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Leiden University
Universiteit Leiden
Leiden University seal.svg
Former names
Rijksuniversiteit Leiden
Libertatis Praesidium (Latin)
Motto in English
Bastion of Freedom
TypePublic research university
Established8 February 1575; 448 years ago (1575-02-08)[1]
FounderWilliam of Orange
Budget777 million (2021)
PresidentAnnetje Ottow
RectorHester Bijl
Academic staff
Administrative staff
1,573 (2021)[2]
Students34,165 (2021)[2]
886 (2021)[2]
Location, ,
52°9′25″N 4°29′7″E / 52.15694°N 4.48528°E / 52.15694; 4.48528
CampusUrban and College town
LanguageEnglish, Dutch
(Additional languages for language programmes)
Colours  LEI Blue[3]
Leiden University is located in Netherlands
Leiden University
Location in Netherlands
Leiden University is located in Europe
Leiden University
Leiden University (Europe)

Leiden University (abbreviated as LEI;[4][5] Dutch: Universiteit Leiden) is a public research university in Leiden, Netherlands. It was founded as a Protestant university in 1575[6] by William, Prince of Orange, as a reward to the city of Leiden for its defence against Spanish attacks during the Eighty Years' War. As the oldest institution of higher education in the Netherlands, it enjoys a solid reputation across Europe and the world.

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.

The university has seven academic faculties and over fifty subject departments while housing more than 40 national and international research institutes. Its historical primary campus consists of buildings scattered across the college town of Leiden, while a second campus located in The Hague houses a liberal arts college (Leiden University College The Hague) 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.

The university has produced twenty-six Spinoza Prize Laureates and sixteen Nobel Laureates, including Enrico Fermi. It is closely associated with the Dutch royal family, with Queen Juliana, Queen Beatrix and King Willem-Alexander being alumni. Ten Prime Ministers of the Netherlands are also alumni, including incumbent Prime Minister Mark Rutte. Internationally, Leiden University is associated with several leaders, including a President of the United States, two NATO Secretaries-General, a President of the International Court of Justice and a Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.


Foundation and early history

William the Silent, founder of the university, in the 16th century.
William the Silent, founder of the university, in the 16th century.
The academy building of Leiden University in 1614.
The academy building of Leiden University in 1614.
Leiden anatomical theatre

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][8] It is said the choice fell on Leiden as a reward for the heroic defence of Leiden against Spanish attacks in the previous year (see pages Siege of Leiden and Leidens Ontzet). 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.[9] 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]

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, with more than 500 students enrolled in the 1640s making it the largest university in the Protestant world.[10][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.[11] 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.[12]

Modern day

Leiden University Library in 1610
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.

In 2005 the manuscript of Einstein on the quantum theory of the monatomic ideal gas (the Einstein-Bose condensation) (condensate) was discovered in one of Leiden's libraries.[13]

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.

Leiden University partnered with Duke University School of Law starting in 2017 to run a joint summer program on global and transnational law from the Hague campus.

Location and buildings

The academy building of Leiden University in modern days
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.[14]

Among the institutions affiliated with the university are The KITLV or Royal Netherlands Institute of Southeast Asian and Caribbean Studies (founded in 1851), the Leiden 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.[citation needed]

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.[citation needed]

Campus The Hague

A lecture hall in the Leiden University campus in the Hague.
A lecture hall in the Leiden University campus in 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 occupied a number of buildings in the centre of the city, including a college building at Lange Voorhout, before moving into the new 'Wijnhaven' building on Turfmarkt in 2016.

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
The Leiden University Medical Centre
Entrance of Gorlaeus building of the Faculty of Science
Entrance of Gorlaeus building of the Faculty of Science
Huygens and Oort Buildings of the Faculty of Science
Huygens and Oort Buildings of the Faculty of Science
Faculty of Law, in the building that once housed Heike Kamerlingh Onnes' laboratory
Faculty of Law, in the building that once housed Heike Kamerlingh Onnes' laboratory

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
The Pieter de la Court-building, the main building of the Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences

Doctorate programmes

Leiden Observatory of the university.
Leiden Observatory of the university.

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
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.

ACPA Academy of Creative and Performing Arts
ASC African Studies Centre Leiden
CML Institute of Environmental Sciences (CML)[15]
CRC Crisis Research Centre[16]
CTI Centre for Language and Identity
CWTS Centre for Science and Technology Studies
The Meijers Research Institute Research School for Legal Studies
eLaw@Leiden Centre for Law in the Information Society
Grotius Centre Research Centre for International Legal Studies
GSS Leiden Graduate School of Science
Historical Institute Leiden University Institute for History
Huizinga Instituut Research Institute and Graduate School for Cultural History
IBL Institute of Biology Leiden
IIAS International Institute for Asian Studies
IIASL International Institute of Air and Space Law
IOPS Interuniversity Graduate School of Psychometrics and Sociometrics
ITC International Tax Centre (ITC)[17]
LACDR The Leiden Academic Centre for Drug Research
LCMBS Leiden Centre for Molecular BioScience
LEAD Leiden Ethnosystems and Development Programme, Faculty of Science[18]
Leyden Academy Leyden Academy on Vitality and Ageing[19]
LGSAS Leiden Graduate School for Archeology
LIACS Leiden Institute of Advanced Computer Science[20]
LIAS Leiden Institute for Area Studies
LIBC Leiden Institute for Brain and Cognition[21]
LIC Leiden Institute of Chemistry
LION Leiden Institute of Physics
LISOR Leiden Institute for the Study of Religion
LUCAS Leiden University Centre for the Arts in Society
LUCL Leiden University Centre for Linguistics
LUMC Leiden University Medical Centre
Mediëvistiek Netherlands Research School for Medieval Studies
MI Mathematical Institute[22]
NIG Netherlands Institute of Government
NINO Netherlands Institute for the Near East
NOVA Netherlands Research School for Astronomy
N.W. Posthumus Instituut Netherlands Research Institute and School for Economic and Social History
OIKOS National Research School in Classical Studies
Onderzoekschool Kunstgeschiedenis Dutch Postgraduate School for Art History
OSL Netherlands Research School for Literary Studies
PALLAS Pallas Institute for Cultural Disciplines
Sterrewacht Leiden Leiden Astronomical Observatory
The Europa Institute Leiden Law School
Van Vollenhoven Institute Research Institute for Law, Governance and Society

Rankings and reputation

Notable alumni and professors

Main article: List of Leiden University people

University rankings
Global – Overall
ARWU World[23]101-150 (2022)
CWUR World[24]87 (2022–23)
CWTS World[25]93 (2022)
QS World[26]=131 (2023)
Reuters World[27]71 (2019)
THE World[28]77 (2023)
USNWR Global[29]=82 (2022)
Global – Law
QS Law[30]22 (2022)
THE Law[31]27 (2022)
Global – Liberal arts
ARWU Social science[32]40 (2022)
QS Arts & Humanities[33]31 (2022)
QS Politics[34]20 (2022)
THE Arts and Humanities[35]24 (2022)

Of the 105 Spinoza Prize laureates (the highest scientific award of The Netherlands), twenty-six were granted to professors of Leiden University. 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, organisation psychologist Carsten de Dreu, chemical immunologist Sjaak Neefjes, parasitologist Maria Yazdanbakhsh, electrochemist Mark Koper and astrophysicist Ignas Snellen.

The Stevin Prize laureates who have achieved exceptional success in the area of knowledge exchange and impact for society include the following Leiden professors: health psychologist Andrea Evers, immunology technologist Ton Schumacher and psychologist Judi Mesman.[36] 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.[37]

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. Martinus Beijerinck, one of the founders of virology, finished his PhD at Leiden in 1877.

See also


  1. ^ "De Tachtigjarige Oorlog en het ontstaan van universiteiten in de Noordelijke Nederlanden". Historiek (in Dutch). 16 May 2017. Retrieved 19 May 2017.
  2. ^ a b c d "Facts and figures". Leiden University. Archived from the original on 2016-02-07. Retrieved 2022-12-14.
  3. ^ "Leiden University basic elements: Colours". Leiden University. Retrieved 2021-01-07.
  4. ^ Schrijfrichtlijnen: Afkortingen – website of Leiden University
  5. ^ Acronyms related to the Dutch universities – website of Rathenau Institute
  6. ^ The Great Emporium: The Low Countries as a Cultural Crossroads in the Renaissance and the Eighteenth Century. Rodopi. 1992. ISBN 9789051833638.
  7. ^ a b Otterspeer, Willem (2000). Groepsportret met Dame: de Leidse universiteit, 1575–1672. ISBN 978-90-351-2240-6.
  8. ^ a b Aldersey-Williams, Hugh (2020-09-03). Dutch Light: Christiaan Huygens and the Making of Science in Europe. Pan Macmillan. ISBN 978-1-5098-9332-4.
  9. ^ Foundation documents - website of the Leiden University
  10. ^ Schnappen, H. (1960). Niederländische Universitäten und deutsches Geistesleben von der Gründung der Universität Leiden bis ins späte 18. Jahrhundert. Neue Münstersche Beiträge zur Geschichtsforschung. Vol. 6. Münster. OCLC 3783378.
  11. ^ A.J. Kox, The discovery of the electron: II. The Zeeman effect, Eur. J. Phys. 18, 139–144 (1997).
  12. ^ Website Nobel Prizes
  13. ^ BBC NEWS | Europe | Student unearths Einstein paper.
  14. ^ Vier eeuwen geschiedenis in steen. Universitaire gebouwen in Leiden. Leiden, 2005 ISBN 90-9018052-4
  15. ^ "Institute of Environmental Sciences". 2012-09-20. Retrieved 2012-09-26.
  16. ^ "Crisis and Security Management". Retrieved 2012-09-26.
  17. ^ "International Tax Centre". Retrieved 2012-09-26.
  18. ^ Leiden Ethnosystems and Development Programme, [, LEAD]
  19. ^ "Leiden Academy on Vitality and Ageing". Retrieved 2015-07-16.
  20. ^ "LIACS (Advanced Computer Science)". Retrieved 2012-09-26.
  21. ^ "Brain & Cognition". Retrieved 2012-09-26.
  22. ^ "Mathematical Institute". Retrieved 2021-11-17.
  23. ^ "2022 Academic Ranking of World Universities". Shanghai Ranking Consultancy. Retrieved 16 August 2022.
  24. ^ "CWUR – World University Rankings 2022–2023". Center for World University Rankingsg. Retrieved 31 May 2022.
  25. ^ "CWTS Leiden Ranking 2022 – PP top 10%". CWTS Leiden Ranking. Retrieved 14 October 2022.
  26. ^ "QS World University Rankings 2023". Quacquarelli Symonds Ltd. Retrieved 14 October 2022.
  27. ^ "Reuters World's Top 100 Innovative Universities 2019". Thomson Reuters. Retrieved 8 January 2021.
  28. ^ "World University Rankings 2023". Times Higher Education (THE). Retrieved 14 October 2022.
  29. ^ "Best Global Universities Rankings (2022)". U.S. News Education. Retrieved 22 December 2021.
  30. ^ "World University Rankings by Subject(2022)". QS. Retrieved 12 October 2022.
  31. ^ "Times Higher Education Rankings by Subject(2022)". THE. Retrieved 12 October 2022.
  32. ^ "2022 Academic Ranking of World Universities". Shanghai Ranking Consultancy. Retrieved 12 October 2022.
  33. ^ "World University Rankings by Subject(2022)". QS. Retrieved 12 October 2022.
  34. ^ "World University Rankings by Subject(2022)". QS. Retrieved 12 October 2022.
  35. ^ "Times Higher Education Rankings by Subject(2022)". THE. Retrieved 12 October 2022.
  36. ^ "Leiden Spinoza and Stevin Prize laureates". Leiden University. 3 September 2021. Retrieved 3 September 2021.
  37. ^ Leiden's Nobel Laureates – website of the Leiden University

Further reading