University of Bonn

Bonn, Germany
Website: Founded: 1818 year Type of University:Public 114 place StudyQA ranking: 695 pts. No. Students: 35619 Frgn. Students: 4000 No. Staff: 3982 Languages: German Phone: +49228730
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About the University of Bonn

The University of Bonn (German: Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Bonn) is a public research university located in Bonn, Germany. Founded in its present form in 1818, as the linear successor of earlier academic institutions, the University of Bonn is today one of the leading universities in Germany. The University of Bonn offers a large number of undergraduate and graduate programs in a range of subjects. Its library holds more than five million volumes. The University of Bonn has 544 professors and 32,500 students. Among its notable alumni and faculty are seven Nobel Laureates, three Fields Medalist, twelve Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Prize winners, Prince Albert, Pope Benedict XVI, Frederick III, Karl Marx, Heinrich Heine, Friedrich Nietzsche, Konrad Adenauer, and Joseph Schumpeter. The Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2016 and the Academic Ranking of World Universities 2015 ranked the University of Bonn as one of the 100 best universities in the world.

History of the University of Bonn

The university's forerunner was the Kurkölnische Akademie Bonn (English: Academy of the Prince-elector of Cologne) which was founded in 1777 by Maximilian Frederick of Königsegg-Rothenfels, the prince-elector of Cologne. In the spirit of the Enlightenment the new academy was nonsectarian. The academy had schools for theology, law, pharmacy and general studies. In 1784 Emperor Joseph II granted the academy the right to award academic degrees (Licentiat and Ph.D.), turning the academy into a university. The academy was closed in 1798 after the left bank of the Rhine was occupied by France during the French Revolutionary Wars.

The Rhineland became a part of Prussia in 1815 as a result of the Congress of Vienna. Shortly after the seizure of the Rhineland, on 5 April 1815, King Frederick William III of Prussia promised the establishment of a new university in the new Rhine province (German: den aus Landesväterlicher Fürsorge für ihr Bestes gefaßten Entschluß, in Unsern Rheinlanden eine Universität zu errichten). At this time there was no university in the Rhineland, as all three universities that existed until the end of the 18th century were closed as a result of the French occupation. The Kurkölnische Akademie Bonn was one of these three universities. The other two were the Roman Catholic University of Cologne and the Protestant University of Duisburg.

The new Rhein University (German: Rhein-Universität) was then founded on 18 October 1818 by Frederick William III. It was the sixth Prussian University, founded after the universities in Greifswald, Berlin, Königsberg, Halle and Breslau. The new university was equally shared between the two Christian denominations. This was one of the reasons why Bonn, with its tradition of a nonsectarian university, was chosen over Cologne and Duisburg. Apart from a school of Roman Catholic theology and a school of Protestant theology, the university had schools for medicine, law and philosophy. Inititally 35 professors and eight adjunct professors were teaching in Bonn.

The university constitution was adopted in 1827. In the spirit of Wilhelm von Humboldt the constitution emphasized the autonomy of the university and the unity of teaching and research. Similar to the University of Berlin, which was founded in 1810, the new constitution made the University of Bonn a modern research university.

Only one year after the inception of the Rhein University the dramatist August von Kotzebue was murdered by Karl Ludwig Sand, a student at the University of Jena. The Carlsbad Decrees, introduced on 20 September 1819 led to a general crackdown on universities, the dissolution of the Burschenschaften and the introduction of censorship laws. One victim was the author and poet Ernst Moritz Arndt, who, freshly appointed university professor in Bonn, was banned from teaching. Only after the death of Frederick William III in 1840 was he reinstated in his professorship. Another consequence of the Carlsbad Decrees was the refusal by Frederick William III to confer the chain of office, the official seal and an official name to the new university. The Rhein University was thus nameless until 1840, when the new King of Prussia, Frederick William IV gave it the official name Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität.

Despite these problems the university grew and attracted famous scholars and students. At the end of the 19th century the university was also known as the Prinzenuniversität (English:Princes' university), as many of the sons of the king of Prussia studied here. In 1900 the university had 68 chairs, 23 adjunct chairs, two honorary professors, 57 Privatdozenten and six lecturers. Since 1896, women were allowed to attend classes as guest auditors at universities in Prussia. In 1908 the University of Bonn became fully coeducational.

The growth of the university came to a halt with World War I. Financial and economic problems in Germany in the aftermath of the war resulted in reduced government funding for the university. The University of Bonn responded by trying to find private and industrial sponsors. In 1930 the university adopted a new constitution. For the first time students were allowed to participate in the self-governing university administration. To that effect the student council Astag (German: Allgemeine Studentische Arbeitsgemeinschaft) was founded in the same year. Members of the student council were elected in a secret ballot.

After the Nazi takeover of power in 1933 the Gleichschaltung transformed the university into a Nazi educational institution. According to the Führerprinzip the autonomous and self-governening administration of the university was replaced by a hierarchy of leaders resembling the military, with the university president being subordinate to the ministry of education. Jewish professors and students and political opponents were ostracized and expelled from the university. The theologian Karl Barth was forced to resign and to emigrate to Switzerland for refusing to swear an oath to Hitler. The Jewish mathematician Felix Hausdorff was expelled from the university in 1935 and committed suicide after learning about his impending deportation to a concentration camp in 1942. The philosophers Paul Ludwig Landsberg and Johannes Maria Verweyen were deported and died in concentration camps. In 1937 Thomas Mann was deprived of his honorary doctorate. His honorary degree was restored in 1946.

During the second World War the university suffered heavy damage. An air raid on 18 October 1944 destroyed the main building. The university was re-opened on 17 November 1945 as one of the first in the British occupation zone. The first university president was Heinrich Matthias Konen, who was expelled from the university in 1934 because of his opposition to Nazism. At the start of the first semester on 17 November 1945 the university had more than 10,000 applicants for only 2,500 places.

The university greatly expanded in the postwar period, in particular in the 1960s and 1970s. Significant events of the postwar era were the relocation of the university hospital from the city center to the Venusberg in 1949, the opening of the new university library in 1960 and the opening of a new building, the Juridicum, for the School of Law and Economics in 1967.

In 1980 the Pedagogigal University Bonn was merged into the University of Bonn, although eventually all the teachers education programs were closed in 2007. In 1983 the new science library was opened. In 1989 Wolfgang Paul was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics. Three years later Reinhard Selten was awarded the Nobel Prize in Economics. The decision of the German government to move the capital from Bonn to Berlin after the reunification in 1991 resulted in generous compensation for the city of Bonn. The compensation package included three new research institutes affiliated or closely collaborating with the university, thus significantly enhancing the research profile of the University of Bonn.

In the 2000s the university implemented the Bologna process and replaced the traditional Diplom and Magister programs with Bachelor and Master programs. This process was completed by 2007.


Institutional Accreditation or Recognition - Ministerium für Innovation, Wissenschaft und Forschung des Landes Nordrhein-Westfalen

Year of first Accreditation - 1818


  • According to the Academic Ranking of World Universities compiled by researchers of the Shanghai Jiao Tong University the University Bonn is ranked 97th internationally.
  • The Times Higher Education Supplement ranks the University of Bonn 53rd worldwide in the science category and 84th worldwide in the social science category.
  • Webometrics ranks the University of Bonn 126th worldwide, 32nd in Europe and 9th nationally.
  • In the field of economics, the Faculty of Economics ranked 1st in Germany and 18th in Europe in 2007 according to the Journal of the European Economic Association with regard to publications in top journals.
  • University of Bonn is ranked 1st in Germany, 16th in Europe and 61st worldwide based on research contribution from 2004 to 2008 in top economics schools ranking by CentER for Research in Economics and Business.
  • According to CHE Research Ranking 2008 Department of Economics at the University of Bonn belongs to the ranking's top group.
  •  Academic Ranking of World Universities ranks the University of Bonn between 76th-100th worldwide in 2009 for its economics category.
  • In Handelsblatt-Ranking its Department of Economics is ranked 3rd in 2010 in German-speaking countries
  • In national rankings the University of Bonn is ranked in the top ten by the news magazine Focus and the German Research Foundation.
  • The Humboldt Foundation ranks the University of Bonn fifth in the humanities and social sciences, sixth in the life sciences and seventh in science.
  • The 2012 QS World University Rankings ranked the university 151st overall in the world, and 63rd in Natural sciences. In the 2015/16 Times Higher Education World University Rankings, the university placed 94th.

Student life @the University of Bonn

New in Bonn? Check our "Study abroad at Bonn"-map. Former international students left their ideas of where to go, what to do and how to experience Bonn in this map.

Life on Campus

  • International Club
  •  The University Library
  •  Allgemeiner Studierendenauschuss (AStA) (Student Union)
  •  Studentenwerk (Dormitories and Student Cafeterias)
  •  Student clubs and organizations
  •  Hochschulsport (University Sports)

Doctors in Bonn

The city of Bonn offers a  database with doctors in Bonn listed on their web pages. Here you can search for a doctor in your neighborhood (choose your neigborhood under "Lage"), as well as for specialists or doctors who speak foreign languages.


  •  Public swimming pools
  •  University Sports (Hochschulsport)
  •  Telekom Baskets
  •  Troisdorf Jets (American Football)
  •  Sportvereine in Bonn


If you enjoy music, why not join the university's choir or orchestra. In addition to practicing and performing with a group of Bonn students, it is also a great opportunity to meet and get to know German students.

You can find information at the  Collegium Musicum's website.


Services of the University of Bonn

University Library

The university library was founded in 1818 and started with 6,000 volumes inherited from the library of the closed University of Duisburg. In 1824 the library became legal deposit for all books published in the Prussian Rhine province. The library contained about 200,000 volumes at the end of the 19th century, and about 600,000 volumes at the outbreak of World War II. An air raid on 10 October 1944 destroyed about 200,000 volumes and a large part of the library catalog. After the war the library was housed in several makeshift locations until the completion of the new central library in 1960. The new building was designed by Pierre Vago and Fritz Bornemann and is located close to the main building. In 1983 a new library building was opened in Poppelsdorf, west of the main building. The new library building houses the science, agriculture and medicine collections. Today, the university library system comprises the central library, the library for science, agriculture and medicine and about 160 smaller libraries. It holds 2.2 million volumes and subscribes to about 14,000 journals.

University Hospital

The university hospital (German:Universitätsklinikum Bonn) was founded at the same time as the university and officially opened on 5 May 1819 in the Poppelsdorf Palace (German:Poppelsdorfer Schloss) west of the main building. In its first year, the hospital had thirty beds, performed 93 surgeries and treated about 600 outpatients. In 1883 the hospital moved to a new building in the city center of Bonn, and after World War II to the Venusberg on the western edge of Bonn. On 1 January 2001 the university hospital became a public corporation. Although the university hospital is since then independent from the university, the School of Medicine of the University of Bonn and the university hospital closely collaborate. Today the university hospital comprises about thirty individual hospitals, employs more than 670 physicians and more than 1,100 nursing and clinical support staff and treated about 39,000 inpatients.

University Museums

The Akademisches Kunstmuseum (English: Academic Museum of Antiquities ) was founded in 1818 and has one of the largest collections of plaster casts of ancient Greek and Roman sculptures in the world. At this time collections of plaster casts were mainly used in the instruction of students at art academies. They were first used in the instruction of university students in 1763 by Christian Gottlob Heyne at University of Göttingen. The Akademisches Kunstmuseum in Bonn was the first of its kind, as at this time collections at other universities were scattered around universities libraries. The first director was Friedrich Gottlieb Welcker, who also held a professorship of archaeology. His tenure was from 1819 until his retirement in 1854. He was succeeded by Otto Jahn and Friedrich Wilhelm Ritschl, who shared the directorship. From 1870 to 1889 Reinhard Kekulé von Stradonitz, nephew of the famous organic chemist Friedrich August Kekulé von Stradonitz, was the director. In 1872 the museum moved to a new building that was formerly used by the department of anatomy. The building was constructed from 1823 to 1830 and designed by Karl Friedrich Schinkel and Hermann Friedrich Waesemann. Other directors of the museum were Georg Loeschcke (from 1889 to 1912), Franz Winter (from 1912 to 1929), Richard Delbrueck (from 1929 to 1940), Ernst Langlotz (from 1944 to 1966), Nikolaus Himmelmann (from 1969 to 1994) and Harald Mielsch (since 1994). All directors, with the exception of Friedrich Wilhelm Ritschl held a professorship of archaeology at the university.

The Egyptian Museum (German: Ägyptisches Museum) was founded in 2001. The collection dates back to the 19th century and was formerly part of the Akademisches Kunstmuseum. Large parts of the collection were destroyed in World War II. Today the collection comprises about 3,000 objects.

The Arithmeum was opened in 1999. With over 1,200 objects it has the world's largest collection of historical mechanical calculating machines. The museum is affiliated with the Research Institute for Discrete Mathematics.

The Teaching Collection of Archaeology and Anthropology (German: Archäologisch-ethnographische Lehr- und Studiensammlung) was opened in 2008. The collection comprises more than 7,500 objects of mostly pre-Columbian art.

The Botanical Garden was officially founded in 1818 and is located around the Poppelsdorf Palace. A garden existed at the same place at least since 1578, and around 1720 a Baroque garden was built for Clemens August of Bavaria. The first director of the Botanical Garden was Nees von Esenbeck from 1818 to 1830. In May 2003 the world's largest Titan arum, some 2.74 meters high, flowered in the Botanical Garden for three days.

The natural history museum was opened in 1820 by Georg August Goldfuss. It was the first public museum in the Rhineland. In 1882 it was split into the Mineralogical Museum located in the Poppelsdorf Palace and a museum of palaeontology, now named Goldfuß Museum of Palaeontology.

The Horst Stoeckel-Museum of the History of Anesthesiology (German: Horst Stoeckel-Museum für die Geschichte der Anästhesiologie) was opened in 2000 and is the largest of its kind in Europe.

The Museum Alexander Koenig is one of the largest natural history museums in Germany and is affiliated with the university. The museum was founded in 1912 by Alexander Koenig, who donated his collection of mounted specimen to the public. See also the separate article Museum Koenig.

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