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About Charles University
Charles University, known also as Charles University in Prague (Czech: Univerzita Karlova) is the oldest and largest university in the Czech Republic. Founded in 1348, it was the first university in Central Europe. It is one of the oldest universities in Europe in continuous operation and ranks in the upper 1.5 percent of the world’s best universities.
Its seal shows its protector Emperor Charles IV, with his coats of arms as King of the Romans and King of Bohemia, kneeling in front of St. Wenceslas, the patron saint of Bohemia. It is surrounded by the inscription, Sigillum Universitatis Scolarium Studii Pragensis (English: Seal of the Prague academia, Czech: Pečeť studentské obce pražského učení).
History of Charles University
Medieval university (1349–1419)
The establishment of a medieval university in Prague was inspired by Holy Roman Emperor Charles IV. He asked his friend and ally, Pope Clement VI, to do so. On 26 January 1347 the pope issued the bull establishing a university in Prague, modeled on the University of Paris, with the full (4) number of faculties, that is including theological. On 7 April 1348 Charles, the king of Bohemia, gave to the established university privileges and immunities from the secular power in a Golden Bull and on 14 January 1349 he repeated that as the King of the Romans. Most Czech sources since the 19th century—encyclopedias, general histories, materials of the University itself—prefer to give 1348 as the year of the founding of the university, rather than 1347 or 1349. This was caused by an anticlerical shift in the 19th century, shared by both Czechs and Germans.
The university was actually opened in 1349. The university was sectioned into parts called nations: the Bohemian, Bavarian, Polish and Saxon. The Bohemian natio included Bohemians, Moravians, southern Slavs, and Hungarians; the Bavarian included Austrians, Swabians, natives of Franconia and of the Rhine provinces; the Polish included Silesians, Poles, Ruthenians; the Saxon included inhabitants of the Margravate of Meissen, Thuringia, Upper and Lower Saxony, Denmark, and Sweden. Ethnically Czech students made 16–20% of all students. Archbishop Arnošt of Pardubice took an active part in the foundation by obliging the clergy to contribute and became a chancellor of the university (i.e., director or manager).
The first graduate was promoted in 1359. The lectures were held in the colleges, of which the oldest was named for the king the Carolinum, established in 1366. In 1372 the Faculty of Law became an independent university.
In 1402 Jerome of Prague in Oxford copied out the Dialogus and Trialogus of John Wycliffe. The dean of the philosophical faculty, Jan Hus, translated Trialogus into the Czech language. In 1403 the university forbade its members to follow the teachings of Wycliffe, but his doctrine continued to gain in popularity.
In the Western Schism, the Bohemian natio took the side of king Wenceslaus and supported the Council of Pisa (1409). The other nationes of the university declared their support for the side of Pope Gregory XII, thus the vote was 1:3 against the Bohemians. Hus and other Bohemians, though, took advantage of Wenceslaus' opposition to Gregory. By the Decree of Kutná Hora (German: Kuttenberg) on 18 January 1409, the king subverted the university constitution by granting the Bohemian masters three votes. Only a single vote was left for all other three nationes combined, compared to one vote per each natio before. The result of this coup was the emigration of foreign (mostly German) professors and students, founding the University of Leipzig in May 1409. Before that, in 1408, the university had about 200 doctors and magisters, 500 bachelors, and 30,000 students; it now lost a large part of this number, accounts of the loss varying from 5000 to 20,000 including 46 professors. In the autumn of 1409, Hus was elected rector of the now Czech-dominated rump university.
Thus, the Prague university lost the largest part of its students and faculty. From then on the university declined to a merely regional institution with a very low status. Soon, in 1419, the faculties of theology and law disappeared, and only the faculty of arts remained in existence.
Protestant academy (1419–1622)
The faculty of arts became a centre of the Hussite movement, and the chief doctrinal authority of the Utraquists. No degrees were given in the years 1417–30; at times there were only eight or nine professors. Emperor Sigismund, son of Charles IV, took what was left into his personal property and some progress was made. The emperor Ferdinand I called the Jesuits to Prague and in 1562 they opened an academy—the Clementinum. From 1541 till 1558 the Czech humanist Mattheus Collinus (1516–1566) was a professor of Greek language. Some progress was made again when the emperor Rudolph II took up residence in Prague. In 1609 the obligatory celibacy of the professors was abolished. In 1616 the Jesuit Academy became a university. (It could award academic degrees.)
Jesuits were expelled 1618–1621 during the early stages of the Thirty Years' War, which was started in Prague by anti-Catholic and anti-Imperial Bohemians. By 1622 the Jesuits had a predominant influence over the emperor. An Imperial decree of 19 September 1622 gave the Jesuits supreme control over the entire school system of Bohemia, Moravia and Silesia. The last four professors at the Carolinum resigned and all of the Carolinum and nine colleges went to the Jesuits. The right of handing out degrees, of holding chancellorships and of appointing the secular professors was also granted to the Jesuits.
Charles-Ferdinand University (1622–1882)
Cardinal Ernst Adalbert von Harrach actively opposed union of the university with another institution and the withdrawal of the archiepiscopal right to the chancellorship and prevented the drawing up of the Golden Bull for the confirmation of the grant to Jesuits. Cardinal Ernst funded the Collegium Adalbertinum and in 1638 emperor Ferdinand III limited the teaching monopoly enjoyed by the Jesuits. He took from them the rights, properties and archives of the Carolinum making the university once more independent under an imperial protector. During the last years of the Thirty Years' War the Charles Bridge in Prague was courageously defended by students of the Carolinum and Clementinum. Since 1650 those who received any degrees took an oath to maintain the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin, renewed annually.
On 23 February 1654 emperor Ferdinand III merged Carolinum and Clementinum and created a single university with four faculties—Charles-Ferdinand University. Carolinum had at that time only the faculty of arts, as the only faculty surviving the period of the Hussite Wars. Starting at this time, the university designated itself Charles-Ferdinand University (Latin: Universitatis Carolinae Ferdinandeae). The dilapidated Carolinum was rebuilt in 1718 at the expense of the state.
The rebuilding and the bureaucratic reforms of universities in the Habsburg monarchy in 1752 and 1754 deprived the university of many of its former privileges. In 1757 a Dominican and an Augustinian were appointed to give theological instruction. However, there was a gradual introduction of enlightened reforms, and this process culminated at the end of the century when even non-Catholics were granted the right to study. On 29 July 1784, German replaced Latin as the language of instruction. For the first time Protestants were allowed, and soon after Jews. The university acknowledged the need of a Czech language and literature chair. Emperor Leopold II established it by a courtly decree on 28 October 1791. On 15 May 1792, scholar and historian František Martin Pelcl was named the professor of the chair. He started his lectures on 13 March 1793.
In the revolution of 1848, German and Czech students fought for the addition of the Czech language at the Charles-Ferdinand University as a language of lectures. Due to the demographic changes of the 19th century, Prague ceased to have a German-language majority around 1860. By 1863, 22 lecture courses were held in Czech, the remainder (out of 187) in German. In 1864, Germans suggested the creation of a separate Czech university. Czech professors rejected this because they did not wish to lose the continuity of university traditions.
Split into Czech and German universities
It soon became clear that neither Germans nor Czechs were satisfied with the bilingual arrangement that the University arranged after the revolutions of 1848. Nor would Czechs support the idea of the reinstitution of the 1349 student nations. They instead declared their support for the idea of keeping the university together, but dividing it into separate colleges, one German and one Czech. This would allow both Germans and Czechs to retain the collective traditions of the University. German-speakers, however, quickly vetoed this proposal, preferring a pure German university: they proposed to split Charles-Ferdinand University into two separate institutions.
After long negotiations, Charles-Ferdinand was divided into a German Charles-Ferdinand University (German: Deutsche Karl-Ferdinands-Universität) and a Czech Charles-Ferdinand University (Czech: Česká universita Karlo-Ferdinandova) by an act of Cisleithanian Imperial Council, which Emperor Franz Joseph sanctioned on 28 February 1882. Each section was entirely independent of the other, and enjoyed equal status. The two universities shared medical and scientific institutes, the old insignia, aula, library, and botanical garden, but common facilities were administrated by the German University. The first rector of the Czech University became Václav Vladivoj Tomek.
In 1890, Royal and Imperial Czech Charles Ferdinand University had 112 teachers and 2,191 students and the Royal and Imperial German Charles Ferdinand University had 146 teachers and 1,483 students. Both universities had three faculties and the Theological Faculty remained the common until 1891 when it was divided as well. In the winter semester of 1909–10 the German Charles-Ferdinand University had 1778 students; these were divided into: 58 theological students, for both the secular priesthood and religious orders; 755 law students; 376 medical; 589 philosophical. Among the students were about 80 women. The professors were divided as follows: theology, 7 regular professors, 1 assistant professor, 1 docent; law, 12 regular professors, 2 assistant professors, 4 docents; medicine, 15 regular professors, 19 assistant, 30 docents; philosophy, 30 regular professors, 8 assistant, 19 docents, 7 lecturers. The Czech Charles-Ferdinand University in the winter semester of 1909-10 included 4319 students; of these 131 were theological students belonging both to the secular and regular clergy; 1962 law students; 687 medical; 1539 philosophical; 256 students were women. The professors were divided as follows: theological faculty, 8 regular professors, 2 docents; law, 12 regular, 7 assistant professors, 12 docents; medicine, 16 regular professors, 22 assistant, 24 docents; philosophy, 29 regular, 16 assistant, 35 docents, 11 lecturers.
The high point of the German University was the era preceding the First World War, when it was home to world-renowned scientists such as physicist and philosopher Ernst Mach, Moritz Winternitz and Albert Einstein. In addition, the German-language students included prominent individuals such as future writers Max Brod, Franz Kafka, and Johannes Urzidil. The "Lese- und Redehalle der deutschen Studenten in Prag" ("Reading and Lecture Hall of the German students in Prague"), founded in 1848, was an important social and scientific centre. Their library contained in 1885 more than 23,519 books and offered 248 scientific journals, 19 daily newspapers, 49 periodicals and 34 papers of entertainment. Regular lectures were held to scientific and political themes.
Even before the Austro-Hungarian Empire was abolished in late 1918, to be succeeded by Czechoslovakia, Czech politicians demanded that the insignia of 1348 were exclusively to be kept by the Czech university. The Act No. 197/1919 Sb. z. a n. established the Protestant Theological Faculty, but not as a part of the Charles University. That changed on 10 May 1990, when it finally became a faculty of the university. In 1920, the so-called Lex Mareš (No. 135/1920 Sb. z. a n.) was issued, named for its initiator, professor of physiology František Mareš, which determined that the Czech university was to be the successor to the original university. Dropping the Habsburg name Ferdinand, it designated itself Charles University, while the German university was not named in the document, and then became officially called the German University in Prague (German: Deutsche Universität Prag).
In 1921 the Germans considered moving their university to Liberec (German: Reichenberg), in northern Bohemia. In 1930, about 42,000 inhabitants of Prague spoke German as their native language, while millions lived in northern Bohemia near the border with Germany.
In October 1932, after Naegle's death, the Czechs started again a controversy over the insignia. Ethnic tensions intensified, although some professors of the German University were members of the Czechoslovak government. Any agreement to use the insignia for both the universities was rejected. On 21 November 1934, the German University had to hand over the insigniae to the Czechs. The German University senate sent a delegation to Minister of Education Krčmář to protest the writ. At noon on 24 November 1934, several thousand students of the Czech University protested in front of the German university building. The Czech rector Karel Domin gave a speech urging the crowd to attack, while the outnumbered German students tried to resist. Under the threat of violence, on 25 November 1934 rector Otto Grosser (1873–1951) handed over the insigniae. These troubles of 1934 harmed relations between the two universities and nationalities.
The tides turned in 1938 when, following the Munich agreement, German troops entered the border areas of Czechoslovakia (the so-called Sudetenland), as did Polish and Hungarian troops elsewhere. On 15 March 1939 Germans forced Czecho-Slovakia to split apart and the Czech lands were occupied by Nazis as the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia. Reichsprotektor Konstantin von Neurath handed the historical insigniae to the German University, which was officially renamed Deutsche Karls-Universität in Prag. On 1 September 1939 the German University was subordinated to the Reichsministry of Education in Berlin and on 4 November 1939 it was proclaimed to be Reichsuniversität.
On 28 October 1939, during a demonstration, Jan Opletal was shot. His burial on 15 November 1939 became another demonstration. On 17 November 1939 (now marked as International Students' Day) the Czech University and all other Czech institutions of higher learning were closed, remaining closed until the end of the War. Nine student leaders were executed and about 1,200 Czech students were interned in Sachsenhausen and not released until 1943. About 20 or 35 interned students died in the camp. On 8 May 1940 the Czech University was officially renamed Czech Charles University (Czech: Česká universita Karlova) by government regulation 188/1940 Coll.
World War II marks the end of the coexistence of the two universities in Prague.
Present-day university (since 1945)
Although the university began to recover rapidly after 1945, it did not enjoy academic freedom for long. After the communist coup in 1948, the new regime started to arrange purges and repress all forms of disagreement with the official ideology, and continued to do so for the next four decades, with the second wave of purges during the "normalization" period in the beginning of the 1970s. Only in the late 1980s did the situation start to improve; students organized various activities and several peaceful demonstrations in the wake of the Revolutions of 1989 abroad. This initiated the "Velvet Revolution" in 1989, in which both students and faculty of the university played a large role. Václav Havel—a writer, dramatist and philosopher—was recruited from the independent academic community and appointed president of the republic in December 1989.
Institutional Accreditation or Recognition - Akreditacní komise Ceské republiky
- According to Academic Ranking of World Universities (Shanghai Ranking), Charles University ranked in the upper 1.5 percent of the world’s best universities in 2011. It came 201st to 300th out of 17,000 universities worldwide.
- It is the best university in the Czech Republic and one of the best universities in Central and Eastern Europe only overtaken by Russian Lomonosov Moscow State University at 74th place.
- It was placed 31st in Times BRICS & Emerging Economies Rankings 2014 (after 23rd University of Warsaw).
- It was ranked in 2013 as 201-300 best in the World among 500 universities evaluated by Academic Ranking of World Universities (Shanghai Ranking), 233rd among 500 in QS World University Rankings, 351-400 among 400 universities in Times Higher Education World University Rankings and 485th in CWTS Leiden Ranking of 500 universities. Earlier rankings are presented in following table:
|Year||Shanghai (Change)||QS Ranking (Change)||Times Ranking (Change)||Leiden Ranking (Change)|
|2011||201-300 (—)||276 ( 9)||301-350|
|2012||201-300 (—)||286 ( 10)||301-350 (—)||476|
|2013||201-300 (—)||233 ( 53)||351-400 ()||485 ( 9)|
|2014||201-300 (—)||244 ( 11)||301-350 ()||693 ( 208)|
|2015||201-300 (—)||279 ( 35)||401-500 ()||654 ( 39)|
According to QS Subject Ranking is Charles University among 51-100 best universities in world in geography and linguistics.
|Engineering & Technology||325||398()|
|Arts & Humanities||184||137()|
|Social Sciences & Management||229||252()|
|Life Sciences & Medicine||250||246()|
|Shanghai Subject Fields||2012||2013|
Student life @Charles University
Charles University offers a wide range of opportunities for students and staff to pursue their pastimes and hobbies. Besides boasting a plethora of student societies, the University also has several sports complexes and other interesting places where people can meet and spend their free time. Research and teaching at Charles University is scattered over many different sites, complicating the life of the University as a cohesive academic community. However, leisure activities hold a powerful potential to overcome this obstacle. Shared interest in sports, cultural activities and sharing our knowledge and values with other people - these help to unite all members of the University, regardless of which faculty we belong to or what we are studying. They also reinforce the University’s key shared values: our commitment to a common cause, our sense of duty, and our strong sense of collegiality and community.
In addition to a range of music and drama societies and film clubs, the University also hosts many exhibitions during the academic year in the Cross Corridor of the Carolinum. Rare faculty collections from specific fields, often displayed in specialized museums, reflect the University’s rich and fascinating history.
Drama and music societies
Charles University’s rich cultural life includes a range of drama and music societies. Theatre and music lovers – whether undergraduates, graduates or staff members – are immensely active in these societies, organizing a plethora of dramatic performances and concerts. Charles University strongly supports these societies, which often perform under the University’s name. To give just one example: the Charles University Choir has been spreading the University’s renown since its foundation in 1948, making it the oldest Czech university choir.
For 10 years now, Charles University students and staff with time to spare on Tuesday evenings have been able to enjoy sneak previews of films before the official cinema premiere. The film seminar is organized by the Institute of Communication Studies and Journalism, with screenings taking place every week in the Blue Auditorium at the University’s Celetná Street building in Prague.
Important Charles University buildings
The Carolinum is a national cultural monument and the main seat of Charles University; it has been owned by the University since 1383. One of the most important rooms in the Carolinum is the Aula Magna on the second floor, where all the University’s major ceremonies and events take place. The front wall of the Aula Magna is covered by a tapestry designed by Vladimír Sychra, incorporating motifs from the oldest Charles University seal in its centre, as well as excerpts from the Foundation Charter of 1348 and the symbols of the four original faculties. An outstanding architectural feature of the Aula is the Gothic oriel window with the original University chapel. Other important and beautiful rooms in the Carolinum include the Small Hall and the Patriotic Hall (with busts of prominent figures from Czech history). On the ground floor are the Imperial Hall (with portraits of the Austrian monarchs Maria Theresa, Joseph II and Leopold II painted by Barbara Kraft-Steiner in 1799) and the Cross Corridor with its original Gothic vaulted ceiling, now used for exhibitions.
The ‘House for the Professed’
The building of the Faculty of Mathematics and Physics on the Lesser Town Square (Malostranské náměstí) in Prague is an important Baroque edifice. It was built in the last third of the 17th century to designs by Giovanni Domenico Orsi and Francesco Lurago as a residence for the professed Jesuits of the Order attached to St Nicholas’ church. The building contains several ceremonial rooms; of particular note is the intricately ornamented refectory. Today it serves as a ceremonial hall; Bachelor’s graduation ceremonies have been taking place here since 2008.
Botanical Garden of the Faculty of Science
As an institution, the Botanical Garden of the University’s Faculty of Science is one of the oldest university gardens in Europe. It has an area of 3.5 hectares. The most valuable exhibits at the Garden are found in the collection of Central European flora, founded in 1904.
Sport is an inseparable part of university life. It has enjoyed a long tradition at Charles University, and CU graduates and students have scored many sporting victories. Success, however, is not the only objective of sport. The oft-quoted saying mens sana in corpore sano says it all. It is only fitting that Charles University students and staff should benefit from a wide range of sporting opportunities.
Rector’s Sports Day
The traditional Rector’s Sports Day is an opportunity for students and teaching staff of the University’s Prague faculties to meet members of the public – both on and off the sports field. The Sports Day showcases a wide range of sporting disciplines. It is not just about winning victory in individual and team sports; it is also an opportunity to get some exercise or to take part in a sport simply for enjoyment. The Sports Day website contains a list of the sports grounds and facilities where the events take place, plus a detailed overview of the various sports and the complete programme of the upcoming Rector’s Sports Day.
University Marathon - Charles University Rector’s Cup
For a truly unique experience, why not join the starting lineup of the Prague International Marathon and test your endurance against top marathon runners from all over the world. Put together a team of four people and run that legendary distance of 42 kilometres as a relay race.
Apply team strategies and enjoy the exhilarating feeling of elation and fulfilment. The first run for the Charles University Rector’s Cup took place on 8 May 2011.
Charles University organizes regular sports afternoons for students with disabilities
On Thursdays during the summer semester, the University’s Centre for Sports Activities of Students with Disabilities organizes regular sports afternoons at the Regatta boathouse in Prague. You can take part in the Spring Table Tennis Tournament or the Opening of the Vltava River, or take a ride down the river on a catamaran, raft or kayak. The boathouse (at Podolské nábřeží 4, Prague 4) has a gym and a table tennis table. The gym and all the amenities have wheelchair access.
Running with Those That Can’t
The charity Running with Those That Can't (RWTTC) was founded by students of Charles University’s Third Faculty of Medicine. The founders believe that philanthropy and willingness to help others is the starting point for becoming better students, better people and better doctors. Their intention was to bring down the social taboos which surround people with disabilities in the Czech Republic and help them live a longer, happier and more satisfying life.
The traditional partner of RWTTC is Charles University’s Third Faculty of Medicine in Prague. Together the organizers strive to help children with disabilities become integrated into society and to achieve increasing public awareness of their special needs. The run is one of the events held as part of the Prague International Marathon.
The Motol Mile
The run through the Motol Hospital compound has developed into an enjoyable tradition. Participation is open to everyone attending the conference held by the University’s Second Faculty of Medicine, plus anybody else keen on taking part in a fun and entertaining sporting event. The Motol Mile is organized by the Institute of Physical Education at Charles University’s Second Faculty of Medicine.
University Eights: rowing competition for Prague universities
This event – now entering its third year – is about more than just victory or racing against the clock to achieve the best time. The Vltava River in the heart of the Czech capital comes alive with the University Eights, in which current and former students of four Prague institutions compete for supremacy – the Charles University crew pitting its strength and endurance against crews from the Czech Technical University, the Czech University of Life Sciences and the University of Economics. The first ever rowing competition of Prague universities, the University Eights made its debut on 3 June 2011.
Czech Academic Games
The Czech Academic Games are an exclusive multi-discipline sports competition held on a regular basis. Students of all higher education institutions in the Czech Republic can take part.
Battle on Ice
The Battle on Ice is a unique ice hockey event coordinated by the student organizations of Prague’s four major universities. The first year’s tournament was won by the Charles University team, defeating teams from the Czech Technical University, the University of Economics and the University of Life Sciences. The Battle on Ice has an autumn semi-final and the final stage takes place in the spring. All participating teams are composed exclusively of students from the four universities. Each team can have no more than one member who is a student from another of the universities.