leiden Ethnosystems and Development Programme, Faculty of Science[16]
Leyden Academy Leyden Academy on Vitality and Ageing[17]
LGSAS Leiden Graduate School for Archeology
LIACS Leiden Institute of Advanced Computer Science[18]
LIAS Leiden Institute for Area Studies
LIBC Leiden Institute for Brain and Cognition[19]
LIC Leiden Institute of Chemistry
LION Leiden Institute of Physics
LISOR Leiden Institute for the Study of Religion
LUCAS Leiden University Centre for the Arts in Society
LUCL Leiden University Centre for Linguistics
LUMC Leiden University Medical Centre
LUMI Mathematical Institute of Leiden University
Mediëvistiek Netherlands Research School for Medieval Studies
NIG Netherlands Institute of Government
NINO Netherlands Institute for the Near East
NOVA Netherlands Research School for Astronomy
N.W. Posthumus Instituut Netherlands Research Institute and School for Economic and Social History
OIKOS National Research School in Classical Studies
Onderzoekschool Kunstgeschiedenis Dutch Postgraduate School for Art History
OSL Netherlands Research School for Literary Studies
PALLAS Pallas Institute for Cultural Disciplines
Sterrewacht Leiden Leiden Astronomical Observatory
The Europa Institute Leiden Law School
Van Vollenhoven Institute Research Institute for Law, Governance and Society

Rankings and reputationEdit

University rankings
ARWU World[20] 88
Times World[22] 67
QS World[21] 109

In the 2009 THE–QS World University Rankings list the University of Leiden was ranked inside the top 100 for the fourth consecutive year. However, in 2010 it dropped 22 places in the QS World University Rankings[23] to 82nd from its position of 60th in the 2009 THE-QS Rankings (in 2010 Times Higher Education World University Rankings and QS World University Rankings parted ways to produce separate rankings). In the 2012 QS World University Rankings Leiden was named in 75th place. In the Academic Ranking of World Universities compiled by Shanghai Jiaotong University, Leiden has been in the top hundred universities worldwide since the table's inception in 2003 and in 2012 was ranked 73rd overall.

An overview of the QS World University Rankings by subjects:

Year Rank (Change)
Archaeology History Pharmacology Law Politics Linguistics Modern Languages
2013 28 N/A 11 26 35 23 51
2014 28 ( ) N/A 20 (  9) 23 (  3) 34 (  1) 26 (  3) 51 ( )
2015 28 ( ) N/A 9 (  11) 23 ( ) 23 (  11) 29 (  3) 51 ( )
2016 10 (  18) 19 21 (  12) 24 (  1) 25 (  2) 28 (  1) 45 (  6)
2017 9 (  1) 17 (  2) 17 (  4) 32 (  8) 26 (  1) 51 (  23) 51 (  6)

At present, Leiden has a firmly established international position among the top research institutes in many fields, including the natural sciences, medicine, social and behavioural sciences, law, arts and letters. Of the eighty-five Spinozapremie (the highest scientific award of The Netherlands), twenty-one were granted to professors of the Universiteit Leiden. Literary historian Frits van Oostrom was the first professor of Leiden to be granted the Spinoza award for his work on developing the NLCM centre (Dutch literature and culture in the Middle Ages) into a top research centre. Other Spinozapremie winners are linguists Frederik Kortlandt and Pieter Muysken, mathematician Hendrik Lenstra, physicists Carlo Beenakker, Jan Zaanen and Dirk Bouwmeester, astromers Ewine van Dishoeck, Marijn Franx and Alexander Tielens, transplantation biologist Els Goulmy, clinical epidemiologist Frits Rosendaal, pedagogue Marinus van IJzendoorn, archeologists Wil Roebroeks and Corinne Hofman, neurologist Michel Ferrari, classicist Ineke Sluiter, social psychologist Naomi Ellemers, statistician Aad van der Vaart, cognitive psychologist Eveline Crone, physicist Michel Orrit.[24] Among other leading professors are Wim Blockmans, professor of Medieval History, and Willem Adelaar, professor of Amerindian Languages.

Notable alumni and professorsEdit

Nobel laureatesEdit

Kamerlingh Onnes was awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1913. Three other professors received the Nobel Prize for their research performed at Universiteit Leiden: Hendrik Antoon Lorentz and Pieter Zeeman received the Nobel Prize for their pioneering work in the field of optical and electronic phenomena, and the physiologist Willem Einthoven for his invention of the string galvanometer, which among other things, enabled the development of electrocardiography.

Nobel laureates associated with Leiden include: the physicists Albert Einstein, Enrico Fermi and Paul Ehrenfest, the Arabist and Islam expert Christiaan Snouck Hurgronje, the law expert Cornelis van Vollenhoven and historian Johan Huizinga, all during the 1920s and 1930s.

Also, Jacobus Henricus van 't Hoff, Johannes Diderik van der Waals, Tobias Asser, Albert Szent-Györgyi, Gerrit Jan van Heuven Goedhart, Igor Tamm, Jan Tinbergen, Nikolaas Tinbergen, Tjalling Koopmans, Nicolaas Bloembergen[25]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "De Tachtigjarige Oorlog en het ontstaan van universiteiten in de Noordelijke Nederlanden". Historiek (in Dutch). 16 May 2017. Retrieved 19 May 2017. 
  2. ^ "The University at a glance". Leiden University. Retrieved 2017-05-08. 
  3. ^ a b c "The University in figures". Leiden University. Retrieved 2016-01-29. 
  4. ^ "Universiteit Leiden Kleurgebruik". Leiden University. Retrieved 2013-02-07. 
  5. ^ Technically the University of Leuven, currently in Belgium but in the year of its foundation (1425) located in the Netherlands, is the oldest university ever founded in the Netherlands, but Leuven is no longer part of the Netherlands.
  6. ^ Albert Einstein was known as a professor at Leiden University. Einstein regularly taught Leiden students for a few weeks per year. His first lecture at Leiden was about "Ether and Relativity Theory".
  7. ^ University, Leiden. "Einstein in Leiden". Leiden University. Retrieved 9 May 2014. 
  8. ^ a b Otterspeer, Willem (2000). Groepsportret met Dame: de Leidse universiteit, 1575-1672. ISBN 978-90-351-2240-6. 
  9. ^ Schnappen, H. (1960). Niederländische Universitäten und deutsches Geistesleben von der Gründung der Universität Leiden bis ins späte 18. Jahrhundert. Neue Münstersche Beiträge zur Geschichtsforschung. 6. Münster. OCLC 3783378. 
  10. ^ Website Nobel Prizes
  11. ^ BBC NEWS | Europe | Student unearths Einstein paper.
  12. ^ Vier eeuwen geschiedenis in steen. Universitaire gebouwen in Leiden. Leiden, 2005 ISBN 90-9018052-4
  13. ^ "Institute of Environmental Sciences". 2012-09-20. Retrieved 2012-09-26. 
  14. ^ "Crisis and Security Management". Retrieved 2012-09-26. 
  15. ^ "International Tax Centre". Retrieved 2012-09-26. 
  16. ^ Leiden Ethnosystems and Development Programme, [ LEAD]
  17. ^ "Leiden Academy on Vitality and Ageing". Retrieved 2015-07-16. 
  18. ^ "LIACS (Advanced Computer Science)". Retrieved 2012-09-26. 
  19. ^ "Brain & Cognition". Retrieved 2012-09-26. 
  20. ^ Academic Ranking of World Universities 2017
  21. ^ QS World University Rankings 2018
  22. ^ World University Rankings 2018
  23. ^ "QS World University Rankings 2010 Results". Archived from the original on 2010-09-16. 
  24. ^ "Spinoza Prize". Leiden University. 20 July 2015. Retrieved 1 August 2015. 
  25. ^ Leiden's Nobel Laureates - website of the Leiden University

Further readingEdit

  • Otterspeer, Willem (2008). The Bastion of Liberty. Leiden University Today and Yesterday. Amsterdam University Press. ISBN 978-90-8728-030-7.  Online version: The Bastion of Liberty - (Open Access)
  • Willem Otterspeer: Good, gratifying and renowned. A concise history of Leiden University. Transl. by John R.J. Eyck. Leiden, 2015. ISBN 978-90-8728-235-6
  • Th. Lunsingh Scheurleer & G.H.M. Posthumus Meyjes (ed.) (1975). Leiden University in the seventeenth century: an exchange of learning. ISBN 90-04-04267-9. 
  • Heinz Schneppen: Niederländische Universitäten und deutsches Geistesleben. Von der Gründung der Universität Leiden bis ins späte 18. Jahrhundert, Münster 1960. Neue Münstersche Beiträge zur Geschichtsforschung Bd. 6

External linksEdit