- Humboldt University of Berlin
Humboldt University of Berlin
The Humboldt University of Berlin is one of Berlin’s oldest universities, founded on 15 October 1810 as the University of Berlin (Universität zu Berlin) by the liberal Prussian educational reformer and linguistWilhelm von Humboldt, whose university model has strongly influenced other European and Western universities. From 1828 it was known as the Frederick William University (Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität), and later (unofficially) also as the Universität unter den Linden after its location in the former palace of Prince Henry of Prussia (1726–1802) which his brother, King Frederick II, had built for him between 1748 and 1753 on the avenue Unter den Linden. In 1949, it changed its name to Humboldt-Universität in honour of both its founder Wilhelm and his brother, geographer Alexander von Humboldt. In 2012, the Humboldt University of Berlin was one of eleven German universities to win in the German Universities Excellence Initiative, a national competition for universities organized by the German Federal Government. The university has educated 29 Nobel Prize winners and is considered one of the most prestigious universities in Europe overall as well as one of the most prestigious universities worldwide for arts and humanities.
We are delighted that you are interested in studying at Humboldt-Universität for a semester or a year. Diversity of knowledge and variations in teaching them are key to the Humboldtian idea of education. International Students who want to spend part of the course at Humboldt-Universitaet or have enrolled for a degree here are especially welcome. They contribute their academic expertise and international perspectives to the academic forum, giving Humboldt students an opportunity to know about other types of knowledge and other cultures in higher education. We are convinced that you will be able to achieve the learning outcomes you set out to attain both academically and culturally while absorbing knowledge the Humboldt way.
Please take note that international students who are not part of an exchange program and do not hold a scholarship by an approved funder, can only be enrolled as non-degree student in exceptional cases.
The following webpages will answer many questions and point out directions to explore. For those interested in getting an overview about the courses offered in English in the current semester, a snapshot can be found here.
Schools / Colleges / Departments / Courses / Faculties
- Faculty of Law
- Faculty of Mathematics and Natural Sciences (Geography, Computer Science, Mathematics, Chemistry, Physics)
- Faculty of Life Sciences (Agriculture and Horticulture, Biology, Psychology)
- Charité – Berlin University Medicine
- Faculty of Philosophy I (Philosophy, History, European Ethnology, Department of Library and Information Science)
- Faculty of Philosophy II (Literature, Linguistics, Scandinavian Studies, Romance literatures, English and American Studies, Slavic Studies, Classical Philology)
- Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences (Social Sciences, Cultural Studies/Arts, Asian/African Studies (includes Archeology), Gender Studies, Sport science, RehabilitationStudies, Education, Quality Management in Education)
- Faculty of Theology
- Faculty of Economics and Business Administration
he first semester at the newly founded Berlin university occurred in 1810 with 256 students and 52 lecturers in faculties of law, medicine, theology and philosophy under rector Theodor Schmalz. The university has been home to many of Germany’s greatest thinkers of the past two centuries, among them the subjective idealist philosopher Johann Gottlieb Fichte, the theologian Friedrich Schleiermacher, the absolute idealist philosopher G.W.F. Hegel, the Romantic legal theorist Friedrich Carl von Savigny, the pessimist philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer, the objective idealist philosopher Friedrich Schelling, cultural critic Walter Benjamin, and famous physicists Albert Einstein and Max Planck. The founders of Marxist theory Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels attended the university, as did poet Heinrich Heine, novelist Alfred Döblin, founder of structuralism Ferdinand de Saussure, German unifier Otto von Bismarck, Communist Party of Germany founder Karl Liebknecht, African American Pan Africanist W. E. B. Du Bois and European unifier Robert Schuman, as well as the influential surgeon Johann Friedrich Dieffenbach in the early half of the 1800s. The university is home to 29 Nobel Prize winners.
The structure of German research-intensive universities, such as Humboldt, served as a model for institutions like Johns Hopkins University. Further, it has been claimed that “the ‘Humboldtian’ university became a model for the rest of Europe with its central principle being the union of teaching and research in the work of the individual scholar or scientist.”
In addition to the strong anchoring of traditional subjects, such as science, law, philosophy, history, theology and medicine, Berlin University developed to encompass numerous new scientific disciplines. Alexander von Humboldt, brother of the founder William, promoted the new learning. With the construction of modern research facilities in the second half of the 19th Century teaching of the natural sciences began. Famous researchers, such as the chemist August Wilhelm Hofmann, the physicist Hermann von Helmholtz, the mathematicians Ernst Eduard Kummer, Leopold Kronecker,Karl Weierstrass, the physicians Johannes Peter Müller, Albrecht von Graefe, Rudolf Virchow andRobert Koch, contributed to Berlin University’s scientific fame.
During this period of enlargement, Berlin University gradually expanded to incorporate other previously separate colleges in Berlin. An example would be the Charité, the Pépinière and the Collegium Medico-chirurgicum. In 1717, King Friedrich I had built a quarantine house for Plague at the city gates, which in 1727 was rechristened by the “soldier king” Friedrich Wilhelm: “Es soll das Haus die Charité heißen” (It will be called Charité [French for charity]). By 1829 the site became Berlin University’s medical campus and remained so until 1927 when the more modern University Hospital was constructed.
Berlin University started a natural history collection in 1810, which, by 1889 required a separate building and became the Museum für Naturkunde. The preexisting Tierarznei School, founded in 1790 and absorbed by the university, in 1934 formed the basis of the Veterinary Medicine Facility (Grundstock der Veterinärmedizinischen Fakultät). Also the Landwirtschaftliche Hochschule Berlin (Agricultural University of Berlin), founded in 1881 was affiliated with the Agricultural Faculties of the University.
After 1933, like all German universities, it was affected by the Nazi regime. The rector during this period was Eugen Fischer. It was from the university’s library that some 20,000 books by “degenerates” and opponents of the regime were taken to be burned on May 10 of that year in the Opernplatz (now the Bebelplatz) for a demonstration protected by the SA that also featured a speech by Joseph Goebbels. A monument to this can now be found in the center of the square, consisting of a glass panel opening onto an underground white room with empty shelf space for 20,000 volumes and a plaque, bearing an epigraph from an 1820 work by Heinrich Heine: “Das war ein Vorspiel nur, dort wo man Bücher verbrennt, verbrennt man am Ende auch Menschen” (“This was but a prelude; where they burn books, they ultimately burn people”).
The Law for the Restoration of the Professional Civil Service (German “Gesetz zur Wiederherstellung des Berufsbeamtentums”) resulted in 250 Jewish professors and employees being fired during 1933/1934 and numerous doctorates being withdrawn. Students and scholars and political opponents of Nazis were ejected from the university and often deported. During this time nearly one third of all of the staff were fired by the Nazis.
The Soviet Military Administration in Germany (SMAD) ordered (Befehl-Nr. 4) the opening of the university in January 1946. The SMAD wanted a redesigned Berlin University based on the Soviet model, however they insisted on the phrasing “newly opened” and not “re-opened” for political reasons. The president of the German Central Administration for National Education (DZVV), Paul Wandel, in his address at the January 29, 1946, opening ceremony, said: “I spoke of the opening, and not of the re-opening of the university. The University of Berlin must effectively start again in almost every way. You have before you this image of the old university. What remains of that is nought but ruins.” The teaching was limited to seven departments working in reopened, war-damaged buildings, with many of the teachers dead or missing. However, by the winter semester of 1946, the Economic and Educational Sciences Faculty had re-opened.
The Workers and Peasants Faculty (German: Arbeiter-und-Bauern-Fakultät) (ABF), an education program aimed at young men who, due to political or racial reasons, had been disadvantaged under the Nazis, was established at the university during this time. This program existed at Berlin University until 1962.
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