The University was founded on 12 March 1365 by Rudolf IV, Duke of Austria, and his two brothers, Dukes Albert III and Leopold III, hence the additional name "Alma Mater Rudolphina".
The University of Vienna was modelled after the University of Paris. However, Pope Urban V did not ratify the deed of foundation that had been sanctioned by Rudolf IV. Approval was finally received from the Pope in 1384 and the University of Vienna was granted the status of a full university. The first university building opened in 1385. It quite grew into the biggest university of the Holy Roman Empire, and during the advent of Humanism in the mid-15th century was home to more than 6,000 students.
The University has experienced a number of changes and reformations with centuries passing, including a loss of prestige during Reformation, installation of the Jesuit Order in 1551 and becoming a stronghold of Catholicism for over 150 years. It was only in the Mid-18th century that Empress Maria Theresa forced the university back under control of the monarchy.
Big changes were instituted in the wake of the Revolution in 1848, with the Philosophical Faculty being upgraded into equal status as Theology, Law and Medicine. Led by the reforms of Leopold, Count von Thun und Hohenstein, the university was able to achieve a larger degree of academic freedom. It was 532 years from its foundation before the University of Vienna permitted women to enter its hallowed halls as students in 1897, although initially only at the Faculty of Philosophy. This was followed by the Faculties of Medicine (1900), Law (1919), Protestant Theology (1928) and Catholic Theology (1945).
Free university admission in the 1970s triggered an educational boom and resulted in a vast expansion of the University of Vienna. Increasing numbers of students necessitated the construction of new buildings and the redevelopment of old ones.
With the 2002 Universities Act, all Austrian universities became autonomous, and therefore more self-dependent and performance-orientated. For the University of Vienna, this meant total re-organisation: by 1 January 2004 the Faculty of Medicine became a separate university.
The University of Vienna celebrates its 650th Anniversary in 2015.