Leiden University

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Leiden University
Universiteit Leiden
Leiden University seal.svg
Latin: Academia Lugduno-Batava
Former names
Rijksuniversiteit Leiden
MottoLibertatis Praesidium (Latin)
Motto in English
Bastion of Freedom
Type Public research university
Established8 February 1575 [1]
Budget 652 million (2019) [2]
Rector Carel Stolker
Academic staff
1,352 [3]
Administrative staff
6,700 [3]
Students29,542 (2019) [3]
Location, ,
CampusUrban and College town
Colours      Leiden Blue [4]
Website www.universiteitleiden.nl

Leiden University (commonly abbreviated as LEI; Dutch : Universiteit Leiden) is a public research university in Leiden, Netherlands. Founded in 1575 by William, Prince of Orange; leader of the Dutch Revolt in the Eighty Years' War; as a reward to the town of Leiden for its defense against Spanish attacks, it is the oldest institution of higher education in the Netherlands, [5] and the twelfth-oldest in Europe.

Dutch language A West Germanic language

Dutch(Nederlands ) is a West Germanic language spoken by around 24 million people as a first language and 5 million people as a second language, constituting the majority of people in the Netherlands and Belgium. It is the third-most-widely spoken Germanic language, after its close relatives English and German.

Leiden City and municipality in South Holland, Netherlands

Leiden is a city and municipality in the province of South Holland, Netherlands. The municipality of Leiden had a population of 123,856 in August 2017, but the city forms one densely connected agglomeration with its suburbs Oegstgeest, Leiderdorp, Voorschoten and Zoeterwoude with 206,647 inhabitants. The Netherlands Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS) further includes Katwijk in the agglomeration which makes the total population of the Leiden urban agglomeration 270,879, and in the larger Leiden urban area also Teylingen, Noordwijk, and Noordwijkerhout are included with in total 348,868 inhabitants. Leiden is located on the Oude Rijn, at a distance of some 20 kilometres from The Hague to its south and some 40 km (25 mi) from Amsterdam to its north. The recreational area of the Kaag Lakes (Kagerplassen) lies just to the northeast of Leiden.

William the Silent founder of the Dutch Republic, stadtholder of Holland, Zeeland and Utrecht, leader of the Dutch Revolt

William I, Prince of Orange, also known as William the Silent or William the Taciturn, or more commonly known as William of Orange, was the main leader of the Dutch Revolt against the Spanish Habsburgs that set off the Eighty Years' War (1568–1648) and resulted in the formal independence of the United Provinces in 1581. He was born in the House of Nassau as Count of Nassau-Dillenburg. He became Prince of Orange in 1544 and is thereby the founder of the branch House of Orange-Nassau and the ancestor of the monarchy of the Netherlands. Within the Netherlands, he is also known as Father of the Fatherland.


Known for its historic foundations and emphasis on the social sciences, the university came into particular prominence during the Dutch Golden Age, when scholars from around Europe were attracted to the Dutch Republic due to its climate of intellectual tolerance and Leiden's international reputation. During this time, Leiden became the home to individuals such as René Descartes, Rembrandt, Christiaan Huygens, Hugo Grotius, Baruch Spinoza and Baron d'Holbach.

Social science The academic disciplines concerned with society and the relationships between individuals in society

Social science is a category of academic disciplines concerned with society and the relationships among individuals within a society. The disciplines include, but are not limited to: anthropology, archaeology, communication studies, economics, history, musicology, human geography, jurisprudence, linguistics, political science, psychology, public health, and sociology. The term is also sometimes used to refer specifically to the field of sociology, the original "science of society", established in the 19th century. For a more detailed list of sub-disciplines within the social sciences see: Outline of social science.

Dutch Golden Age Historical period of the Netherlands, roughly spanning the 17th century

The Dutch Golden Age was a period in the history of the Netherlands, roughly spanning the 17th century, in which Dutch trade, science, military, and art were among the most acclaimed in the world. The first section is characterized by the Eighty Years' War, which ended in 1648. The Golden Age continued in peacetime during the Dutch Republic until the end of the century.

Dutch Republic Republican predecessor state of the Netherlands from 1581 to 1795

The United Provinces of the Netherlands, or simply United Provinces, and commonly referred to historiographically as the Dutch Republic, was a confederal republic formally established from the formal creation of a confederacy in 1581 by several Dutch provinces—seceded from Spanish rule—until the Batavian Revolution of 1795. It was a predecessor state of the Netherlands and the first fully independent Dutch nation state.

The university has seven academic faculties and over fifty subject departments, while housing more than 40 national and international research institutes. Its historic primary campus, scattered across the college town of Leiden, is considered among the most beautiful in Europe. The university also operates a secondary campus in The Hague, which consists of a liberal arts college and several of its faculties. It is a member of the Coimbra Group, the Europaeum, and a founding member of the League of European Research Universities.

Europe Continent in the Northern Hemisphere and mostly in the Eastern Hemisphere

Europe is a continent located entirely in the Northern Hemisphere and mostly in the Eastern Hemisphere. It is bordered by the Arctic Ocean to the north, the Atlantic Ocean to the west, Asia to the east, and the Mediterranean Sea to the south. It comprises the westernmost part of Eurasia.

The Hague City and municipality in South Holland, Netherlands

The Hague is a city on the western coast of the Netherlands and the capital of the province of South Holland. It is also the seat of government of the Netherlands and it houses one of the most important courts in the world.

The Coimbra Group (GC) is an international association of 39 universities in Europe. It was established in 1985.

In 2019, Leiden University was placed in the top 100 universities in the world by three major ranking tables. It was placed top 50 worldwide in thirteen fields of study in the 2020 QS World University Rankings: classics & ancient history, politics, archaeology, anthropology, history, pharmacology, law, public policy, religious studies, arts & humanities, linguistics, modern languages and sociology. [6]

QS World University Rankings is an annual publication of university rankings by Quacquarelli Symonds (QS). Previously known as Times Higher Education–QS World University Rankings, the publisher had collaborated with Times Higher Education (THE) magazine to publish its international league tables from 2004 to 2009 before both started to announce their own versions. QS then chose to continue using the pre-existing methodology while Times Higher Education adopted a new methodology to create their rankings.

Classics Study of the culture of (mainly) Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome

Classics or classical studies is the study of classical antiquity. It encompasses the study of the Greco-Roman world, particularly of its languages and literature but also of Greco-Roman philosophy, history, and archaeology. Traditionally in the West, the study of the Greek and Roman classics is considered one of the cornerstones of the humanities and a fundamental element of a rounded education. The study of classics has therefore traditionally been a cornerstone of a typical elite education.

Ancient history Human history from the earliest records to the end of the classical period

Ancient history as a term refers to the aggregate of past events from the beginning of writing and recorded human history and extending as far as the post-classical history. The phrase may be used either to refer to the period of time or the academic discipline.

Leiden University has produced twenty-one Spinoza Prize Laureates and sixteen Nobel Laureates, including Albert Einstein and Enrico Fermi. It is closely associated with the Dutch Royal Family, with Queen Juliana, Queen Beatrix and King Willem-Alexander being former alumni. Ten prime ministers of the Netherlands were also Leiden University alumnus, including incumbent Prime Minister Mark Rutte. Internationally, it is associated with nine foreign leaders, among them John Quincy Adams; the 6th President of the United States; a NATO Secretary General, a President of the International Court of Justice, and a Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.

Spinoza Prize annual award in the Netherlands

The Spinoza Prize is an annual award of 2.5 million euro, to be spent on new research given by the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research. The award is the highest scientific award in the Netherlands. It is named after the philosopher Baruch de Spinoza.

Albert Einstein German-born physicist and developer of the theory of relativity

Albert Einstein was a German-born theoretical physicist who developed the theory of relativity, one of the two pillars of modern physics. His work is also known for its influence on the philosophy of science. He is best known to the general public for his mass–energy equivalence formula , which has been dubbed "the world's most famous equation". He received the 1921 Nobel Prize in Physics "for his services to theoretical physics, and especially for his discovery of the law of the photoelectric effect", a pivotal step in the development of quantum theory.

Enrico Fermi Nuclear physicist

Enrico Fermi was an Italian and naturalized-American physicist and the creator of the world's first nuclear reactor, the Chicago Pile-1. He has been called the "architect of the nuclear age" and the "architect of the atomic bomb". He was one of very few physicists to excel in both theoretical physics and experimental physics. Fermi held several patents related to the use of nuclear power, and was awarded the 1938 Nobel Prize in Physics for his work on induced radioactivity by neutron bombardment and for the discovery of transuranium elements. He made significant contributions to the development of statistical mechanics, quantum theory, and nuclear and particle physics.


Foundation and early history

William the Silent, founder of the university, in the 16th century. William the Silent 16th century.jpg
William the Silent, founder of the university, in the 16th century.
The Academy building of Leiden University in 1614. Academia Leidensis (cropped).jpg
The Academy building of Leiden University in 1614.
Anatomical theatre Leiden. Anatomical theatre Leiden.jpg
Anatomical theatre Leiden.

In 1575, the emerging Dutch Republic did not have any universities in its northern heartland. The only other university in the Habsburg Netherlands was the University of Leuven 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. Philip 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]

Habsburg Netherlands Historical region in the Low Countries, 1482–1581

Habsburg Netherlands, also referred to as Flanders during the early modern period, is the collective name of Holy Roman Empire fiefs in the Low Countries held by the House of Habsburg. The rule began in 1482, when after the death of the Valois-Burgundy duke Charles the Bold the Burgundian Netherlands fell to the Habsburg dynasty by the marriage of Charles's daughter Mary of Burgundy to Archduke Maximilian I of Austria. Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor was born in the Habsburg Netherlands and made Brussels his imperial capital.

Old University of Leuven Studium Generale Lovaniense

The Old University of Leuven is the name historians give to the university, or studium generale, founded in Leuven, Brabant, in 1425. The university was closed in 1797, a week after the cession to the French Republic of the Austrian Netherlands and the principality of Liège by the Treaty of Campo Formio.

Leuven Municipality in Flemish Community, Belgium

Leuven or Louvain is the capital of the province of Flemish Brabant in Belgium. It is located about 25 kilometres east of Brussels. The municipality itself comprises the historic city and the former neighbouring municipalities of Heverlee, Kessel-Lo, a part of Korbeek-Lo, Wilsele and Wijgmaal. It is the eighth largest city in Belgium and the fourth in Flanders with more than 100,244 inhabitants.

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, rapidly made Leiden university into a highly regarded institution that attracted students from across Europe in the 17th century. [8] 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 its 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. In 1896 the Zeeman effect was discovered there by Pieter Zeeman and shortly afterwards given a classical explanation by Hendrik Antoon Lorentz. [9] 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. [10]

Modern day

Leiden University Library in 1610 Leiden 1610.jpg
Leiden University Library in 1610

The University Library, which has more than 5.2 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. It houses the largest collections worldwide on Indonesia and the Caribbean. 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.

Leiden Observatory of the university. Leiden-Sterrewacht-06.jpg
Leiden Observatory of the university.

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. [11]

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.[ citation needed ]

In 2012 Leiden entered into a strategic alliance with Delft University of Technology and Erasmus University Rotterdam in order for the universities to increase the quality of their research and teaching. The university is also the unofficial home of the Bilderberg Group, a meeting of high-level political and economic figures from North America and Europe.

Location and buildings

The Academy building of Leiden University in modern days Leiden - Rapenburg - universiteit.JPG
The Academy building of Leiden University in modern days

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. [12]

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.

Campus The Hague

In 1998, the university has also expanded to The Hague which has become home to Campus The Hague, with six of the seven faculties represented and exclusive home to the Faculty of Governance and Global Affairs, International Studies and Leiden University College The Hague, a liberal arts and sciences college. Here, the University offers academic courses in the fields of law, political science, public administration and medicine. It occupies a number of buildings in the centre of the city, including a college building at Lange Voorhout.

The Faculty of Governance and Global Affairs was established in 2011, together with the University College, and one of the largest programmes of the Faculty of Humanities, International Studies. Since 2017 Leiden University Medical Center also has a branch at Campus The Hague.


The Leiden University Medical Centre Leiden163.JPG
The Leiden University Medical Centre
Entrance of Gorlaeus building of the Faculty of Science Leiden92.JPG
Entrance of Gorlaeus building of the Faculty of Science
Huygens and Oort Buildings of the Faculty of Science Huygens and Oort Buildings.JPG
Huygens and Oort Buildings of the Faculty of Science
Faculty of Law Kamerlingh Onnes Gebouw.jpg
Faculty of Law

The university is divided into seven major faculties which offer approximately 50 undergraduate degree programmes and over 100 graduate programmes.

Academic profile

Undergraduate studies

Most of the university's departments offer their own degree programme(s). Undergraduate programmes 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.

Graduate studies

Students can choose from a range of graduate programmes. Most of the above-mentioned undergraduate programmes can be continued with either a general or a specialised graduate program. Leiden University offers more than 100 graduate programs leading to either MA, MSc, MPhil, or LLM degrees. The MPhil is the most advanced graduate degree and is awarded by select departments of the university (mostly in the fields of Arts, Social Sciences, Archeology, Philosophy, and Theology). Admission to these programmes is highly selective and primarily aimed at those students opting for an academic career or before going into law or medicine. Traditionally, the MPhil degree enabled its holder to teach at the university levels as an associate professor. The MPhil degree is also common in elite universities in the UK (Oxford and Cambridge), and the Ivy League in the United States.

The Pieter de la Court-building, the main building of the Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences Faculteit der Sociale Wetenschappen Leiden.jpg
The Pieter de la Court-building, the main building of the Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences

Doctorate programmes

In addition, most departments, affiliated (research) institutes or faculties offer doctorate programmes or positions, leading to the PhD degree. Most of the PhD programmes 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 Onderzoeksgebouw LUMC Leiden.jpg
Research building of the Leiden University Medical Centre

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.

ACPAAcademy of Creative and Performing Arts
ASC African Studies Centre Leiden
CML Institute of Environmental Sciences (CML) [13]
CRCCrisis Research Centre [14]
CTICentre for Language and Identity
CWTSCentre for Science and Technology Studies
The Meijers Research InstituteResearch School for Legal Studies
eLaw@LeidenCentre for Law in the Information Society
Grotius CentreResearch Centre for International Legal Studies
GSSLeiden Graduate School of Science
Historical InstituteLeiden University Institute for History
Huizinga InstituutResearch Institute and Graduate School for Cultural History
IBLInstitute of Biology Leiden
IIASInternational Institute for Asian Studies
IIASL International Institute of Air and Space Law
IOPSInteruniversity Graduate School of Psychometrics and Sociometrics
ITCInternational Tax Centre (ITC) [15]
LACDRThe Leiden Academic Centre for Drug Research
LCMBSLeiden Centre for Molecular BioScience
LEADLeiden Ethnosystems and Development Programme, Faculty of Science [16]
Leyden AcademyLeyden Academy on Vitality and Ageing [17]
LGSASLeiden Graduate School for Archeology
LIACSLeiden Institute of Advanced Computer Science [18]
LIASLeiden Institute for Area Studies
LIBC Leiden Institute for Brain and Cognition [19]
LICLeiden Institute of Chemistry
LIONLeiden Institute of Physics
LISORLeiden Institute for the Study of Religion
LUCASLeiden University Centre for the Arts in Society
LUCLLeiden University Centre for Linguistics
LUMCLeiden University Medical Centre
LUMIMathematical Institute of Leiden University
MediëvistiekNetherlands Research School for Medieval Studies
NIGNetherlands Institute of Government
NINONetherlands Institute for the Near East
NOVANetherlands Research School for Astronomy
N.W. Posthumus InstituutNetherlands Research Institute and School for Economic and Social History
OIKOSNational Research School in Classical Studies
Onderzoekschool KunstgeschiedenisDutch Postgraduate School for Art History
OSLNetherlands Research School for Literary Studies
PALLASPallas Institute for Cultural Disciplines
Sterrewacht Leiden Leiden Astronomical Observatory
The Europa InstituteLeiden Law School
Van Vollenhoven InstituteResearch Institute for Law, Governance and Society

Rankings and reputation

University rankings
ARWU World [20] 82 (2019)
THE World [21] 67 (2020)
USNWR World [22] 86 (2019)
QS World [23] 118 (2020)

Notable alumni and professors

Of the eighty-nine Spinoza Prize (the highest scientific award of The Netherlands), twenty-two 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 Spinoza Prize winners are linguists Frederik Kortlandt and Pieter Muysken, mathematician Hendrik Lenstra, physicists Carlo Beenakker, Jan Zaanen, Dirk Bouwmeester and Michel Orrit, astronomers Ewine van Dishoeck, Marijn Franx and Alexander Tielens, transplantation biologist Els Goulmy, clinical epidemiologist Frits Rosendaal, pedagogue Marinus van IJzendoorn, archeologists Wil Roebroeks and Corinne Hofman, neurologist Michel Ferrari, classicist Ineke Sluiter, social psychologist Naomi Ellemers, statistician Aad van der Vaart, cognitive psychologist Eveline Crone, Rector of The Potchefstroom University for Christian Higher Education Carolus Johannes Reinecke, organisation psychologist Carsten de Dreu. [24] Among other leading professors are Wim Blockmans, professor of Medieval History, and Willem Adelaar, professor of Amerindian Languages.

Nobel laureates

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.

Nobel laureates associated with Leiden include: the physicists Albert Einstein, Enrico Fermi and Paul Ehrenfest. Also: Jacobus Henricus van 't Hoff, Johannes Diderik van der Waals, Tobias Asser, Albert Szent-Györgyi, Igor Tamm, Jan Tinbergen, Nikolaas Tinbergen, Tjalling Koopmans, Nicolaas Bloembergen and Niels Jerne. [25]

Other notable Leiden researchers were the Arabist and Islam expert Christiaan Snouck Hurgronje, the law expert Cornelis van Vollenhoven and historian Johan Huizinga, all during the 1920s and 1930s.


Confidentiality breach

In June 2019, Leiden University was convicted by the Rechtbank den Haag of having breached the confidentiality and defamed a professorial applicant in a long-running court case. [26] The judgement against Leiden University related to actions by three senior officers of the University, including Rector Carel Stolker, and a former Dean, Wim van Den Doel. [27] [28] [29] [30] The case attracted widespread attention in the Dutch media, and centred on breaches at the Leiden University Centre for Linguistics.

See also

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Further reading

Coordinates: 52°09′22″N4°29′13″E / 52.156071°N 4.486949°E / 52.156071; 4.486949