Katholieke Universiteit Leuven

For the pre-1968 university, see Catholic University of Leuven (1834–1968). For the present-day French-speaking university, see Université catholique de Louvain.
Universiteit Leuven
KU Leuven
Latin: Universitas Lovaniensis
Motto Sedes Sapientiae (Latin)
Motto in English
Seat of Wisdom
or Seat of Knowledge
Type Independent/Free catholic university
Established 1425A, 1834, 1970
Endowment € 950 million
Chairman Herman baron Daems
Chancellor Mgr. André-Joseph Léonard
Rector Rik Torfs
Administrative staff
Students 55,484 (2014-15)
Location Leuven,  Belgium
50°52′41″N 4°42′00″E / 50.878°N 4.700°E / 50.878; 4.700Coordinates: 50°52′41″N 4°42′00″E / 50.878°N 4.700°E / 50.878; 4.700
Campus Main (urban) campus in Leuven and satellite campuses in Aalst, Antwerp, Bruges, Brussels, Diepenbeek, Geel, Ghent, Kortrijk, Ostend and Sint-Katelijne-Waver
Colors Blue and white          
Mascot Fons Sapientiae
Affiliations CLUSTER
Coimbra Group
Website www.kuleuven.be
Data as of 2014

The Katholieke Universiteit Leuven (Dutch pronunciation: [katoˈlikə ynivɛrsiˈtɛit ˈløːvə(n)],  listen ; Dutch for Catholic University of Leuven, but usually not translated into English to avoid confusion with the Catholic University of Leuven (1834–1968)), also known as KU Leuven[1][2] or University of Leuven, is a Dutch-speaking university in Leuven, Flanders, Belgium.

The University of Leuven was founded at the centre of the historic town of Leuven in 1425, making it Belgium's first university. After being closed in 1797 during the Napoleonic period, the Catholic University of Leuven was "re-founded" in 1834, and is frequently, but controversially, identified as a continuation of the older institution.A In 1968 the Catholic University of Leuven split into the Dutch-language Katholieke Universiteit Leuven and the French-language Université catholique de Louvain, which moved to Louvain-la-Neuve in Wallonia. Since the fifteenth century, Louvain, as it is still often called by French speaking Belgians (Flemish speaking Belgians always use Leuven), has been a major contributor to the development of Catholic theology. It is considered the oldest Catholic university still in existence.

With 55,484 students in 2014–2015, the KU Leuven is the largest university in Belgium and the Low Countries. In addition to its primary campus in Leuven, it has satellite campuses in Kortrijk ('KULAK'), Antwerp, Ghent, Bruges, Ostend, Geel, Diepenbeek, Aalst, Sint-Katelijne-Waver and in Belgium's capital Brussels.[3] The university now also offers several programs in English.[4]

As of 2016-2017 academic year, KU Leuven ranks as 40th globally according to Times Higher Education,[5] 79th according to QS World University Rankings[6] and 93rd according to the Academic Ranking of World Universities.[7] KU Leuven is consistently considered to be within the top 100 universities of the world and in contention with Ghent University as the best Belgian university.

General description

Inner view of the Adrian VI College

The KU Leuven is a strongly research-oriented university. Among its many accolades is to be reckoned among the top universities of Europe. In the 2015-2016 Times Higher Education Supplement (THES) university ranking, the KU Leuven was ranked 35th in the world and 12th in Europe, making it the highest ranked university from the low countries (The Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg) in either category.[5] Its current 2015-2016 QS World University Ranking position is 82nd.[6] KU Leuven Institute of Philosophy current ranks 24th in the world.[8] In 2016, KU Leuven was ranked first on the Reuters' list of Europe's most innovative universities.[9]

KU Leuven Law School currently ranks 26th in the world.[10]

In the 2014-2015 Academic Year, 55,484 students were attending classes at the 15 faculties of the KU Leuven, 9,930 of whom were foreign students, many of whom were able to follow courses offered in English.[11] Most courses, however, are taught in Dutch. The KU Leuven is a member of the Coimbra Group (a network of leading European universities) as well as of the LERU Group (League of European Research Universities). Since November 2014, KU Leuven's Faculty of Economics and Business is accredited by European Quality Improvement System, which is a leading accreditation system specializing in higher education institutions of management and business administration.[12]

Since August 2013, the university has been led by Rik Torfs who replaced former rector Mark Waer. The Belgian archbishop, André-Joseph Léonard is the current Grand Chancellor and a member of the university board.

The KU Leuven is dedicated to Mary, the mother of Jesus, under her traditional attribute as 'Seat of Wisdom', and organizes an annual celebration on 2 February in her honour. On that day, the university also awards its honorary doctorates. The seal used by the university shows the medieval statue of the Sedes Sapientiae, Leuven, in a vesica piscis shape. Despite its Catholic origin, the university welcomes students from different faith communities.

In Flanders, the KU Leuven has a Catholic origin, whereas the University of Ghent and the University of Antwerp are officially neutral on issues of religious/philosophical orientation, and the Free University of Brussels is Freethinking.[13]


Kasteel van Arenberg, part of the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven.
For the history of the pre-1970 university see Catholic University of Leuven (1834–1968).

In 1968, tensions between the Dutch-speaking and French-speaking communities led to the splitting of the bilingual Catholic University of Leuven into two "sister" universities, with the Dutch-language university becoming a fully functioning independent institution in Leuven in 1970, and the Université Catholique de Louvain departing to a newly built greenfield campus site in the French-speaking part of Belgium. Pieter De Somer became the first rector of the KU Leuven.

In 1972, the KU Leuven set up a separate entity, "Leuven Research & Development" (LRD), to support industrial and commercial applications of university research. It has led to numerous spin-offs, such as the technology company Metris, and manages tens of millions of euros in investments and venture capital.

On 11 July 2002, the KU Leuven became the dominant institution in the "KU Leuven Association" (see below).


The table below provides an overview of the courses offered by the faculties of the University of Leuven in English. For the Dutch programs go to KU Leuven - opleidingen. There are 4 English bachelor programs and many different Master programs in English.

Bachelor's degrees Master's degreesAdvanced master's degrees
Faculty of Kinesiology and Rehabilitation Sciences
  • Adapted Physical Activity (EM)
  • Rehabilitation Sciences and Physiotherapy
  • Exercise and Sport Psychology
Faculty of Bioscience Engineering
  • Bio-informatics
  • Earth Observation
  • Food Technology
  • Human Health Engineering
  • Molecular Biology
  • Nanoscience and Nanotechnology
  • Nanoscience and Nanotechnology (Erasmus Mundus)
  • Statistics
  • Tropical Natural Resources Management
  • Water Resources Engineering
Faculteit of Economics & Business
  • Business Economics (Leuven)
  • Economics (Leuven)
  • European Studies: Transnational and Global Perspectives (Leuven)
  • Business Administration (campus Brussels)
  • International Business Economics and Management (campus Brussels)
  • Information Management (Leuven)
  • Advanced Business Studies (Leuven)
  • Advanced Studies in Economics (Leuven)
  • Financial and Actuarial Engineering (Leuven)
  • Financial Economics (Leuven)
  • International Business Economics and Management (campus Brussels)
Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences
Faculty of Medicine
  • Biomedical Sciences
  • Medicine
  • Dentistry
  • Speech Language Pathology and Audiology Sciences
  • Sexuology
  • Specialist or General Medicine
  • Bioethics
  • Bioethics (EM)
  • Endodontics
  • Forensic Odontology
  • Oral Health Research
  • Orthodontics
  • Paediatric Dentistry and Special Dental Care
  • Periodontology
  • Restorative Dentistry
  • Deglutology
  • Space Studies
Faculty of Theology and Religious Studies
  • Theology and Religious Studies
  • European Studies: Transnational and Global Perspectives
  • Theology and Religious Studies
  • Advanced Studies in Theology and Religion
Faculty of Engineering Science
  • Bio-informatics
  • Engineering:
    • Chemical Technology (Engineering Rheology)
    • Materials Engineering
    • Mechanical Engineering
    • Electrical, Electronic & Telecommunication Engineering
    • Computer Engineering
    • Civil Engineering (only in Dutch)
    • Mathematical Engineering
    • Energy Engineering (also EIT-KIC Master in Energy)
    • Biomedical Engineering
    • Logistics & Transport Engineering (only in Dutch)
    • Architectural Engineering (only in Dutch)
  • Nanoscience and Nanotechnology
  • Nanoscience and Nanotechnology (Erasmus Mundus)
  • Statistics

(Only as a Master-after-Master)

  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Conservation of Monuments and Sites
  • Human Settlements
  • Industrial Management
  • Nuclear Engineering
  • Safety Engineering
  • Space Studies
  • Urbanism and Strategic Planning
Faculty of Engineering Technology (Leuven, Aalst, Diepenbeek, Geel, Gent, Oostende of Sint-Katelijne-Waver)
  • Industrial Sciences
  • Industrial Sciences
  • Food Science, Technology and Nutrition (Erasmus Mundus)
  • Welding Engineering
Faculty of Arts
  • Archaeology
  • Culturele studies
  • Cultural Studies
  • European Studies: Transnational and Global Perspectives
  • Linguistics and Literature: English
  • Western Literature
  • Advanced Studies in Linguistics
  • American Studies
  • Europe and the World 1500-2000 Studies
  • Literatuurwetenschappen ~ Literary Studies
  • Estudios Ibéricos e Iberoamericanos
  • Medieval and Renaissance Studies
Faculty of Architecture
  • Architecture: Resilient and Sustainable Strategies (Campus Sint-Lucas Ghent)
  • Architecture: Urban Projects, Urban Cultures (Campus Sint-Lucas Brussels)
Faculty of Psychology and Educational Sciences
  • Educatieve studies
  • Educational Studies
  • European Studies: Transnational and Global Perspectives
Faculty of Law
  • Criminology
  • Law
  • European Studies: Transnational and Global Perspectives
  • Human Rights and Democratisation (European Master)
  • European Social Security
  • Laws (LLM)
  • Laws in Energy and Environmental Law
  • Laws in European and International Taxation
  • Space Studies
  • Vennootschapsrecht
Faculty of Social Sciences
  • European Studies: Transnational and Global Perspectives
  • Social and Cultural Anthropology
  • Cultures and Development Studies
  • European Politics and Policies
  • Quantitative Analysis in the Social Sciences
  • Social Policy Analysis
Faculty of Science
  • Biology
  • Chemistry
  • Physics
  • Geography
  • Geology
  • Statistics
  • Theoretical Chemistry and Computational Modelling (EM)
  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Mathematics
  • Molecular and Cellular Biophysics
  • Nanoscience and Nanotechnology
  • Nanoscience and Nanotechnology (EM)
  • Earth Observation
  • Bio-informatics
  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Financial and Actuarial Engineering
  • Space Studies
Faculty of Canon Law
  • European Studies: Transnational and Global Perspectives
  • Society, Law and Religion
  • Canon Law (Iuris Canonici Licentiatus)
Institute of Philosophy
  • Philosophy
  • European Studies: Transnational and Global Perspectives
  • Philosophy
  • Philosophy (MPhil)


The University Library
For the history of the university library prior to 1970, see Catholic University of Leuven (1834–1968).

When the university was split, those books that could not be divided otherwise (e.g. according to the wishes of the benefactors who donated them) were divided as follows: those with an odd-numbered shelfmark stayed in Leuven, while the even-numbered ones moved to Louvain-la-Neuve. This gave rise to the widespread myth that every other volume was separated - splitting up runs of journals and volumes of encyclopedias - but since such series each had a single shelfmark this was never in fact the case. The Central Library alone now owns about 1,300,000 works.

Inside Room 07.30 of the Faculteit Letteren is the Belgian Association of Japanese Language Teachers (ベルギー日本語教師会 Berugi Nihongo Kyōshikai; BNK) book case of materials for teaching the Japanese language.[14]

University Hospital

UZ Leuven (Universitair ziekenhuis Leuven) is the teaching hospital associated with the KU Leuven. Its most well known and largest campus is Gasthuisberg (literally 'guest house hill') and also houses the majority of auditoria of the faculty of medicine and the faculty of Pharmaceutical sciences.


# Name Began office Ended office Studies Vice-rector
1 Pieter De Somer 1968 1985 Medicine
2 Roger Dillemans 1985 1995 Law
3 André Oosterlinck 1995 2005 Engineering
4 Marc Vervenne 2005 2009 Theology Mark Waer
5 Mark Waer 2009 2013 Medicine
6 Rik Torfs 2013 Canon Law

Notable alumni

For pre-1970 alumni see Catholic University of Leuven (1834–1968)#Notable alumni.

Honorary doctorates

Notable recipients of honorary doctorates at the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven include:


Students attending a conference at the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven

Notable divisions of the university include the Higher Institute of Philosophy and the Rega Institute for Medical Research.

The university is a member of the Flanders Interuniversity Institute of Biotechnology (VIB). The Interuniversity Microelectronics Centre (IMEC) is a spin-off company of the university.

The students of the university are gathered together in the student's society LOKO. They have representatives in most meetings at the university, including the Board of Directors.

Since July 2002, thirteen higher education institutes have formed the K.U.Leuven Association. The members are:[15]

Electronic learning environment: TOLEDO

Toledo, which started in September 2001, was gradually developed into the central electronic learning environment at the Association KU Leuven.

The word is an acronym for "TOetsen en LEren Doeltreffend Ondersteunen" (English: effectively supporting testing and learning). It is the collective name for a number of commercial software programs and tools, such as Blackboard. The project offers the Question Mark Perception assignment software to all institution members and has implemented the Ariadne KPS to reuse digital learning objects inside the Blackboard environment.

International acclaim

As of September 2016
University rankings
ARWU[16] 93
Times[17] 35
QS[18] 79
ARWU[19] 32
Times[20] 12
QS[21] 26

In 2016, the Academic Ranking of World Universities ranked the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven as the world's 93rd best university,[7] while the Times Higher Education ranked KU Leuven 35th best university[5] and QS World University Rankings ranked KU Leuven 79th overall in the world.[6] In 2016, KU Leuven was ranked first on the Reuters' list of Europe's most innovative universities.[9]

Year World university ranking European university ranking World reputation ranking
200595 34
200696 (Decrease 1) 38 (Decrease 4)
200761 (Increase 35) 17 (Increase 21)
200872 (Decrease 11) 23 (Decrease 6)
200965 (Increase 7) 21 (Increase 2)
2010 119 (THE) 37 (THE)
2011 67 (THE Increase 52) 17 (THE Increase 20) 81-90 (THE)
2012 58 (THE Increase 9) 13 (THE Increase 4) 81-90 (THE Steady)
2013 61 (THE Decrease 3) 17 (THE Decrease 4) 71-80 (THE Increase)
2014 55 (THE Increase 6) | 96 (ARWU Increase) 13 (THE Increase 4) | 32 (ARWU Increase) 71-80 (THE Steady)
2015 35 (THE Increase 20) | 90 (ARWU Increase 6) 12 (THE Increase 1) | 32 (ARWU Steady) 51-60 (THE Increase)
2016 40 (THE Decrease 5) | 93 (ARWU Decrease 3) 12 (THE Steady) | 32 (ARWU Steady) 51-60 (THE Steady)

In the academic year of 2012-2013, the university held Erasmus contracts with 434 European establishments. It also had 22 central bilateral agreements in 8 countries: U.S.A, China, South Africa, Japan, Democratic Republic of Congo, Vietnam, Poland and the Netherlands. The vast majority of international EU students came from the Netherlands, the non-EU ones - from China. Katholieke Universiteit Leuven is up to 50 projects, specializing in development of international relations. Facts and figures about KU Leuven.

See also


A.^ The Old University of Leuven (1425–1797) is the oldest university in the low countries, and the Catholic University of Leuven (1834) is sometimes, controversially, identified as a continuation of it. It should be noted that Belgium's highest court, the Court of Cassation has ruled that the (1834) Catholic University of Leuven cannot be regarded as continuing the old (1425) University of Leuven.[22] See also: History of the Old University of Leuven.


  1. According to the university's style guidelines, the name of the university should not be translated in publications. See (Dutch)
  2. "University's 'corporate' name and mission statement finalised". Kuleuven.be. Retrieved 2014-03-28.
  3. "Studeren aan de KU Leuven, ook buiten Leuven – KU Leuven". Kuleuven.be. Retrieved 2015-10-18.
  4. "International programmes". Kuleuven.be. Retrieved 2014-03-28.
  5. 1 2 3 "The Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2015-2016".
  6. 1 2 3 "QS World Universities Ranking 2015-2016".
  7. 1 2 "Academic Ranking of World Universities 2015".
  8. "QS World University Rankings by Subject 2015 - Philosophy". Top Universities.
  9. 1 2
  10. QS World University Rankings by Subject 2014 - Law
  11. "Aantal studenten".
  12. "EFMD EQUIS Accreditation for KU Leuven's Faculty of Economics and Business".
  13. The Vrije Universiteit Brussel explicitly subscribes to a principle of Freethought enunciated by Henri Poincaré
  14. "BNK Library" (Archive). Belgian Association of Japanese Language Teachers (ベルギー日本語教師会. Retrieved on 11 November 2015.
  15. Associations Members. Retrieved March 4, 2007.
  16. "Academic Ranking of World Universities: Global". Institute of Higher Education, Shanghai Jiao Tong University. 2016. Retrieved September 8, 2016.
  17. "World University Rankings 2016-2017". Times Higher Education. 2015. Retrieved October 22, 2016.
  18. "QS World University Rankings 2016/17". Quacquarelli Symonds Limited. 2016. Retrieved September 8, 2016.
  19. "Academic Ranking of World Universities: Global". Institute of Higher Education, Shanghai Jiao Tong University. 2016. Retrieved September 8, 2016.
  20. "Best universities in Europe 2017". The Times Higher Education. 2016. Retrieved October 22, 2016.
  21. "QS World University Rankings". QS Quacquarelli Symonds Limited. 2016. Retrieved September 8, 2016.
  22. Ruling of the Cour de Cassation of Belgium of 26 November 1846: "The Catholic University of Leuven can not be regarded as continuing the old University of Leuven", in, Table générale alphabétique et chronologique de la Pasicrisie Belge contenant la jurisprudence du Royaume de 1814 à 1850, Brussels, 1855, p. 585, column 1, alinea 2. See also: Bulletin Usuel des Lois et Arrêtés, 1861, p. 166.
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