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University of Basel

Coordinates: 47°33′31″N 07°35′00″E / 47.55861°N 7.58333°E / 47.55861; 7.58333
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University of Basel
Universität Basel
Latin: Universitas Basiliensis
Established4 April 1460; 564 years ago (1460-04-04)
BudgetCHF 768 million (2020)[1]
PresidentAndrea Schenker-Wicki[2]
Academic staff

47°33′31″N 07°35′00″E / 47.55861°N 7.58333°E / 47.55861; 7.58333
ColoursMint, Red, Anthracite[3]
AffiliationsUtrecht Network, EUCOR
The old main building of the University of Basel, which with its arcades in the middle takes up the lines of the first Italian university in Bologna.

The University of Basel (Latin: Universitas Basiliensis, German: Universität Basel) is a public research university in Basel, Switzerland. Founded on 4 April 1460, it is Switzerland's oldest university and among the world's oldest surviving universities. The university is traditionally counted among the leading institutions of higher learning in the country.[4]

The associated Basel University Library is the largest and among the most important libraries in Switzerland. The university hosts the faculties of theology, law, medicine, humanities and social sciences, science, psychology, and business and economics, as well as numerous cross-disciplinary subjects and institutes, such as the Biozentrum for biomedical research and the Institute for European Global Studies. In 2020, the university had 13,139 students and 378 professors. International students accounted for 27 percent of the student body.[5]

In its over 500-year history, the university has been home to Erasmus of Rotterdam, Paracelsus, Daniel Bernoulli, Leonhard Euler, Jacob Burckhardt, Friedrich Nietzsche, Tadeusz Reichstein, Karl Jaspers, Carl Gustav Jung, Karl Barth, and Jeanne Hersch. The institution is associated with ten Nobel laureates and two Presidents of the Swiss Confederation.[6]


Inauguration ceremony of the University of Basel, 1460 (modern fantasy illustration redrawn from the Wurstisen-Chronik)

The University of Basel was founded in connection with the Council of Basel.[7] It was during the years the catholic clergy resided in Basel, a temporary university was established between the years 1432 und 1448.[7] In May 1432 it was authorized for Simon de Valla from Venice to lecture on canon law, in 1434 Jacques d'Attigny from France and was also permitted to lecture on canon law in Basel.[8] d'Attigny had before been lecturing canon law at the University of Rome.[9] In 1437 Demetrius was called to lecture Greek language.[8][9] Also the function of a bedel is mentioned, but there was no mention of a dean or a University order.[8] The same year Pope Eugen IV attempted to move the council to Ferrara, but many involved in Basel stayed and kept negotiating and in 1439 the council elected a counterpope in the figure of the Duke of Savoy Amadeus VIII who would become known as Felix V.[8] Felix V then established a formal "University of the Clergy" (German:Kurienuniversität) which was inaugurated in November 1440 with a mass in the Barfüsser Church [de].[8] In 1448, the German King Frederick III came to an agreement with Pope Nicholas V, the successor of Eugen IV and ordered the city to remove the security of the councilors.[8] The university was then formally closed in July 1448 and the clergy moved on to Lausanne.[8] After they left, the former lecturers urged for a regular university to be established.[7] The deed of foundation given in the form of a Papal bull by Pope Pius II on 12 November 1459 in Mantua and the official opening ceremony was held on 4 April 1460, the day of Saint Ambrose in the Minster of Basel.[10] Originally the University of Basel was decreed to have four faculties—arts, medicine, theology, and jurisprudence. From 1497, the Grand Council of Basel discussed whether the University was to be closed and only in 1501, the year Basel joined the Swiss Confederation, it was decided not to close the university.[11] The faculty of arts served until 1818 as the foundation for the other three academic subjects. In the eighteenth century as Basel became more commercial, the university, one of the centres of learning in the Renaissance, slipped into insignificance. Enrollment which had been over a thousand around 1600, dropped to sixty in 1785 with eighteen professors. The professors themselves were mostly sons of the elite.[12]

Over the course of centuries as many scholars came to the city, Basel became an early centre of book printing and humanism. Around the same time as the university itself, the Basel University Library was founded. Today it has over three million books and writings and is the largest library in Switzerland.

Located in what was once a politically volatile area, the university's fate often ebbed and flowed with regional political developments, including the Reformation, the Kantonstrennung (separation of the Canton of Basel City from Basel Land), and both World Wars. These factors affected student attendance, funding, university-government relations. In 1833 the Canton of Basel split in two with the Federal Diet requiring that the canton's assets, including the books at the university library, be divided—two-thirds going to the new half canton of Basel-Landschaft. The city, Basel-Stadt, had to buy back this share and the university became so impoverished that it drastically reduced its course offerings. Students were expected to continue their education after two years or so at a German university.[12]

Student enrollment surged after the university shed its medieval curriculum (including the elimination of Latin as the official language of the course catalog in 1822) and began to add more faculties, especially those in the humanities and sciences. Liberal Arts became a faculty in 1818, from which the Philosophy and History and Natural History faculties were derived in 1937.[13] The university subsequently established the Faculty of Science (1937), the Faculty of Business and Economics (1996), and the Faculty of Psychology (2003).[13] During the 20th century, the university grew rapidly, from one thousand students in 1918 to eight thousand in 1994.[14] The first woman who was admitted to the university, Emilie Frey, began her medical studies in 1890.[15]

After the seizure of power in the year 1933 by the Nazis in Germany, numerous renowned German professors decided to emigrate to Basel and started to work at the University of Basel. Several Swiss scholars also returned, inter alia the Law Professor Arthur Baumgarten (1933), the Theologians Karl Barth (1935) and Fritz Lieb (1937) and after World War II the Philosopher Karl Jaspers from Heidelberg University (1948), as well as the surgeon Rudolf Nissen (1952).[16]

On 1 January 1996, the University of Basel became independent from the cantonal government and thus earned its right to self-government.[17] In 2007, the Canton of Basel-Landschaft voted in favor to share the sponsorship of the university in parity with the Canton Basel-Stadt.[18]



Since 1460, the seal of the University showed a Virgin surrounded with sun rays standing a crescent moon as mentioned in the Revelation of John.[19] Below the moon is the coat of arms of Basel.[19] In her right hand, she holds a scepter, and on her left arm sits Jesus the child.[19] The religious motive is described to denote the religious bond the university counted with at the beginning of its existence.[19] The seal was also used after the reformation and used continuously until 1992.[19]

Reputation and rankings

University rankings
Global – Overall
ARWU World[20]81 (2023)
QS World[21]=124 (2024)
THE World[22]=123 (2024)
USNWR Global[23]=150 (2023)

Well-respected rankings attest to the University of Basel's international academic performance:



University administration


Since 1 January 1996, the University of Basel has been independent. The University Law of 1995 stipulates that, "The University of Basel is an institution established under public law. It has its own legal personality and right to self-government."[27] As the entity that formally receives the Performance Mandate (Leistungsauftrag) for the University from both supporting cantons, the University Council (Universitätsrat) is the supreme decision-making body of the university.[28] The Council consists of eleven voting members and three non-voting members, including the President, the Executive Director, and the Secretary of the Council. Beneath the University Council are the Senate (Regenz) and the President's Board. The 80-member Senate consists of the senior members of the President's Board, faculty deans, professors, lecturers and research assistants, assistants, students, and administrative and technical employees. The President's Office is tasked with leading the overall university business. It consists of the President and her staff, a General Secretariat, an Administrative Directorate, the Communications and Marketing Office, and two respective Vice-Presidents for Research and Education.[29]

Faculties and departments


The University of Basel currently houses seven faculties:[30]

Interdisciplinary institutions


Associated institutes


Notable alumni and faculty


The University is counted among the country's leading institutions of higher learning and thus boasts a large number of politicians, scientists and thinkers as professors and alumni from all around the world alike:[40]

Student life


The university hosts several formal institutions that are intended to serve the needs of its students. The Student Advice Center[54] provides advice on academic degree programs and career opportunities. The Student Services provides information on applications, grants, mobility, exchanges, and disability services.[55]

Student organizations


There are also a variety of organizations that cater to international students, such as local chapters of Toastmasters and AIESEC, and associations that perform community services (Beraber, for instance, provides remedial lessons to immigrant youth). There is a foreign affairs association (Foraus), a Model United Nations team, and various choirs and orchestras.[56] There are also various religious groups.[57]

A number of other student groups exist out of formal venues. The most recognizable are the "Studentenverbindungen," traditional student associations dating from the 19th century that organize social events, share common uniforms, and often focus on particular hobbies, such as sword fighting. Such associations include the Akademische Turnerschaft Alemannia zu Basel, AKW Raurica, Helvetia Basel, Jurassia Basiliensis, Schwizerhüsli, A.V. Froburger, and Zofingia. Membership in many is restricted to men, though A.V. Froburger also accepts women.[58]

University sports


University Sports provides a gym, fitness classes, and sport and dance camps to students and employees of the university.[59]

Student union


The Studentische Körperschaft der Universität Basel (skuba) speaks on behalf of the students and represents their needs and interests. It acts as an official student representative and has no political or religious affiliations.[60]

Alumni association


The university has a general alumni association, AlumniBasel, as well as specific alumni associations for the Europainstitut, Medicine, Law, Business and Economics, Dentistry, and Nursing.[61]

See also


Notes and references

  1. ^ a b c "University of Basel, Facts & Figures". University of Basel. Retrieved 15 March 2022.
  2. ^ "Die Rektorin". www.unibas.ch. Archived from the original on 28 April 2017. Retrieved 28 November 2017.
  3. ^ "Colors". www.unibas.ch. Retrieved 24 May 2023.
  4. ^ Universities, Swiss. "University of Basel". Swiss Universities Handbook – Top Universities in Switzerland. Archived from the original on 21 October 2020. Retrieved 7 April 2018.
  5. ^ "Herbstsemester 2020".
  6. ^
  7. ^ a b c Burghartz, Susanna. "1460–1560: Von der erfolgreichen Gründung zu internationaler Bedeutung". www.unibas.ch (in German). Archived from the original on 22 October 2022. Retrieved 22 October 2022.
  8. ^ a b c d e f g Staehelin, Ernst. "Die Universität Basel in Vergangenheit und Gegenwart". Archiv für das schweizerische Unterrichtswesen: 7–8 – via E-Periodica.
  9. ^ a b Schwarz, Brigide (1 January 2013). Die Universität des Basler Konzils. Brill. pp. 392–393. ISBN 978-90-04-23720-9.
  10. ^ Wallraff, Martin; Stöcklin-Kaldewey, Sara (2010). Schatzkammern der Universität. Schwabe Verlag. p. 16. ISBN 978-3-7965-2674-9.
  11. ^ Haegen, Pierre Louis (2001). Der frühe Basler Buchdruck: ökonomische, sozio-politische und informationssystematische Standortfaktoren und Rahmenbedingungen (in German). Schwabe. p. 144. ISBN 978-3-7965-1090-8.
  12. ^ a b Grossman, Lionel, Basel in the age of Burckhardt (Chicago, 2000) p. 35, and note 20; p. 118
  13. ^ a b Georg Kreis, "550 Years of the University of Basel: Permanence and Change" (Basel, 2010) p. 26
  14. ^ Georg Kreis, "550 Years of the University of Basel: Permanence and Change" (Basel, 2010) p. 25
  15. ^ Fellmann. "550 Jahre Universität Basel". www.unigeschichte.unibas.ch. Archived from the original on 11 April 2014. Retrieved 28 November 2017.
  16. ^ Kreis, Georg. "Universität Basel". HLS-DHS-DSS.CH (in German). Retrieved 10 February 2018.
  17. ^ Fellmann. "550 Jahre Universität Basel". www.unigeschichte.unibas.ch. Archived from the original on 28 March 2016. Retrieved 28 November 2017.
  18. ^ Fellmann. "550 Jahre Universität Basel". www.unigeschichte.unibas.ch. Archived from the original on 25 September 2013. Retrieved 28 November 2017.
  19. ^ a b c d e Wallraff, Martin; Stöcklin-Kaldewey, Sara (2010).p.30
  20. ^ "ARWU World University Rankings 2034". www.shanghairanking.com. Retrieved 26 August 2022.
  21. ^ "QS World University Rankings 2024". topuniversities.com. 19 June 2023. Retrieved 26 August 2023.
  22. ^ "World University Rankings". timeshighereducation.com. 6 August 2023. Retrieved 26 August 2023.[permanent dead link]
  23. ^ "U.S. News Education: Best Global Universities 2022-23". Retrieved 23 November 2023.
  24. ^ "World University Rankings". 25 August 2020.
  25. ^ "UniversityRankings.ch".
  26. ^ "ARWU". Archived from the original on 23 May 2015.
  27. ^ Kreis,p. 79.
  28. ^ "Aufgaben". www.unibas.ch. Archived from the original on 28 November 2017. Retrieved 28 November 2017.
  29. ^ "Rektorat".
  30. ^ "Universität Basel | UNIBAS | eduwo.ch".
  31. ^ "Theologische Fakultät". Pages.unibas.ch. Archived from the original on 10 July 2008. Retrieved 2 October 2011.
  32. ^ "Juristische Fakultät Universität Basel". Ius.unibas.ch. Archived from the original on 16 October 2011. Retrieved 2 October 2011.
  33. ^ "Webseite der Medizinischen Fakultät Basel". Medizin.unibas.ch. Archived from the original on 6 October 2011. Retrieved 2 October 2011.
  34. ^ "Philosophisch-Historische Fakultät". Philhist.unibas.ch. Archived from the original on 7 October 2011. Retrieved 2 October 2011.
  35. ^ "Philosophisch-Naturwissenschaftliche Fakultät". Philnat.unibas.ch. 29 July 2011. Archived from the original on 25 September 2011. Retrieved 2 October 2011.
  36. ^ "WWZ: Home". Wwz.unibas.ch. 26 September 2011. Archived from the original on 8 September 2011. Retrieved 2 October 2011.
  37. ^ "Fakultät für Psychologie". Psycho.unibas.ch. 28 September 2011. Archived from the original on 7 October 2011. Retrieved 2 October 2011.
  38. ^ "Europainstitut: Home". europa.unibas.ch. Archived from the original on 25 October 2017. Retrieved 28 November 2017.
  39. ^ FMI. "FMI – Friedrich Miescher Institute for Biomedical Research". www.fmi.ch. Archived from the original on 19 July 2017. Retrieved 28 November 2017.
  40. ^ "Die Universität Basel braucht wieder eine Vision – Prime News".
  41. ^ "Paracelsus".
  42. ^ "Bernoulli, Jacob".
  43. ^ "Euler, Leonhard".
  44. ^ "Nietzsche, Friedrich".
  45. ^ "Miescher, Friedrich".
  46. ^ "Jung, Karl Gustav".
  47. ^ "Jung, Carl Gustav".
  48. ^ "Jaspers, Karl".
  49. ^ "Reichstein, Tadeusz".
  50. ^ "Arber, Werner".
  51. ^ "Christiane Nüsslein-Volhard - Biozentrum". Archived from the original on 3 May 2021. Retrieved 2 May 2021.
  52. ^ "Fina Girard rückt für Beatrice Messerli nach" [Fina Girard replaces Beatrice Messerli]. Grand Council of Basel-Stadt (in German). 20 December 2022. Retrieved 5 November 2023.
  53. ^ "Dr. Jack Dean Kingsbury Chair of New Testament Theology". Retrieved 10 February 2019.
  54. ^ "Student Advice Center". www.unibas.ch. Archived from the original on 2 February 2017. Retrieved 28 November 2017.
  55. ^ "Student Services". University of Basel. Retrieved 15 March 2022.
  56. ^ "Student Organizations". www.unibas.ch. Archived from the original on 30 September 2015. Retrieved 28 November 2017.
  57. ^ "Recognized Associations". University of Basel. Retrieved 15 March 2022.
  58. ^ "Akademische Verbindung Froburger". Akademische Verbindung Froburger. Retrieved 15 March 2022.
  59. ^ "University Sports". University of Basel. Retrieved 15 March 2022.
  60. ^ "Über uns – Studentische Körperschaft der Universität Basel". www.skuba.ch. Archived from the original on 27 March 2017. Retrieved 28 November 2017.
  61. ^ "Alumni". www.unibas.ch. Archived from the original on 1 August 2017. Retrieved 28 November 2017.

Further reading

  • Bonjour, Edgar, Die Universität Basel von den Anfängen bis zur Gegenwart 1460–1960 (Basel : Helbing und Lichtenhahn, 1971)