University of Fribourg

The University of Fribourg (French: Université de Fribourg; German: Universität Freiburg) is a public university located in Fribourg, Switzerland.

The roots of the university can be traced back to 1580, when the notable Jesuit Peter Canisius founded the Collège Saint-Michel in the City of Fribourg. In 1763, an Academy of law was founded by the state of Fribourg which formed the nucleus of the present Law Faculty. The University of Fribourg was finally created in 1889 by an Act of the parliament of the Swiss Canton of Fribourg.

The University of Fribourg is Switzerland’s only bilingual university and offers full curricula in both French and German, two of Switzerland’s national languages. Students number about 10,000; there are about 200 tenured professors and 700 other academic teaching and research personnel. The Misericorde Campus, constructed between 1939–42, was designed by the architects Honegger and Dumas, students of Swiss architect Le Corbusier.

There are five faculties: Catholic theology, law, natural sciences, humanities, and economics & social sciences.

The university owes its earliest origin to the foundation of the Jesuit College St. Michel on Belze Hill by Peter Canisius in 1580 at the invitation of the government of Fribourg. In 1763, an Academy of Law was founded, housed in the Albertinium (now a Dominican residence). In 1834, the cantonal library was formed from works brought to Fribourg (from Catholic monasteries) for safekeeping. The College St. Michel was closed following the expulsion of the Jesuits from Fribourg after the canton’s defeat in the Sonderbund war.

In 1886, Georges Python, founder of the cantonal bank and State Counsellor for Fribourg (M.P. in the upper house of the Swiss parliament) became Director of Public Education. He raised funds through a lottery and was granted some 2,500,000 CHF by the canton. The cantonal library became integrated with that of the university and the Academy became the Faculty of Law. In 1939, the university moved to a new campus constructed on the former cemetery of Misericorde, ceding St. Michel to one of Fribourg’s gymnasia, which took the name College St. Michel. During the Second World War, the university set up “university camps” along with the University of Zürich, HEC in St. Gall and a Lycée camp at Wetzikon provided a wide variety of courses to educate Polish prisoners of war.

The Perolles campus was constructed on the site of a former wagon factory.

Although many lectures were originally in Latin, Fribourg is now the only French/German bilingual university in the world (45% French and 55% German). The town itself is 70% French and 30% German. This fact, coupled with the traditional dominance of French as the language of the city aristocracy explains why French has remained so dominant in university administration and in the AGEF (Association Générale des Etudiants Fribourgois), the Student’s Union. To commemorate the centenary of the university, La Poste issued a stamp depicting the figures Science and Sagesse.

In 2005, the university inaugurated its Perolles 2 campus, to which the Faculty of Economics and Social Science relocated. The university has the third largest collection of Biblical antiquities in the world after the British Museum and the Cairo Museum. Fribourg has also developed FriMat, a centre of excellence in nanotechnology. As part of the BeNeFri association comprising the Universities of Berne, Neuchâtel and Fribourg, students at any one of these universities may take courses at another in the association and still receive credit at their home institution. The academic degrees were the Demi-Licence, Licence, DEA / DESS, Doctorate. The university now follows the requirements of the Bologna process.

The University of Fribourg launched for the 2009–2010 academic year a new postgraduate law programme, the Master of Laws in Cross-Cultural Business Practice (MLCBP), an LL.M taught entirely in English.

Fribourg has no central campus and its buildings are located throughout the city. The main sites are:

  • Misericorde – Humanities and central administration (including the famous Senate room)
  • Perolles – Science
  • Perolles 2 – Economics & Social Sciences
  • Regina Mundi – Psychology
  • BCU centrale – Main Library
  • Pierre Aeby – Department of Classical Philology
  • Bonnesfontaines – Pedagogy
  • Stade St. Leonard – University Stadium

The Fribourg University is divided into five faculties:

  • The Faculty of Humanities is the largest faculty with about 4,600 students. They follow courses and seminars in the fields of philosophy, historical sciences, languages, literature, education, psychology or social sciences.
  • The Faculty of Law has about 1,900 students. The program includes national and international law; both subjects areas can be followed bilingual.
  • The Faculty of Theology is the largest and the most international of Switzerland, and, with Lucerne, it is the only state university in Switzerland to have a Faculty of Catholic Theology.
  • Approximately 1,400 students are enrolled in one of the four Bachelor programmes and one of the seven Master programmes of the Faculty of Management, Economics and Social Sciences. The faculty is composed of four departments: business management, economics, computer science, media and communication. In addition, the international institute of management in technology (iimt) and the Verbandsmanagement Institute (VMI) are attached to the Faculty.
  • The Faculty of Science and Medicine was founded in 1896 and comprises seven departments: biology, chemistry, geosciences, computer science, mathematics, medicine and physics. These cover 14 fields: biochemistry, biology, chemistry, geography, computer science, human medicine and dentistry (Bachelor), mathematics, neuroscience, pharmacy, physics, biomedical sciences, environmental sciences, earth sciences (geology) and sport. The Adolphe Merkle Institute (AMI) is an interdisciplinary research institute of the Faculty of Sciences devoted to fundamental and application-oriented research and teaching in the domain of soft nanomaterials.


  • Dies Academicus – On this day in November every year, no lectures are held. Festivities begin with Mass in the Chapel of the Collège St. Michel. The members of the University then proceed to the Aula Magna (Great Hall) in solemn procession. After an address by the rector and a prominent guest speaker, honorary degrees are awarded. The student guilds attend in ceremonial dress including swords.
  • Corporations – These are similar to the Studentenverbindungen in Germany and Austria, but there is no de facto constraint to participate as it is in the student nations at the universities of UppsalaLund and Helsinki. They maintain Central European student traditions and meet at least once a week around a Stammtisch (“regulars’ table”) in order to socialise, drink and sing together. They tend to be organised on linguistic lines. One of them is still engaged in dueling, while the other corporations in Fribourg already rejected this tradition at the time they were founded, amongst others for religious reasons. Membership has often been considered advantageous for those wishing to pursue a career in business, politics or law. Most of Fribourg’s student corporations belong to the formerly Catholic Schweizerischer Studentenverein. An example is AV Fryburgia.
  • The Day of Welcomes (Jour D’Accueil) – Similar to Freshers’ Week in anglophone universities. New students are invited to the Aula Magna, where they are welcomed to Fribourg by the Rector and the Syndic (Mayor of the City of Fribourg). This is followed by a meal in the university mensa provided by the city, where new students are expected to dine with the rest of the faculty to which they have been admitted.
  • Every year, the Catholic Church holds collections during masses throughout Switzerland. Known as Fribourg Sunday, the funds raised are mainly used to award scholarships to foreign priests by the Faculty of Theology.

Source: University of Fribourg

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European Higher Education Organization is a public organization carrying out academic, educational and information activities on higher education in Europe.

The EHEO general plan stresses that:

  • Higher education systems require adequate funding and, as an investment in economic growth, public spending in higher education should be protected.
  • The challenges faced by higher education require more flexible governance and funding systems, which balance greater autonomy for education institutions with accountability to stakeholders.

Thus, EHEO plans:

  • improve academic and scientific interaction of universities;
  • protect the interests of universities;
  • interact more closely with public authorities of European countries;
  • popularize European higher education in the world;
  • develop academic mobility;
  • seek funding for European universities.