Leiden University

Leiden University
Leiden University
Universiteit Leiden
Latin: Academia Lugduno Batava
Motto Praesidium Libertatis
Motto in English Bastion of Freedom
Established 1575
Type Public
Rector Paul van der Heijden
Academic staff 3,973
Students 18,026
Location Leiden, Netherlands
Website www.leiden.edu

Leiden University (Dutch: Universiteit Leiden), located in the city of Leiden, is the oldest university in the Netherlands.[1] The university was founded in 1575 by William, Prince of Orange, leader of the Dutch Revolt in the Eighty Years' War. The royal Dutch House of Orange-Nassau and Leiden University still have a close relationship. The Queens Juliana and Beatrix and crown-prince Willem-Alexander studied at Leiden University. In 2005 Queen Beatrix received a rare honorary degree from Leiden University.[2]

Leiden University has six faculties, over 50 departments and more than 150 undergraduate programmes and enjoys an outstanding international reputation. Shanghai Jiao Tong University's 2010 Academic Ranking of World Universities ranks Leiden University as the 70th best university worldwide.[3] The 2009 THE-QS World University Rankings ranked Leiden University 60th in the world overall.[4][5] In 2011 QS World University Rankings[6] has ranked Leiden University as 88th overall, and the 37th best university worldwide for Arts and Humanities. THE 2010 World University Rankings has ranked Leiden University as the best university in Continental Europe for Arts and Humanities. The university is a member of the distinguished Coimbra Group, the Europaeum and the League of European Research Universities.

Leiden University houses more than 40 national and international research institutes.



The Academy building of the Leiden university

In 1575, the emerging Dutch Republic did not have any universities in its northern heartland. The only other university in the Netherlands was 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.[7] 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. Philps 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.[7]

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, raised Leiden university to be a respected and highly thought of institute within Europe. 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 it's 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.[8] 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.

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.

These Nobel prize winners, but also 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, were among those who pushed the university into a place of international prominence during the 1920s and 1930s. 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.[9]

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 fifty-nine Spinozapremie (the highest scientific award of The Netherlands), fifteen 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, Carlo Beenakker, who works in the field of mesoscopic physics, Ewine van Dishoeck, astronomer at Leiden Observatory, transplantation biologist Els Goulmy, clinical epidemiologist Frits Rosendaal, Rien van IJzendoorn professor of education and child studies, physicist Jan Zaanen, archeologist Wil Roebroeks, neurologist Michel Ferrari, classicist Ineke Sluiter, social psychologist Naomi Ellemers and astronomer Marijn Franx. Among other leading professors are Wim Blockmans, professor of Medieval History, and Willem Adelaar, professor of Amerindian Languages.

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.

The University Library, which has more than 3.5 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. Scholars from all over the world visit Leiden University Library, the oldest in the Netherlands. 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.

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.

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.

Research at Leiden is well developed. There are many university research institutes and Leiden participates in over forty nation-wide research schools, twelve of which being located in the heart of Leiden.

The institution

The Leiden University Medical Center
A new professor's inauguration lecture in the Academiegebouw, 2008

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. The university is divided into six major faculties which offer approximately 50 undergraduate degree programs and over 100 graduate programs. In recent years the university has also expanded to The Hague where it occupies a college building in Lange Voorhout, which is located in the historic centre of the city.


Undergraduate programs

Most of the university's departments offer their own degree program(s). Undergraduate programs 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.

Humanities Website
Law Website
Medicine or LUMC Website
Mathematics and Natural Sciences Website
Social and Behavioural sciences Website
Archaeology Website
  • African Languages and Cultures[10]
  • Archeology
  • Arabic, Persian and Turkish Languages and Cultures [11]
  • Art History
  • Assyriology
  • Astronomy
  • Biology[12]
  • Biomedical Sciences
  • Bio-Pharmaceutical Sciences[13]
  • Chemistry
  • Chinese Languages and Cultures[14]
  • Classics
  • Comparative Indo-European Linguistics
  • Computer Science
  • Criminology
  • Cultural Anthropology
  • Developmental Sociology
  • Dutch Language and Literature
  • Dutch Studies
  • Educational Sciences
  • Egyptian Languages and Cultures (Egyptology)[15]
  • English Language and Culture[16]
  • French Language and Culture[17]
  • German Language and Culture[18]
  • History[19]
  • Hebrew and Aramaic Languages and Cultures[20]
  • Indian American Studies[21]
  • Indology (South and central Asia)[22]
  • Indonesian Languages and Cultures[23]
  • Italian Language and Culture[24]
  • Japanese Languages and Cultures[25]
  • Korean Languages and Cultures[26]
  • Latin American Studies (Spanish Languages and Cultures)[27]
  • Law (General Dutch Law track)
  • Linguistics
  • Life Science and Technology
  • Literature
  • Mathematics
  • Medicine (6-year track)
  • Molecular Science and Technology
  • Near Eastern Studies
  • New Persian Languages and Cultures (Turkish)[28]
  • Notarial Law
  • Philosophy
  • Physics
  • Political Science
  • Public Administration
  • Psychology
  • Russian Studies
  • Slavic Languages and Literatures
  • Southeast Asia and Oceania Languages and Cultures
  • Tax Law
  • Theology
  • World Religion Studies

Graduate studies

Students can choose from a range of graduate programs. Most of the above mentioned undergraduate programs can be continued with either a general or a specialised graduate program. Leiden University offers more than 100 graduate programs leading to either M.A., M.Sc., M.Phil., or LL.M. degrees. The M.Phil. is a special research degree and only awarded by selected departments of the university (mostly in the fields of Arts, Social Sciences, Archeology, Philosophy, and Theology). Admission to these programs is highly selective and primarily aimed at those students opting for an academic career.

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

Some of the notable graduate programs are

  • Air and Space Law
  • Asian Studies
  • Bioinformatics
  • Chemistry
    • Industrial Ecology M.Sc. (track)
  • DNA Computing
  • Drug Delivery Technology and Biopharmaceutics
  • European Law[29]
  • European and International Business Law
  • European Union Studies
  • Evolutionary and Ecological Sciences
  • Functional Genomics
  • History
  • ICT in Business[30]
  • Public International Law
  • International Relations and Diplomacy
  • International Tax Law[31]
  • Islamic Studies
  • Life Science and Technology
  • Linguistics
  • Mathematics
  • Media Technology[32]
  • Nanoscience
  • Philosophy of a Specific Discipline
  • Toxicology

Doctorate programs

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

Research schools and affiliated institutes

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.

ASC Research Centre for African Studies
CML Institute of Environmental Sciences (CML)[33]
CNWS Research School of Asian, African, and American Studies
CRC Crisis Research Centre[34]
CTI Center for Language and Identity
E.M. Meijers 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 Research Institute of History
Huizinga Instituut Research Institute and Graduate School of Cultural History
IBL Research Institute for Biology
IIAS International Institute for Asian Studies
IOPS Interuniversity Graduate School Psychometrics and Sociometrics
ISED Institute for the Study of Educational and Human Development
ITC International Tax Center (ITC)[35]
LACDR The Leiden Amsterdam Center for Drug Research
LCMBS Leiden Centre for Molecular BioScience
Leyden Academy Leyden Academy on Vitality and Ageing[36]
LGSAS Leiden Graduate School for Archeology
LIACS Leiden Institute of Advanced Computer Science
LIBC Leiden Institute for Brain and Cognition[37]
LIC Leiden Institute of Chemistry
LION Leiden Institute of Physics
LISOR Leiden Institute for the Study of Religion
LUCL Leiden University Centre for Linguistics
LUMC Leiden University Medical Centre
LUMI Leiden University Mathematical Institute
Mediëvistiek Netherlands Research School for Medieval Studies
NIG Netherlands Institute of Government
NOVA Netherlands Research School for Astronomy
N.W. Posthumus Instituut Netherlands Research Institute and School for Economic and Social History
OIKOS National Graduate School in Classical Studies
Onderzoekschool Kunstgeschiedenis Dutch Postgraduate School for Art History
OSL Netherlands Graduate School for Literary Studies
PALLAS Research Institute of Art History and Literatures of the Western World
Polybios Graduate School for Political Science and International Affairs
Sterrewacht Leiden Leiden Astronomical Observatory
The Europa Institute Research Institute for Legal Studies in the Field of European Integration
Van Vollenhoven Institute Research Institute for Law, Governance and Development

Notable alumni and professors

International acclaim

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[38] 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 Academic Ranking of World Universities compiled by Shanghai Jiaotong University Leiden has been in the top hundred universities worldwide since the tables inception in 2003 and in 2010 was ranked 70th overall. The University is associated with at least fourteen recipients of the Nobel Prize

An overview of the THE-QS Rankings up to 2009:

Year Rank (Change)
2005 138
2006 90 (increase 48)
2007 84 (increase 6)
2008 64 (increase 20)
2009 60 (increase 4)

An overview of the Academic Ranking of World Universities up to 2011:

Year Rank (Change)
2003 78
2004 63 (increase 15)
2005 63
2006 72 (decrease 9)
2007 71 (increase 1)
2008 76 (decrease 5)
2009 72 (increase 4)
2010 70 (increase 2)
2011 65 (increase 5)

See also

  • Leiden University College The Hague
  • List of early modern universities in Europe


  1. ^ 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.
  2. ^ Windows Media file of Queen Beatrix receiving degree, February 2005.
  3. ^ ARWU 2010 Top 100 Universities.
  4. ^ QS World University Rankings 2009 - Arts and Humanities
  5. ^ THE 2009 Top 200 World Universities
  6. ^ http://www.topuniversities.com/university-rankings/world-university-rankings/2011?page=1
  7. ^ a b Willem Otterspeer: Het bolwerk van de vrijheid : de Leidse universiteit, 1575-1672. Amsterdam : Uitgeverij Bert Bakker, 2000. ISBN 90-351-2240-2
  8. ^ Leiden's Nobel Laureates
  9. ^ BBC NEWS | Europe | Student unearths Einstein paper.
  10. ^ Talen en culturen van Afrika
  11. ^ NIEUW: Homepage TCMO
  12. ^ Home Page Opl. Biologie (Nederlands)
  13. ^ Startpagina QCMS 3.0
  14. ^ Talen en culturen van China
  15. ^ Egyptische Taal & Cultuur
  16. ^ Engelse taal en cultuur
  17. ^ Homepage Opleiding Franse taal en cultuur
  18. ^ Duitse taal en cultuur.
  19. ^ History
  20. ^ Hebreeuws en Aramees
  21. ^ Talen en culturen van Indiaans Amerika.
  22. ^ http://www.tczca.leidenuniv.nl/
  23. ^ Opleiding Indonesisch
  24. ^ Startpagina
  25. ^ Japanse taal en cultuur
  26. ^ Talen en culturen van Korea
  27. ^ Homepage Opleiding Talen en culturen van Latijns Amerika / Spaans
  28. ^ Nieuw-Perzische Taal en Cultuur
  29. ^ [1]
  30. ^ ICT in Business Programme
  31. ^ Master of Advanced Studies in International Tax Law
  32. ^ Media Technology MSc Programme
  33. ^ CML
  34. ^ [2]
  35. ^ ITC
  36. ^ [3]
  37. ^ [4]
  38. ^ "QS World University Rankings 2010 Results". http://www.topuniversities.com/university-rankings/world-university-rankings/2010/results. 

External links

Coordinates: 52°09′22″N 4°29′13″E / 52.156071°N 4.486949°E / 52.156071; 4.486949

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