Jagiellonian University

For other collegiate-level institutions of higher education in the city also referred to alternatively as "Krakow Academy" or "Krakow University", see Education in Kraków
Jagiellonian University
Uniwersytet Jagielloński
Latin: Universitas Iagellonica Cracoviensis
Former names
University of Kraków (1364-1817)
Motto Plus ratio quam vis
Motto in English
Let reason prevail over force
Type Public
Established 1364 (652 years ago)
Rector Wojciech Nowak
Academic staff
3,857 (2015)[1]
Students 48,006 (2015)[1]
Undergraduates 42,403 (2015)
Postgraduates 2,295 (2015)
3,308 (2015)
Location Kraków, Poland
Coordinates: 50°3′39″N 19°55′58″E / 50.06083°N 19.93278°E / 50.06083; 19.93278
Campus Urban
Affiliations EUA, Coimbra Group, Europaeum, Utrecht Network, EAIE, IRUN
Website www.uj.edu.pl
Jagiellonian University
Location of Jagiellonian University in Kraków within Poland.

The Jagiellonian University (Polish: Uniwersytet Jagielloński [uniˈvɛrsɨtɛt jaɡiɛ(l)lˈɔɲski], often shortened to UJ; historical names include Studium Generale, University of Kraków, Kraków Academy, The Main Crown School, and Main School of Kraków) is a research university founded in 1364 by Casimir III the Great in Kraków. It is the oldest university in Poland, the second oldest university in Central Europe and one of the oldest universities in the world. It was ranked by QS World University Rankings as the best Polish university among the world's top 500 and by the ARWU as the best Polish higher-level institution.

The university fell upon hard times when the occupation of Kraków by Austria-Hungary during the Partitions of Poland threatened its existence. In 1817, soon after the creation of the Duchy of Warsaw, the university was renamed as the Jagiellonian University in order to commemorate Poland's Jagiellonian dynasty, which first revived the Kraków University in the past.[2] In 2006, The Times Higher Education Supplement ranked Jagiellonian University as Poland's top university.[3]


Founding the university

The founding of the University in 1364 AD, painted by Jan Matejko (1838–1893).

In the mid-14th century, King Casimir III the Great realised that the nation needed a class of educated people, especially lawyers, who could codify the country's laws and administer the courts and offices. His efforts to found an institution of higher learning in Poland were rewarded when Pope Urban V granted him permission to set up a university in Kraków. A royal charter of foundation was issued on 12 May 1364, and a simultaneous document was issued by the City Council granting privileges to the Studium Generale. The King provided funding for one chair in liberal arts, two in Medicine, three in Canon Law and five in Roman Law, funded by a quarterly payment taken from the proceeds of the royal monopoly on the salt mines at Wieliczka.[4]

The Collegium Maius dates from shortly after the university's establishment

Development of the University of Kraków stalled upon the death of King Casimir, its founder, and lectures were held in various places across the city, including, amongst others, in professors' houses, churches and in the cathedral school on the Wawel Hill. It is believed that, in all likelihood, the construction of a building to house the Studium Generale began on Plac Wolnica in what is today the district of Kazimierz.

After a period of disinterest and lack of funds, the institution was restored in the 1390s by King Władysław II Jagiełło and his wife Saint Hedwig, the daughter of King Louis of Hungary and Poland. The royal couple decided that, instead of building new premises for the university, it would be better to buy an existing edifice; it was thus that a building on Żydowska Street, which had previously been the property of the Pęcherz family, was found and acquired in 1399. The Queen donated all of her personal jewelry to the university, allowing it to enroll 203 students. The faculties of astronomy, law and theology attracted eminent scholars: for example, John Cantius, Stanisław of Skarbimierz, Paweł Włodkowic, Jan of Głogów, and Albert Brudzewski, who from 1491 to 1495 was one of Nicolaus Copernicus' teachers. The university was the first university in Europe to establish independent chairs in Mathematics and Astronomy. This rapid expansion in the university's faculty necessitated the purchase of larger premises in which to house them; it was thus that the building known today as the Collegium Maius, with its quadrangle and beautiful arcade, came into being towards the beginning of the 15th century. The Collegium Maius' qualities, many of which directly contributed to the sheltered, academic atmosphere at the university, became widely respected, helping the university establish its reputation as a place of learning in Central Europe.

Golden age of the Renaissance

The main assembly hall of the university's Collegium Maius

For several centuries, virtually the entire intellectual elite of Poland were educated at the university,[5] where they enjoyed particular royal favour, often being provided with game from the royal hunt to satisfy their needs at mealtime. Whilst it was, and largely remains, Polish students who make up the greater part of the university's student body, it has, over its long history, educated thousands of foreign students from countries such as Lithuania, Russia, Hungary, Bohemia, Germany, and Spain. During the second half of the 15th century, over 40 percent of students came from outside the Kingdom of Poland.

The main baroque entrance to the university's Collegium Iuridicum

The first chancellor of the University was Piotr Wysz, and the first professors were Czechs, Germans and Poles, many of them trained at the Charles University in Prague in Bohemia. By 1520 Greek philology was introduced by Constanzo Claretti and Wenzel von Hirschberg; Hebrew was also taught. At this time, the Collegium Maius comprised seven reading rooms, six of which were named for the great ancient scholars: Aristotle, Socrates, Plato, Galen, Ptolemy and Pythagoras. Furthermore, it was during this period that the faculties of Law, Medicine, Theology and Philosophy were established in their own premises; two of these buildings, the Collegium Iuridicum and Collegium Minus, survive to this day. The golden era of the University of Kraków took place during the Polish Renaissance, between 1500 and 1535, when it was attended by 3,215 students in the first decade of the 16th century, and it was in these early years that the foundations for the Jagiellonian Library were set, with the addition of a library floor to the Collegium Maius. The library's original rooms, in which all books were chained to their cases in order to prevent theft, are no longer used as such. However, they are still occasionally opened to host visiting lecturers' talks.

As the university's popularity, along with that of the ever more provincial Kraków's, declined in later centuries, the number of students attending the university also fell and, as such, the attendance record set in the early 16th century was not again surpassed until the late 18th century. This phenomenon was recorded as part of a more general economic and political decline seen in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, which was suffering from the effects of poor governance and the policies of hostile neighbours at the time. In fact, despite a number of expansion projects during the late 18th century, many of the university's buildings had fallen into disrepair and were being used for a range of other purposes; in the university's archives there is one entry which reads: 'Nobody lives in the building, nothing happens there. If the lecture halls underwent refurbishment they could be rented out to accommodate a laundry'. This period thus represents one of the darkest periods in the university's history and is almost certainly the one during which the closure of the institution seemed most imminent.

Decline and near closure after the partitions

After the third partition of Poland in 1795 and the ensuing Napoleonic Wars, Kraków became a free city under the protection of the Austrian Empire; this, however, was not to last long. In 1846, after the Kraków Uprising, the city and its university became part of the Austrian Empire.[2] The Austrians were in many ways hostile to the institution and, soon after their arrival, removed many of the furnishings from the Collegium Maius' Auditorium Maximum in order to convert it into a grain store. However, the threat of closure of the University was ultimately dissipated by Kaiser Ferdinand I of Austria's decree to maintain it. By the 1870s the fortunes of the university had improved so greatly that many scholars had returned. The liquefaction of nitrogen and oxygen was successfully demonstrated by professors Zygmunt Wróblewski and Karol Olszewski in 1883. Thereafter the Austrian authorities took on a new role in the development of the university and provided funds for the construction of a number of new buildings, including the neo-gothic Collegium Novum, which opened in 1887.[2] It was, conversely, from this building that in 1918 a large painting of Kaiser Franz Joseph was removed and destroyed by Polish students advocating the reestablishment of an independent Polish state.

Count Stanisław Tarnowski was, between 1871 and 1909, twice rector of the university.
The university around 1930

For the 500th anniversary of the university's foundation, a monument to Copernicus was placed in the quadrangle of the Collegium Maius; this statue is now to be found in the direct vicinity of the Collegium Novum, outside the Collegium Witkowskiego, to where it was moved in 1953. Nevertheless, it was in the Grzegórzecka and the Kopernika areas that much of the university’s expansion took place up to 1918; during this time the Collegium Medicum was relocated to a site just east of the centre, and was expanded with the addition of a number of modern teaching hospitals - this 'medical campus' remains to this day. By the late 1930s the number of students at the university had increased dramatically to almost six thousand. Now a major centre for education in the independent Republic of Poland, the university attained government support for the purchase of building plots for new premises, as a result of which a number of residencies were built for students and professors alike. However, of all the projects begun during this era, the most important would have to be the creation of the Jagiellonian Library. The library's monumental building, construction of which began in 1931, was finally completed towards the end of the interwar period, which allowed the university's many varied literary collections to be relocated to their new home by the outbreak of war in 1939.

Modern era

On November 6, 1939, following the Nazi invasion of Poland, 184 professors were arrested and deported to Sachsenhausen concentration camp during an operation codenamed Sonderaktion Krakau. The university, along with the rest of Poland's higher and secondary education, was closed for the remainder of World War II.[6] Despite the university's reopening after the cessation of hostilities in 1945, the new government of Poland was hostile to the teachings of the pre-war university and the faculty was suppressed by the Communists in 1954.[6] By 1957 the Polish government decided that it would invest in the establishment of new facilities near Jordan Park and expansion of other smaller existing facilities. Sadly, as was typical for the period, construction work proved slow and many of the stated goals were never achieved; it was this poor management and disregard for the university's future that eventually led a number of scholars to openly criticise the government for its apparent lack of interest in educational development. On the other hand, a number of new buildings, such as the Collegium Biologicum, were built with funds from the legacy of Ignacy Paderewski.

By 1991 Poland had thrown off its Communist government and in that same year the Jagiellonian University successfully completed the purchase of its first building plot in Pychowice, where, from 2000, construction of a new complex of university buildings, the so-called Third Campus, began; its completion is currently planned for 2015. The new campus, officially named the '600th Anniversary Campus', is being developed hand in hand with the new LifeScience Park, which is managed by the Jagiellonian Centre for Innovation, the university's research consortium.[7] Public funds earmarked for the project amounted to 946.5 million zlotys, or 240 million euros.[8] Poland's entry into the European Union in 2004 has proved instrumental in improving the fortunes of the Jagiellonian University, which has seen huge increases in funding from both central government and European authorities, allowing it to develop new departments, research centres and better support the work of its students and academics.

International partnerships

In 1990, a formal exchange agreement was created between the Jagiellonian University and the University at Buffalo (UB) in the State University of New York system, in the U.S. State of New York.[9] The two universities, however, had a long-standing partnership prior to that time.[9] In 1993, the two universities expanded their agreement to include additional joint programmes for students, faculty, and staff.[9][10] In 1995, UB President Bill Greiner received the Medal Merentibus, the highest honour issued by the Jagiellonian University, for his efforts in broadening the educational partnership between both institutions.[9] Greiner was awarded the Medal by Jagiellonian University Rector Alexander Koj for his personal support, initiative, and assistance in developing cooperative programmes between the two universities.[10]

There is also a partnership agreement with Ruhr-Universität Bochum.[11]


The Jagiellonian Library's main site
The Jagiellonian Library extension

The university's main library, the Jagiellonian Library (Biblioteka Jagiellońska), is one of Poland's largest, with almost 6.5 million volumes; it is a constituent of the Polish National Libraries system.[12] It is home to a world-renowned collection of medieval manuscripts,[13] which includes Copernicus' De Revolutionibus and the Balthasar Behem Codex. The library also has an extensive collection of underground political literature (so-called drugi obieg or samizdat) from Poland's period of Communist rule between 1945 and 1989.

The beginning of the Jagiellonian Library is traditionally considered the same as that of the entire university - in 1364;[14] however, instead of having one central library it had several smaller branches at buildings of various departments (the largest collection was in Collegium Maius, where works related to theology and liberal arts were kept). After 1775, during the reforms of Komisja Edukacji Narodowej, which established the first Ministry of Education in the world, various small libraries of the University were formally centralised into one public collection in Collegium Maius. During the partitions of Poland, the library continued to grow thanks to the support of such people as Karol Józef Teofil Estreicher and Karol Estreicher. Its collections were made public in 1812. Since 1932, it has been recognised as a legal deposit library, comparable to the Bodleian Library at the University of Oxford or Cambridge University Library or Trinity College Library in Dublin, and thus has the right to receive a copy of any book issued by Polish publishers within Poland. In 1940, the library finally obtained a new building of its own, which has subsequently been expanded on two occasions, most recently in 1995–2001. During the Second World War, library workers cooperated with underground universities. Since the 1990s, the library's collection has become increasingly digitised.

In addition to the Jagiellonian Library, the university maintains a large medical library (Biblioteka Medyczna) and many other subject specialised libraries in its various faculties and institutes. Finally, the collections of the university libraries' collections are enriched by the presence of the university's archives, which date back to the university's own foundation and record the entire history of its development up to the present day.

Notable Alumni

Monument to Nicolaus Copernicus next to Jagiellonian University's Collegium Novum

Faculties and departments

University rankings
ARWU[15] 301–400
QS[16] 371
Times[17] 301–350

The university is divided into 15 faculties which have different organisational sub-structures which partly reflect their history and partly their operational needs. Teaching and research at UJ is organised by faculties, which may include a number of other institutions:

Notable professors


As of 2008, the university has 52,445 students (including 1,612 degree students from abroad) and 3,657 academic staff. About 1,130 international non-degree students were enrolled in 2007. Programmes of study are offered in 48 disciplines and 93 specialisations.[19] The university has an exchange programme with The Catholic University of America and its Columbus School of Law.[20] It also hosts a "semester-abroad" programme with the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point and the University of Guelph.

Student associations

In 1851, the university's first student scientific association was founded. Now, over 70 student scientific associations exist at the Jagiellonian University. Usually, their purpose is to promote students' scientific achievements by organizing lecture sessions, science excursions, and international student conferences, such as the International Workshop for Young Mathematicians, which is organized by the Zaremba Association of Mathematicians.

The links below provide further information on student activities at the Jagiellonian:

Selected locations around the city
Theatrum Anatomicum of the Faculty of Medicine 
Przegorzały Castle, the seat of the Institute of European Studies 
Campus of the 600th Anniversary of University's Revival 
Auditorium Maximum with theatre stage seating 1,200 

See also

Notes and references

  1. 1 2 "Jagiellonian University Facts and Figures 2015". en.uj.edu.pl. Jagiellonian University. 2015. Retrieved 22 February 2016.
  2. 1 2 3 Waltos, Stanisław. "History". Jagiellonian University. Retrieved 2010-09-28.  (Polish)
  3. Times Higher Education Supplement (THES) "Jagiellonian University ranking among world universities" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on December 2, 2007. Retrieved August 1, 2011. from the Internet Archive See: rank 287 worldwide as the first listed Polish university among the top 500 in 2006.
  4. Davies, Norman (1982). God's Playground; A History of Poland, Vol. I: The Origins to 1795. Columbia University Press. p. 98. ISBN 978-0-231-05351-8.
  5. source needed
  6. 1 2 Weigel, George (2001). Witness of Hope – The Biography of Pope John Paul II. HarperCollins. ISBN 978-0-06-018793-4.
  7. "Campus of the Sixcentenary". Retrieved 2011-05-12.
  8. "Campus of the Sixcentenary". Retrieved 2010-09-28.
  9. 1 2 3 4 International perspective: Polish award of merit goes to UB president, UB Today, Buffalo, NY: University at Buffalo, Spring 1996, Archive, Accessdate=19 December 2013.
  10. 1 2 Honor roll, Buffalo News, Buffalo, NY: Berkshire Hathaway, 22 October 1995, Accessdate=21 December 2013.
  11. http://www.pm.ruhr-uni-bochum.de/pm2009/msg00423.htm
  12. Bętkowska, Teresa (18 May 2008). "Jagiellonian University: Cracow's Alma Mater". Warsaw Voice. Retrieved 2010-09-28.
  13. "BJ: Medieval manuscripts". Bj.uj.edu.pl. Retrieved 2010-09-28.
  14. Visiting the Biblioteka Jagiellonska (Jagiellonian Library) in Cracow. Last accessed on 4 May 2007.
  15. "Academic Ranking of World Universities 2016". Shanghai Ranking Consultancy. 2016. Retrieved August 16, 2016.
  16. "QS World University Rankings® 2016/17". Quacquarelli Symonds Limited. 2016. Retrieved September 6, 2016.
  17. "World University Rankings 2016-17". THE Education Ltd. Retrieved September 21, 2016.
  18. http://louisville.edu/dental/ohr/faculty-staff/jan-s-potempa.html
  19. Newsletter, web: UJ-News35-PDF.
  20. "Annual Summer Law Program". The Catholic University of America. Retrieved 2010-09-28.

External links

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