History of Ghent University

Ghent University has been encouraging critical and independent thinking since 1817. Over the past 200 years, Ghent University has counted many eminent scientists and even Nobel Prize winners. Some highlights:

Schilderij van Mattheus Van Bree van de plechtige installatie van de Universiteit van Gent door de prins van Oranje in de troonzaal van het stadhuis op 9 oktober 1817 (Collectie Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam).1817 Inauguration

Ghent university was founded by King William I in 1816 and inaugurated on 9 October 1817 at Ghent City Hall. The first professorial staff had 16 members, including 9 foreigners, mainly Northern Dutch and Germans. In 1817, a total of 190 students registered in the 4 faculties: Arts, Law, Medicine and Sciences.

Tafereel van de Septemberdagen van 1830 op de Grote Markt te Brussel, geschilderd door Gustaaf Wappers in 1835 (Collectie KMSKB, Brussel).1830 Revival

The political separation from the Netherlands in 1830 had disastrous consequences for education in Ghent as two faculties were abolished: Sciences and Arts. Although the Higher Education Act of 1835 returned the two faculties to Ghent University and also added the Technical Schools, the recovery proceeded very slowly.

Thirty-five years would pass before the student population level of 1830 was once again attained. Nevertheless, during this period Ghent University won a great number of prizes in the university competitions.

1876 Modernization

The introduction of Dutch as the official language in 1930 coincided with a change in the University's language status. The language of instruction from its establishment by William I of Orange till the separation from the Netherlands was Latin, from 1830 till 1930 it was first French and then a bilingual system, and after 1930 it was Dutch.

A systematic and thorough modernization of higher education in Ghent took place after the Acts of 1876 and 1890 were passed, which granted universities the power to award academic degrees and enabled scientific development. Laboratory exercises and laboratory research work got their start in this period and research assistants were also appointed.

Over the years, the professorial staff has included a number of eminent figures: jurists Jean-Jacques Haus and François Laurent, physicist Joseph Plateau, mathematician Paul Mansion, physiologist and psychiatrist Joseph Guislain, historians Henri Pirenne and Paul Fredericq, Germanic scholars Joseph Vercoullie and Henri Logeman, and zoologist and botanist Julius Mac Leod, who was also the spiritual father of the Flemish-speaking Ghent University.

1882 First female student

Due to relaxed entry requirements for university studies, female students also gained access to higher education. The first woman came to study in Ghent in 1882. She chose to study Sciences.

1911 Nobel Prize for Maurice Maeterlinck

Poet, playwright, essayist, translator and Ghent University alumnus Maurice Maeterlinck received the Nobel Prize in Literature, among others, for the impact of his stage debut La Princesse Maleine.

En nu naar Gent! Affiche ter promotie van de vernderlandste universiteit van Gent in 1930 (Collectie AMVC Letterenhuis)1930 Dutch

Dutch became the official language of Ghent University in 1930, the year Belgium celebrated its first centennial. This made it the first institution in the country to offer its educational programmes in Dutch.



Uitreiking van de Nobelprijs aan Corneel Heymans in de Aula op 10 januari 1940. Links op de foto koningin Elisabeth naast een lege troon voor koning Leopold III, afwezig omwille van de oorlogsdreiging (Collectie Universiteitsarchief Gent).1938 Nobel Prize for Corneel Heymans

In 1938 Prof. Corneel Heymans of Ghent was the only Flemish person to receive the Nobel Prize for his discoveries in the field of respiratory regulation. The pulling down of the language barrier in 1930 constituted an important step towards the democratization and scientific development of recent decades.

In 1991 verdwijnt de naam 'Rijksuniversiteit Gent'. Voortaan heet de universiteit 'Universiteit Gent' of 'UGent' (Collectie Universiteitsarchief Gent - foto Fotoklas UGent).1991 Decree

A university stands or falls on the basis of the scientific research it produces. In the past, the university's fame was in the hands of individual scholars who taught and carried on research. In the last decades, because of the explosion in the growth and range of scientific research, this was no longer feasible. Research increasingly became a matter of teamwork and interdisciplinary collaboration.

As a consequence of the reform of the State, the regional communities enjoyed wide powers of decision. For instance, on education. The decree of 1991, which assigned great autonomy to the University, provided new challenges on education and research in an international perspective.

augent2003 Foundation of AUGent

In 2003 Ghent University joined forces with Hogeschool Gent, Arteveldehogeschool and Hogeschool West-Vlaanderen to form the Ghent University Association.

Campus Kortrijk vlag2013 Integration of university colleges

Some 40 academic programmes of the university colleges within the Ghent University Association are transferred into Ghent University. In one fell swoop, the university gains 6,800 students, 600 staff members, several campuses in Ghent and a Campus Kortrijk (Courtrai).

On 1 October, Professor Anne De Paepe becomes UGent's first female rector.

Ghent University Global Campus2014 Ghent University Global Campus in South Korea

Ghent University opens up its first campus in Songdo, South Korea. Its curriculum offers 3 bachelor’s study programmes in life sciences: Molecular Biotechnology, Environmental Technology, and Food Technology. They are taught by a permanent staff, supplemented by a ‘flying faculty’ made up of Ghent University lecturers that periodically fly over to teach four-week-long modules.

2017 Celebration 200 years Ghent University

In 2017, UGent celebrated its 200th anniversary. For the occasion, Ghent University renews its logo and corporate identity.

There was an extensive expo on its history at Ghent City Museum (STAM), the renewed Ghent University logo shone on a postage stamp and 2-euro coin, there was an official visit of 80 rectors, foundation ball, 200-km bike ride, international rowing regatta, ... As a finale, the university organised the city festival 'Everyone Ghent University' with more than 25,000 visitors!