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Utrecht University
Universiteit Utrecht
Utrecht University logo.svg
Latin: Universitas Rheno-Traiectina
Universitas Ultraiectina
Motto Sol Iustitiae Illustra Nos (Latin)
Motto in English
May the Sun of Righteousness Enlighten Us
Type Public, research
Established 26 March 1636 (388 years ago) (1636-03-26)
Academic affiliation
CG, LERU, EUA, IAU, TPC, MISA, Utrecht Network
Endowment € 643 million (2022)
Budget € 2.606 billion (2022)
  • University: € 1.067 billion (2022)
  • Hospital: € 1.539 billion (2022)
Rector Henk Kummeling
Academic staff
Administrative staff
Students 37,675
Location ,

52°05′07″N 05°10′30″E / 52.08528°N 5.17500°E / 52.08528; 5.17500
Campus Urban
Yellow, red, black & white

Utrecht University (UU; Dutch: Universiteit Utrecht, formerly Rijksuniversiteit Utrecht) is a public research university in Utrecht, Netherlands. Established 26 March 1636 (388 years ago) (1636-03-26), it is one of the oldest universities in the Netherlands. In 2022, it had an enrollment of 37,675 students, and employed 8,584 faculty members and staff. More than 400 PhD degrees were awarded and 8,500 scientific articles were published. The university's 2022 budget was €2.606 billion, consisting of €1.067 billion for the university and €1.539 billion for the University Medical College Utrecht.

The university's interdisciplinary research targets life sciences, pathways to sustainability, dynamics of youth, and institutions for open societies. Its teaching and research are strongly connected where equality, diversity, and inclusion are valued. Utrecht University counts a number of distinguished scholars among its alumni and faculty, including 12 Nobel Prize laureates, 1 Pulitzer Prize, 1 Wolf Prize, 2 National Medal of Science, 19 Spinoza Prize and 2 NWO Stevin Prize laureates. The university counts several heads of state and government amongst its graduates, including: 4 members of Dutch royal house, 6 Prime Ministers of the Netherlands, An American Founding Father and signatory to the United States Constitution Hugh Williamson, 1 Prime Minister of United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland: William Pitt, 1st Earl of Chatham, an ancestor of both Winston Churchill and Diana, Princess of Wales, First Lord of the Treasury: Charles Spencer, 3rd Earl of Sunderland, 4 foreign heads of state or government, and 35 Ministers of the Cabinet of the Netherlands. An English economist Nicholas Barbon who was one of the first proponents of the free market studied at Utrecht University. German Margrave of Baden-Durlach, Charles III William, Margrave of Baden-Durlach who established the city Karlsruhe studied at Utrecht University. René Descartes, a French philosopher, scientist, and mathematician who developed the techniques of analytical geometry, was taught physics by Henricus Regius, a professor of medicine at Utrecht University.

Utrecht University alumni have won a total of 10 gold Olympic medals.

Utrecht University is led by the University Board, consisting of Henk Kummeling (Rector Magnificus), Anton Pijpers (chair), Margot van der Starre (Vice Chair) and Anneloes Krul (Student Assessor).Close ties are harboured with other institutions internationally through its membership in the Coimbra Group (CG), the League of European Research Universities (LERU), the Utrecht Network and the European University Association (EUA).


Gable decoration at the Utrecht University headquarter building (academiegebouw) Utrecht - panoramio
Gable decoration at the University Hall building (Academiegebouw).
Portret van Bernardus Schotanus, RP-P-OB-16.079
Bernardus Schotanus, the university's first rector magnificus, and professor of law and mathematics

Utrecht University was founded on 26 March 1636. It has its roots in the Illustrious School of Utrecht, which founded two years earlier in 1634 before being elevated to the status of university in 1636. The influential professor of theology Gisbertus Voetius delivered the inaugural speech, and Bernardus Schotanus (professor of law and mathematics) became the university's first rector magnificus. Anna Maria van Schurman, who became the university's first female student, was invited to write a Latin poem for the inauguration. Initially, only a few dozen students attended classes at the university. Seven professors worked in four faculties: philosophy, which offered all students an introductory education, and three higher-level faculties (theology, medicine and law).

Utrecht University flourished in the seventeenth century, and contributed significantly to the Dutch Golden Age, despite competition with the older universities, such as Leiden (1575) and Groningen (1614). Leiden, in particular, proved a strong competitor and made further improvement necessary; a rivalry that persists to this day. A botanical garden was built on the grounds of the present Sonnenborgh Observatory, and three years later the Smeetoren added an astronomical observatory. The university attracted many students from abroad (especially from Germany, England and Scotland). They witnessed the intellectual and theological battle fought between proponents of the new philosophy (René Descartes lived for a few years in Utrecht) and proponents of the strict Reformed theologian Voetius. They also witnessed the teachings of renowned Dutch jurist, Johannes Voet, a university alumnus and professor of law, whose works remain highly authoritative in modern Roman-Dutch law.

An honorary doctorate in law was conferred on Eleanor Roosevelt in 1948.

In 1806, the French occupying authorities of the Netherlands downgraded Utrecht University to an école secondaire (high school), but after the establishment of the United Kingdom of the Netherlands in 1813 it regained its former status. Leiden, Leuven, Groningen, Utrecht and Ghent were the five universities (Dutch: hoge scholen) of the new state. Two of the universities (Leuven and Ghent) became part of the new Belgian state after their respective provinces separated from the United Kingdom of the Netherlands in 1830. As a result, Utrecht University remained one of only three Dutch universities. During the French occupation, King Louis Napoleon ordered the construction of a palace in the centre of Utrecht, which eventually became the University Library City Centre.

Utrecht University played a prominent role in the golden age of Dutch science. Around 1850 the "Utrechtian School" of science formed, with Pieter Harting, Gerardus J. Mulder, Christophorus H. D. Buys Ballot and Franciscus Donders among the leading scientists. They introduced the educational laboratory (onderwijslaboratorium) as a practical learning place for their students. The National Veterinary School (Dutch:Rijks Veeartsenijschool) became Utrecht University's Faculty of Veterinary Medicine in 1918.

As the university grew, the academic buildings in the historic city centre were unable to meet the university's increasing need for space. Therefore, starting from the 1960s, a significant part of the university moved to the De Uithof campus, which occupies the easternmost part of the city and is located south of De Bilt. However, the university continued to retain its academic buildings and presence in the historic city centre.

The university is represented in the Stichting Academisch Erfgoed, a foundation with the goal of preserving the university's heritage and collections.


Utrecht Academiegebouw
Utrecht University Hall (Academiegebouw), built in 1894

The university consists of seven faculties, which offer 58 undergraduate degree programmes and over 150 graduate programmes.

Faculty School/Department
Faculty of Geosciences
  • Department of Earth Sciences
  • Department of Physical Geography
  • Department of Sustainable Development (Copernicus Institute)
  • Department of Human Geography and Spatial Planning
Faculty of Humanities
Faculty of Law, Economics and Governance
  • Utrecht University School of Law
  • Utrecht University School of Economics (USE)
  • Utrecht University School of Governance (USG)
Faculty of Medicine
Faculty of Science
Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences
Faculty of Veterinary Medicine

There are also three interfaculty units:

  • University College Utrecht
  • University College Roosevelt
  • Centre for Education and Learning (COLUU)


The two large faculties of Humanities and Law & Governance are situated in the inner city of Utrecht. The other five faculties and most of the administrative services are located in Utrecht Science Park De Uithof, a campus area on the outskirts of the city. University College Utrecht, along with the Utrecht School of Economics, are situated in the former Kromhout Kazerne, which used to be a Dutch military base. University College Roosevelt is located off-campus in the city of Middelburg in the south-west of the Netherlands.

International rankings

University rankings
Global – Overall
ARWU World 52 (2023)
QS World =107 (2024)
THE World 66 (2023)
USNWR Global =44 (2022–23)
University rankings
National – Overall
ARWU National 1 (2023)
QS National =3 (2024)
THE National 3 (2023)
USNWR National =2 (2022–23)

On the 2023 AWRU list, the University of Utrecht was ranked 52nd globally and the highest in the Netherlands. Its ranking has declined slightly since 2003, when it was ranked 40th. Best-ranked subjects in the world by AWRU 2023:

  • Geography: 20
  • Public Administration: 3
  • Oceanography: 7
  • Pharmacy & Pharmaceutical Sciences: 16
  • Education: 9
  • Earth Sciences: 17
  • Medical Technology: 19
  • Veterinary Sciences: 10
  • Sociology: 26
  • Ecology: 45
  • Atmospheric Science: 39
  • Biomedical Engineering: 51-75
  • Environmental Science and Engineering: 46
  • Biological Sciences: 51-75
  • Clinical Medicine: 51-75
  • Public Health: 31
  • Psychology: 32
  • Water resources: 29

In the 2022 USNWR, Utrecht University is ranked 44th (tie) best University in the world. Best-ranked subjects in the world by USNWR 2022:

  • Microbiology: 6
  • Pharmacology and Toxicology: 9
  • Geosciences: 11
  • Social Sciences and Public Health: 15
  • Meteorology and Atmospheric Sciences: 18
  • Water Resources: 18
  • Education and Educational Research: 19
  • Environment/Ecology: 21
  • Infectious Diseases: 23
  • Psychiatry/Psychology: 23
  • Arts and Humanities: 28
  • Radiology, Nuclear Medicine, and Medical Imagine: 28
  • Cell Biology: 30

In the 2023 THE ranking, the university is ranked 66th. Best-ranked subjects in the world by THE ranking 2023:

  • Education: 24
  • Psychology: 26
  • Medicine and Dentistry: 67
  • Biological Sciences: 63
  • Veterinary Sciences: 63
  • Physical Sciences: 59
  • Law: 36

QS ranking by Subject 2023

  • Veterinary Science: 5
  • Geography: 22
  • Psychology: 24
  • Pharmacology: 25
  • Earth & Marine Sciences: 28
  • Geology: 30
  • Biological Sciences: 47
  • Medicine: 59
  • Nursing: 51-100
  • Pharmacy & Pharmacology: 25
  • Geophysics: 31

Utrecht University was also mentioned in the BlueSky Ranking Of University Rankings 2022/23 published by Matt Symonds, who is the S of QS, co-founding QS Quacquarelli Symonds ranking. BlueSky Ranking Of University Rankings considers the aggregation of the performance of schools across four major rankings: AWRU, QS,THE, and USNWR. In this ranking, Utrecht University was placed 60th in the world, 18th in Europe, and 1st in the Netherlands.


Utrecht University is a member of the Coimbra Group (CG), League of European Research Universities (LERU), the Utrecht Network, the European University Association (EUA), the International Association of Universities (IAU) and the McDonnell International Scholars Academy (MISA).

Notable alumni and faculty

See also

Kids robot.svg In Spanish: Universidad de Utrecht para niños

  • List of early modern universities in Europe
  • Roosevelt Academy International Honors College of Utrecht University located in Middelburg, Zeeland
  • University College Utrecht International Honors College of Utrecht University located in Utrecht
  • Utrecht Network
  • Utrecht School of the Arts
  • Utrecht Summer School
  • Utrecht University of Applied Sciences (HU – Hogeschool Utrecht)
  • Codex Boreelianus
  • Open Access Scholarly Publishers Association, of which Utrecht University Library is a founding member
  • Bijvoet Centre for Biomolecular Research, a research institute of Utrecht University in the field of molecular Life Sciences
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