Semmelweis University
Latin: Universitas Budapestinensis de Semmelweis nominata
MottoServamus Vitam Atque Servimus
Motto in English
Protecting And Serving Life
Established1769; 252 years ago (1769)
RectorBéla Merkely
Studentsabout 10,300 (in 2014)
AffiliationsNCFMEA, EUA , WHO

Semmelweis University (Hungarian: Semmelweis Egyetem) is a research-led medical school in Budapest, Hungary founded in 1769. Its 250 years of tradition and unique focus on health care made it one of the leading universities of medicine and health sciences in Hungary and the Central European region.[1] With its six faculties and doctoral school it covers all aspects of medical and health sciences ranging from pathology through genetics, paediatrics, pharmacy, dentistry, dietetics, physiotherapy, nursing, health policy and management to conductor training.

In addition to teaching, Semmelweis University is the largest provider of health care services in Hungary. Most of the departments cater for the most serious cases and patients requiring complex treatment, thus making the university a national health care provider.[2]

Research, development, and innovation comprise an important part of the University's three-fold mission. The target of research at the university are early diagnostics and therapy, disease prevention and active ageing. Currently, there are 300 research groups at the university including 31 international and 94 Hungarian research grants.[3]


Founding and the War of Independence (1769-1848)

The roots of Semmelweis University reach back to the 18th century, when Empress Maria Theresa added a medical faculty to the only Hungarian university at the time, the University of Nagyszombat (Trnava).[4] As the first step the Empress, in a charter dated 17 July 1769, raised the university to the status of a “royal institute” and supplied it with grants to finance the Medical Faculty, which was to be established shortly thereafter.

The actual formation of the new Faculty began following the Empress's decree of 7 November 1769. The organising work was vested on her Dutch court physician, Gerard van Swieten, who had previously organised the Empire's health care system and modernised the University of Vienna as well.

The Medical Faculty opened in November 1770, with only five departments. It was given a building of its own in 1772, but soon the whole university left the small town of Nagyszombat behind, moving to the centre of the country: Buda. Although the university had been functioning continuously since its establishment, the ceremonial opening and re-foundation of the university, held in the Buda Castle, only took place in June 1780, three years after the move. When the city of Buda did not prove to be a suitable location for the university either, it moved on to Pest in 1784 and settled down in a former Jesuits’ monastery.

Meanwhile, the number of departments and students at the Faculty steadily increased, with the latter exceeding the impressive one thousand mark by the early 1830s. In addition to training physicians, the Faculty also trained surgeon masters, civil surgeons, pharmacist masters, veterinarians and midwives.

The language of instruction at the Medical Faculty was Latin well into the 19th century, although the university's other faculties taught their courses in either German or Hungarian.

The declaration of Hungarian as the official state language as part of the nationalist reforms of the 1840s found medical education wholly unprepared, as a sophisticated set of technical medical terminologies did not yet exist in Hungarian. Indeed, the professors of the Medical Faculty ended up contributing greatly to the eventual creation of a modern medical vocabulary.

Survival and revival (1848-1919)

The War of Independence severely affected the Faculty's academic staff, some of whom emigrated, while others were imprisoned. The long-term development plans that had been conceived in 1848 had to be taken off the agenda for a long time. Nonetheless, some modernisation did take place during this reactionary period; from 1850 on, secondary school graduation became compulsory for admission to the university. Although practitioners were still being trained in nine departments, the surgical master's programme, which had previously been constantly filled to capacity, withered and was eventually discontinued. In 1872, the surgical guilds were also dissolved.

As a result of the Compromise of 1867, Hungarian became the country's official language once again, as well as the only language of instruction at what was known by this time as the University of Budapest. As a direct consequence, foreign-speaking students that had previously arrived in large numbers now effectively disappeared from the university, thus temporarily stripping the Medical Faculty of its multicultural character.

At the same time, the training of doctors and pharmacists in Hungary was met with an entirely new set of challenges. The civic and economic prosperity and the associated public health problems caused by rapid urbanization on the one hand, and the fast-paced development of the medical field on the other, exerted a bilateral pressure on the Medical Faculty.

All these issues were answered through the development plans for the construction of a health institution network, and the improvement of higher education to serve this network. In 1872, the surgical master and doctor of medicine programmes were merged, and a unified medical training system was introduced. Following this development, in 1873, the construction of brand new sites for the Budapest Medical Faculty could also commence. The construction work lasted until 1911, and the end result was a scientific establishment that was on par with contemporary standards in all respects.

From the 1880s onward, the number of students enrolled in the Medical Faculty was steadily over 1000, and women have also been legally allowed to be admitted to the medical and pharmacy courses since 1895.

During World War I, many of the Faculty's students and teachers joined the Austro-Hungarian army. The number of serviceable hospital beds was hastily increased to 2000, half of which were reserved for the wounded. The shift to a war economy brought significant financial constraints to the university as well but the majority of the construction work had already been undertaken prior to the war, therefore the Budapest Medical Faculty was successfully completed.

Following the armistice, disarmed students returned to the university from the trenches en masse, creating an impossible situation for the institution, just like the brief proletarian dictatorship which followed soon after, and which almost immediately withdrew the university's autonomy and intruded deeply into its internal affairs.

Inter-war years and World War II (1920-1951)

The war, the Romanian occupation of Budapest, the truncation of the country through the Treaty of Trianon and the general political uncertainty gave rise to extremely serious economic and social tensions, which had an impact on the university as well. In 1921, the university was renamed Pázmány Péter University, in honour of the university's original founder. The next year, a reform of medical education was introduced, which increased the training period from five to six years.

Today's Faculty of Dentistry was founded in 1909, when Europe's most modern dental clinic, the Stomatology Clinic was opened in the vicinity of the Faculty. In the 1920s the education of maxillofacial surgery and an x-ray department were added to the clinic's features. Dentistry became a compulsory subject in medical education in 1947.

In the inter-war years, no new developments were introduced at either Pázmány Péter University or its Medical Faculty, as all resources were being put towards the construction of three universities in the countryside.

World War II did not have a significant impact on the university until the German occupation of Hungary in the spring of 1944, aside from the compulsory military service affecting the teaching staff.

In spite of being expressly instructed to do so by the Nyilas (Hungarian Nazi) government, the university refused to relocate to Germany. However, even before the military siege ring completely closed around Budapest, many upper-year engineer, medical, pharmacy and veterinary students were forcibly resettled through drafting. Thus, a total of about 600 medical and pharmacy students together with academic staff were transported, some to Halle and others to Austria.

The Siege of Budapest caused enormous damage to the university's buildings. After the war, large-scale politically-motivated purges began of the teaching staff, the majority of whom were thus replaced.[5]

The gradually developing Communist dictatorship eventually transformed not only the make-up of the university's academic staff and the social composition of its students, but the entire university itself. In 1950, the university's namesake, Péter Pázmány (archbishop of Esztergom, who had founded the University of Nagyszombat), was deemed unacceptable by the Communist regime, and so the university's name was changed to Eötvös Loránd University (ELTE). Then, in 1951, in a broader move based on the Russian model, the medical faculties were split off from their parent universities and turned into independent, specialised institutions. The newly renamed Eötvös Loránd University's Medical Faculty thus became the Budapest University of Medicine (BOTE).

Post-war years and socialism (1952-1989)

In the post-war period, the newly formed Budapest University of Medicine enjoyed a period of significant and extensive growth, as several hospitals – converted into clinics – were added to it. The University managed to establish previously missing departments, though this rapid development resulted in the University's territorial fragmentation.

Following the withdrawal of the University's autonomy by the Communist state, it was placed under the strict central control of the Ministry of Health, which even prescribed the extent of its participation in regional medical care. Meanwhile, medical research was starting to involve increasingly expensive areas, which consequently resulted in the University's lagging behind the world's wealthier nations. To make matters worse, there was a political trend of reclusion in the 1950s, due to the exclusive Soviet influence.

The Department of Dermatology after the Revolution of 1956.
The Department of Dermatology after the Revolution of 1956.

The essential components of a true university, such as the rector's office and the faculties took their final form in 1955. Pharmaceutical training was moved from Eötvös Loránd University of Sciences to the Budapest University of Medicine in 1951, and the training of doctors of dentistry in an entirely new system started in 1952.[6]

During the Revolution of 1956 the University found itself at the centre of events, with its clinics essentially taking the role of war hospitals and the University staff and students showing a truly heroic commitment to the national cause. Within a few weeks, the University buildings were afflicted with damage, and approximately 180 professors and staff members, as well as a large number of students, fled the country in the immediate aftermath of the Revolution. After the Soviet consolidation, development of the University continued, albeit at a slower pace than previously. The greatest investment of the period, the Theoretical Block at Nagyvárad tér (NET), was completed in 1978.

In the 1960s, scientific contact with the western world, albeit gradual and under close supervision, became possible. On 7 November 1969, the bicentennial of the founding of the Medical Faculty at the University of Nagyszombat, the University decided to mark the occasion by taking the name of its most famous professor, Ignác Semmelweis, also known as “the saviour of mothers”. The Budapest University of Medicine thus became Semmelweis University of Medicine.

Democratisation and the 21st century (1989-2019)

In the 1950s, foreign students started to attend courses at the University. However, only those coming from countries regarded by the political leadership as fraternal states (e.g. Albania, North Korea, East Germany, Vietnam) were permitted to attend. At that time, these international students were trained in Hungarian. The relative liberalisation of the 1970s resulted in a dramatic increase in the number of foreign students, who began to arrive from other parts of the world. The most significant development in the training of foreign students was the launch of classes in German in 1983 and in English in 1989. Since then the number of international students has been steadily increasing through the regime change to this day.

In 1989, a process of democratisation started, which resulted in important changes for the University, including the restoration of its autonomy. On 1 January 2000, Semmelweis University of Medicine (SOTE) merged with the Imre Haynal University of Health Sciences (HIETE) and the University of Physical Education (TF), and was renamed Semmelweis University. With the addition of the Faculty of Health and Public Services in March 2010, the University comprised a total of six faculties, namely the Faculty of Dentistry, the Faculty of Health and Public Services, the Faculty of Health Sciences, the Faculty of Medicine, the Faculty of Pharmacy, and the Faculty of Physical Education and Sport Sciences until 1 September 2014. The Faculty of Physical Education and Sport Sciences separated from Semmelweis University on 1 September 2014 and formed a separate university. On 1 August 2017 former András Pető College, with its Conductive Pedagogic Centre, became part of Semmelweis University.[7]

Buildings and sites

The university does not have a campus. Instead, its faculties, departments, hospitals, clinics, libraries, sport and accommodation facilities are scattered throughout Budapest, the capital city of Hungary. There are some facilities that are clustered, and most of its clinical departments belong to one of the three clinical blocks.

Stained glass window at the Theoretical Building at Nagyvárad tér
Stained glass window at the Theoretical Building at Nagyvárad tér

The university's Theoretical Building at Nagyvárad tér is the tallest high rise in Hungary and the iconic building of Semmelweis University. It houses several research institutions, a student centre, the office of the Students’ Union, auditoriums, conference halls and the country's largest stained glass installations.[8]

The previously fragmented Faculty of Health Sciences was united in 2003 in the newly renovated Art Nouveau building of a former sanatorium. The Faculty's building houses state-of-the art clinical skills laboratories and contains various social spaces for students to use, such as the atrium, complete with comfortable couches and a lush garden hidden among the walls of the former sanatorium.[9]

The Dental Clinical and Training Centre was completed in 2007, accommodating well-equipped clinics and institutions.

The Basic Medical Science Centre was built in 2008 to cater for an ever-rising number of students with spaces and equipment fulfilling the technological requirements of the 21st century. Over a third of its area is dedicated to scientific research, and it sports large auditoriums and smaller lecture halls. The building is also home to several research groups awarded with renowned scientific grants and participating in international collaborations.[10]

The Inner Clinical Block is located close to the metro stop “Corvin” of metro line 3 and contains the main building and some of the university's hospitals. The main building houses the Rector's Office, the Deans’ Offices and other organisational and administrative units, as well as Semmelweis Salon, a venue for scientific symposia.


As a state university, Semmelweis University functions under the auspices of the Ministry of Human Capacities comprising six faculties and a school of doctoral studies. The main governing body of Semmelweis University is the Senate, with the rector as its president. It is endowed with the authority to make decisions and recommendations, to form opinions, and to supervise. The Senate determines the course of the University's educational and research activities and sees to their realisation, with due regard to the Founding Charter.


The leadership of Semmelweis University consists of the Rector, responsible for educational and scientific affairs and the Chancellor, overseeing the financial matters of the university. The Rector is aided by five Vice-Rectors: the Vice-Rector for General Affairs, the Vice-Rector for Educational Affairs, the Vice-Rector for Science and Innovation, the Vice-Rector for Clinical Affairs and the Vice-Rector for Strategy and Development.


Semmelweis University is a specialised university offering undergraduate and graduate courses only in the field of health sciences. The university has around 10,000 students from 60 nations over five continents. Foreign students account for about 18% of the total community.[12] The largest and oldest faculty of the university is the Faculty of Medicine with 4,500 students accounting for 40% of the total number of students.[13]


Semmelweis University offers a wide range of medical education at six faculties. Its numerous clinical departments and clinical skill laboratories provide practical education in small groups for students attending any courses at any of the faculties. Nearly 11,000 students are taking courses in One-tier Master Programmes and at Bachelor, Master's and Postgradual levels and 1,500 of them are granted a diploma each year.

One-tier Master Programmes

Medicine, Dentistry and Pharmacy run as one-tier master programmes (integrated master) with a degree awarded at the end of five years of study in Dentistry and Pharmacy and six years in Medicine. These courses are one-tier degree courses, without intermediate exit, and are in alternative to the two-tier degree course scheme.[14]

Courses in Medicine, Dentistry and Pharmacy are available in Hungarian, English and German.

Bachelor’s Programme

Bachelor's Programmes of Semmelweis University are offered at the Faculty of Health Sciences and András Pető Faculty. The length of the programmes is 8 semesters (4 years) with a total of 240 credit points.

The following Bachelor's programmes are available in English:

The Physiotherapy programme is available in Italian within the framework of the university's off-campus programme run in Lugano, Switzerland.

Master's Programmes

Master's Programmes are offered at the Faculty of Health and Public Services and the Faculty of Health Sciences. The length of the programmes is 3 semesters (1.5 years) with a total of 90 credit points.

The following Master's Programmes are available in English at the Faculty of Health Sciences:

Postgraduate education

Semmelweis University's Károly Rácz School of Ph.D. Studies has 7 Doctoral Schools: Basic Medicine, Clinical Medicine, Pharmaceutical Sciences, Mental Health Sciences, Neurosciences, Molecular Medicine and Pathological Sciences. Each school comprises 2 to 17 study programmes that add up to over 40 programmes all together. The Doctoral School of Semmelweis University integrates the research groups and programmes of all Faculties entitled to issue Ph.D. degrees. The Doctoral School of Semmelweis University is currently one of its most progressive divisions with around a hundred students obtaining their Ph.D. diplomas every year. The degrees are recognized by the European Union and are accepted in many other countries around the world.[17]


The iknife shortens the duration of a cancer surgery by determining the boundary between cancerous and healthy tissue almost immediately
The iknife shortens the duration of a cancer surgery by determining the boundary between cancerous and healthy tissue almost immediately

Research, development, and innovation at Semmelweis University take place in the areas of living natural sciences, and social sciences. Within these, life science R&D activities are the most prominent. The scientific areas connected to the Ph.D. programme are theoretical, clinical, molecular and multidisciplinary medicine, pharmaceutical sciences, mental health sciences, and pathological sciences. Physical science research is limited to certain segments of theoretical medicine and social science research is employed in the areas of mental health.

R&D and training synergies are realised at Semmelweis University in several ways. R&D results quickly make their way into clinical and health sciences as well as into the University's educational activities and the curriculum. The synergies also manifest themselves in the various specialised networks operating at the University (e.g. nanotechnology, bioimaging, genomics, biobank), as well as in the research university modules (diagnostics, technology, therapy, prevention) and the dynamic collaborations which have been developing within these areas.

Semmelweis University's large collection of academic journals comprise printed material, online resources (databases, full text e-journals, e-books, etc.) that may be accessed both on-campus and off-campus. The Central Library provides access to more than 5,000 full text e-journals and numerous specialised databases through its website.[18]

Numerous internationally recognised patents are connected to Semmelweis University, such as the iKnife, a surgical device that is able to tell healthy and cancerous tissues apart in just a few seconds after the first cut,[19] or the virtual 3D microscope, a device equipped with a microscope slide scanner able to scan 300 slides in one run and a 3D viewer that creates a spatial reconstruction of the serial specimen.[20]

International relations

Semmelweis University has an extended network of international relations spanning across five continents, including around a hundred universities within the Erasmus+ network and other 40 universities in joint cooperation based on bilateral agreements.

Off-campus programmes

Over a decade ago, Semmelweis University was among the first European higher education institutions to introduce cross-border programmes. These programmes allow foreign students to follow the Semmelweis curriculum while undertaking their studies at the partner institution abroad.

Venues of Semmelweis University's off-campus programmes:

International joint projects

Semmelweis University runs research and student exchange programmes in collaboration with several universities around the world based on bilateral agreements. The programmes offer scholarships to students with outstanding academic results and staff to study or do research at the partner institutions. The programmes are based on reciprocity and the length of exchange programmes may vary from one week to 3 months.[22] Semmelweis University's partner institutions:

International mobility

The Erasmus+ mobility programme provides Semmelweis University's students and staff with the opportunity to undertake study, teaching or training programmes both within and outside Europe. The university receives about 150 incoming students each year and around 120 students from Semmelweis University's six faculties participate in the exchange programme.


EURAXESS is a unique web-based service which provides researchers with the opportunity to work abroad and also assists companies and institutions who would like to employ international researchers. Semmelweis University's Erasmus Office works together with the EURAXESS Hungary Team to assist Hungarian and foreign researchers to work abroad or study at Semmelweis University.

Student life

Semmelweis University has about 11,000 students studying at the six faculties and over 30 percent come from abroad. The largest events for students are the Academic Year Opening Ceremony and the Graduation Ceremony, bringing together hundreds of Hungarian and international students. The university's sites and buildings are located in the Hungarian capital city, most of them in the historical city centre, thus providing the students with a colourful and vibrant cultural life. Accommodation for students is available at several dormitories. Community areas are located in most of the main buildings offering recreational and networking opportunities.

Traditional events

Semmelweis University has various student groups, the largest one of them is ISSA (International Semmelweis Students Association). Together with the Students’ Union they organize a variety of events ranging from the Freshers’ Camp, Freshers’ Ball, Semmelweis Carnival and the Semmelweis Spring Festival.

Semmelweis Carnival aims to bring together Hungarian and international students studying in the English and German programmes. The Multicultural Food Festival is part of the carnival with international students preparing their traditional dishes.[23]

Scientific events

Semmelweis University organises a variety of large and small scientific events each year. Researcher's Salon, held on a monthly basis, has provided an opportunity for Semmelweis University's most eminent scholars to introduce themselves since 2012. The Salon allows scholars and talented young researchers receiving awards, distinctions, or leadership appointments to introduce themselves in an intellectual environment.

The University organises numerous international conferences and congresses, the most significant of which is the annual Semmelweis Symposium.

Semmelweis University has been participating in the Researchers’ Night for the past several years. The initiative seeks to present research results that, no matter how significant, have not reached the general population, or have been presented in a way not easily understood. The event also allows young people to discover the beauty of the medical field, and provides those considering a career in health care with a thorough introduction to the institution.

Students represent the University at several national and international scientific events. Those involved in scientific work have the opportunity to showcase their knowledge at the annual Students’ Scientific Association Conference, while many of the University's exceptional students participate in the National Students’ Scientific Association Conference, organised at a different Hungarian higher educational institution each year.

Semmelweis Career Day is the University's independent career fair attended by not only organisations engaged in scientific work, but by scientific research companies working in the health market, as well.[24]

Sporting events

A Pool Party is organised every September where, in addition to swimming, participants can also enjoy a variety of social games. Other popular events are the Football Tournament and the NET Running, both of which are held in the autumn and spring of each year. The most significant winter event is the Semmelweis Ice Carnival, during which participants can skate for free on the largest open-air skating rink of Budapest.[25]

International acclaim

Semmelweis University ranks among the top 200 universities in the world in pharmacy education, according to the latest university subject rankings published by the QS World University Rankings. The university also placed the best in Hungary in the broad subject area of life sciences and medicine.

In the 2019 Times Higher Education World University Rankings Semmelweis University is placed between 400 and 500.[26]

Notable people


See also


  1. ^ "The University". Retrieved 2019-03-20.
  2. ^ "The University". Retrieved 2019-03-20.
  3. ^ "The University". Retrieved 2019-03-20.
  4. ^ Szentkirályi-Szász, Krisztina (2014). Kreativitás & mobilitás: A magyar felsőoktatás mint országmárka. Budapest, Hungary: Balassi Intézet. p. 32. ISBN 978-615-5389-25-2.
  5. ^ Magda, Németh (14 January 2015). "During and After the Siege of Budapest (1944–1945)". Hungarian Review. VI. No.1.
  6. ^ László, Molnár (1997). A Budapesti Orvostudományi Egyetemen végzett orvostanhallgatók jegyzéke 1951-1969. Budapest: Semmelweis Orvostudományi Egyetem. p. 5. ISBN 963-7731-90-3.
  7. ^ "Detailed History". Retrieved 2019-03-20.
  8. ^ Christopher, Adam (4 October 2017). "Budapest skyscraper sparks controversy". Hungarian Free Press. Retrieved 21 March 2019.
  9. ^ Prusinszki, István. "Iszappal is gyógyítottak a Vas utcában". Népszabadság Onine. Retrieved 21 March 2019.
  10. ^ "Történet". (in Hungarian). Retrieved 2019-03-21.
  11. ^ "Leaders of the University". Retrieved 2019-03-21.
  12. ^ "The University | Semmelweis University". Retrieved 2016-08-22.
  13. ^ "Facts and Figures". Retrieved 2019-03-21.
  14. ^ Wilson, Macha (11 December 2018). "Incompatible With Bologna? The Two-Cycle Degree Structure in Medical Education in the EHEA". World Education News + Reviews. Retrieved 21 March 2019.
  15. ^ "Study finder". Study in Hungary. Retrieved 21 March 2019.
  16. ^ Foundation, Tempus Public. "Study In Hungary - Study finder". Retrieved 2019-03-21.
  17. ^ Tímár, József. "About". Károly Rácz School of Ph.D. Studies. Retrieved 21 March 2019.
  18. ^ "Research and Development". Retrieved 2019-03-23.
  19. ^ Phelps DL, Balog J, Gildea LF, Bodai ZS, Savage A, El-Bahrawy MA, Speller A, Rosini F, Kudo H, McKenzie J, Brown R, Takáts Z, Ghaem-Maghami S (19 April 2018). "The surgical intelligent knife distinguishes normal, borderline and malignant gynaecological tissues using rapid evaporative ionisation mass spectrometry (REIMS)". British Journal of Cancer. 118 (10): 1349–1358. doi:10.1038/s41416-018-0048-3. PMC 5959892. PMID 29670294.
  20. ^ Krenács T, Zsakovics I, Micsik T, Fonyad L, Varga, V, Ficsor L, Kiszler G, Molnár B (January 2010). "Digital microscopy: The upcoming revolution in histopathology teaching, diagnostics, research and quality assurance". Microscopy: Science, Technology, Applications and Education: 965–977.
  21. ^ "Off-campus Programmes". Retrieved 2019-03-23.
  22. ^ "Kiemelt csereegyezményes kapcsolataink". (in Hungarian). Retrieved 2019-03-23.
  23. ^ "Events". Retrieved 2019-03-23.
  24. ^ "Events". Retrieved 2019-03-23.
  25. ^ "Events". Retrieved 2019-03-23.
  26. ^ "World University Rankings". Times Higher Education (THE). 2018-09-26. Retrieved 2019-03-23.
  27. ^ Podnieks, Andrew (February 4, 2020). "Legends join IIHF Hall of Fame". International Ice Hockey Federation. Retrieved February 4, 2020.

Coordinates: 47°29′14″N 19°04′02″E / 47.48722°N 19.06722°E / 47.48722; 19.06722