Jagiellonian University

Kraków Poland Nicolaus Copernicus
Infinite Construction - STEAM
Jagiellonian University
Uniwersytet Jagielloński
POL Jagiellonian University logo.svg
Latin: Universitas Iagellonica Cracoviensis
Former names
University of Kraków (1364–1817)
Plus ratio quam vis
Motto in English
Let reason prevail over force
Established1364; 656 years ago (1364)
RectorWojciech Nowak [pl]
Academic staff
3,857 (2017)[1]
Students43,405 (2017)[1]
Undergraduates38,535 (2017)
Postgraduates1,655 (2017)
3,215 (2017)
Coordinates: 50°3′39″N 19°55′58″E / 50.06083°N 19.93278°E / 50.06083; 19.93278
CampusUrban/College town
AffiliationsEUA, Coimbra Group, Europaeum, Utrecht Network, EAIE, IRUN, Guild of European Research-Intensive Universities
Jagiellonian University (logo).png
Jagiellonian University is located in Poland
Jagiellonian University
Jagiellonian University
Location of Jagiellonian University in Kraków within Poland.

The Jagiellonian University (Polish: Uniwersytet Jagielloński; Latin: Universitas Iagellonica Cracoviensis, also known as the University of Kraków) is a research university in Kraków, Poland.

Founded in 1364 by Casimir III the Great, the Jagiellonian University is the oldest university in Poland, the second oldest university in Central Europe, and one of the oldest surviving universities in the world. Notable alumni include astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus, poet Jan Kochanowski, Polish King John III Sobieski, constitutional reformer Hugo Kołłątaj, chemist Karol Olszewski, anthropologist Bronisław Malinowski, writer Stanisław Lem, and President of Poland Andrzej Duda. Students at the University who did not earn diplomas included Nobel laureates Ivo Andrić and Wisława Szymborska. Pope John Paul II enrolled in the Jagiellonian University of Krakow in 1938[2] to study Polish Studies at the JU Faculty of Philosophy, but shortly after enrollment, his studies were interrupted by Sonderaktion Krakau. In 1953, Father Wojtyła presented a dissertation at the Jagiellonian University of Krakow on the possibility of grounding a Christian ethic on the ethical system developed by Max Scheler.[3]

The campus of the Jagiellonian University is centrally located within the city of Kraków. The university consists of fifteen faculties, including the humanities, law, the natural and social sciences, and medicine. The university employs roughly 4,000 academics, and has more than 40,000 students who study in some 80 disciplines.[4] More than half of the student body are women. The language of instruction is usually Polish, although several degrees are offered in either German or English. The university library is one of Poland's largest, and houses several medieval manuscripts, including Copernicus' De Revolutionibus.

Due to its history, the Jagiellonian University is traditionally considered Poland's most reputable institution of higher learning, this standing equally being reflected in international rankings.[5][6] The Jagiellonian University is a member of the Coimbra Group and Europaeum.

In 2019, the Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU) placed the university within the 301–400 band globally.[7]


Founding the university

The founding of the University in 1364, 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 arrange a better set of 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.

Development of the University of Kraków stalled upon the death of its founder (King Casimir), 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, 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 Saint Jadwiga, king of Poland, the daughter of King Louis the Great of Hungary and Poland. The royal couple, Jadwiga and her husband Władysław II Jagiełło 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 founded 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, almost the entire intellectual elite of Poland were educated at the university,[8] where they enjoyed particular royal favours. While it was, and largely remains, Polish students who make up the majorty of the university's students, 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 the outside of 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, most of them trained at the Charles University in Prague. By 1520 Greek philology was introduced by Constanzo Claretti and Wenzel von Hirschberg; Hebrew was also taught. At this time, the Collegium Maius consisted of 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 neighbors 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.[9] 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 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.[9] 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.[10]

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.[11] 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.[12]

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 (Special Operation Krakow). The university, along with the rest of Poland's higher and secondary education, was closed for the remainder of World War II.[13] 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.[13] 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. Construction work proved slow and many of the stated goals were never achieved; it was this poor management that eventually led a number of scholars to openly criticise the government for its apparent lack of interest in educational development and disregard for the university's future. A number of new buildings, such as the Collegium Biologicum, were built with funds from the legacy of Ignacy Paderewski.

By 1989 Poland had overthrown its Communist government. In that same year the Jagiellonian University successfully completed the purchase of its first building plot in Pychowice, Kraków, where, from 2000, construction of a new complex of university buildings, the so-called Third Campus, began. The new campus, officially named the '600th Anniversary Campus', was developed in conjunction with the new LifeScience Park, which is managed by the Jagiellonian Centre for Innovation, the university's research consortium.[14] Public funds earmarked for the project amounted to 946.5 million zlotys, or 240 million euros.[15] 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

The Jagiellonian University maintains an academic partnership with Heidelberg University, Germany's oldest university.[16] In particular, there are close ties between both Heidelberg's and Kraków's law schools. In conjunction with Heidelberg and Johannes Gutenberg University of Mainz, the Jagiellonian University offers specializations in German law.[17]

In the English-speaking world, the Jagiellonian University has international partnerships, among others, with the University of Cambridge, the University of Melbourne, the University of Chicago, and the University of California, Los Angeles. In the French-speaking world, partners include the Sorbonne, and the University of Montpellier. Other cooperation agreements exist with Charles University Prague, the University of Vienna, the University of Tokyo, Saint Petersburg State University, the Technical University of Munich, and the Free University of Berlin.[18][19]


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.[20] It is home to a world-renowned collection of medieval manuscripts,[21] which includes Copernicus' De Revolutionibus, the Balthasar Behem Codex and the Berlinka. 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;[22] 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
Global – Overall
ARWU World[25]401–500 (2020)
QS World[26]326 (2021)
THE World[27]601–800 (2020)

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

Heraldic frieze on the building of Collegium Maius depicting coats of arms of the Kraków bishops, chancellors, cardinals as well as Elizabeth of Austria, Crown of the Kingdom of Poland, Grand Duchy of Lithuania and the Kraków Academy


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.[29] The university has an exchange programme with The Catholic University of America and its Columbus School of Law.[30] 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:

See also

Notes and references

  1. ^ a b "Jagiellonian University Facts and Figures 2017". en.uj.edu.pl. Jagiellonian University. 2015. Retrieved 3 July 2017.
  2. ^ Simpson, P. (2001). On Karol Wojtyła. Australia: Wadsworth.
  3. ^ https://en.uj.edu.pl/en_GB/wyd2016/jp2
  4. ^ "Overview – UJ". www.en.uj.edu.pl. Retrieved 2017-01-04.
  5. ^ "Study in Poland". Top Universities. 2014-09-03. Retrieved 2017-01-04.
  6. ^ "Jagiellonian University". Times Higher Education (THE). Retrieved 2017-01-04.
  7. ^ "Academic Ranking of World Universities 2019". Retrieved 2018-12-07.
  8. ^ source needed
  9. ^ a b Waltos, Stanisław. "History". Jagiellonian University. Retrieved 2010-09-28.  (in Polish)
  10. ^ "Władysła Jan Pochwalski". Retrieved 1 April 2020.
  11. ^ "Kraków - Pomnik Mikołaja Kopernika". Retrieved 1 April 2020.
  12. ^ "Dzieje Biblioteki Jagiellońskiej". Retrieved 1 April 2020.
  13. ^ a b Weigel, George (2001). Witness of Hope – The Biography of Pope John Paul II. HarperCollins. ISBN 978-0-06-018793-4.
  14. ^ "Campus of the Sixcentenary". Retrieved 2011-05-12.
  15. ^ "Campus of the Sixcentenary". Retrieved 2010-09-28.
  16. ^ Watzke, Christian. "Partneruniversitäten – International – Universität Heidelberg". www.uni-heidelberg.de. Retrieved 2017-01-04.
  17. ^ "Schule des Deutschen Rechts —". www.law.uj.edu.pl. Retrieved 2017-01-04.
  18. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2017-01-05. Retrieved 2017-01-05.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  19. ^ "O Dziale – Dział Współpracy Międzynarodowej Uniwersytetu Jagiellońskiego". Dwm.uj.edu.pl. Retrieved 2017-04-30.
  20. ^ Bętkowska, Teresa (18 May 2008). "Jagiellonian University: Cracow's Alma Mater". Warsaw Voice. Archived from the original on 13 June 2011. Retrieved 2010-09-28.
  21. ^ "BJ: Medieval manuscripts". Bj.uj.edu.pl. Archived from the original on 2011-05-14. Retrieved 2010-09-28.
  22. ^ Visiting the Biblioteka Jagiellonska (Jagiellonian Library) in Cracow Archived 2005-09-08 at the Wayback Machine. Last accessed on 4 May 2007.
  23. ^ Gebler, Carlo. "Finding Oskar". The Irish Times. Retrieved 2018-12-10.
  24. ^ Borufka, Sarah (29 August 2011). "Czeslaw Walek – Prague Pride's first director and a lawyer by profession". Radio Praha. Retrieved 8 May 2017.
  25. ^ "Academic Ranking of World Universities 2020". Shanghai Ranking Consultancy. 2020. Retrieved August 16, 2019.
  26. ^ "QS World University Rankings® 2021". Quacquarelli Symonds Limited. 2020. Retrieved June 10, 2020.
  27. ^ "World University Rankings 2020". THE Education Ltd. Retrieved September 14, 2019.
  28. ^ "Department of Oral Health & Rehabilitation — School of Dentistry". Louisville.edu. Retrieved 2017-04-30.
  29. ^ Newsletter, web: UJ-News35-PDF Archived 2008-10-31 at the Wayback Machine.
  30. ^ "Annual Summer Law Program". The Catholic University of America. Retrieved 2010-09-28.