University of Fribourg

University of Fribourg
Université de Fribourg
Universität Freiburg
Latin: Universitas Friburgensis
Motto Scientia et Sapientia ("Knowledge and Wisdom")
Type Public
Established 1582/1763, 1889
Rector Astrid Epiney
Administrative staff
academic 1'150, admin 750
Students 10,000 [1]
Location Fribourg, Canton of Fribourg, Switzerland
46°48′23″N 7°09′06″E / 46.80625°N 7.15174°E / 46.80625; 7.15174Coordinates: 46°48′23″N 7°09′06″E / 46.80625°N 7.15174°E / 46.80625; 7.15174
Campus University town
Affiliations BeNeFri; Compostela Group of Universities

The University of Fribourg (French: Université de Fribourg; German: Universität Freiburg) is a university in the city of Fribourg, Switzerland.[2]

The roots of the university can be traced back to 1580, when the notable Jesuit Peter Canisius founded the Collège Saint-Michel in the City of Fribourg.[3] In 1763, an Academy of law was founded by the state of Fribourg which formed the nucleus of the present Law Faculty.[4] The University of Fribourg was finally created in 1889 by an Act of the parliament of the Swiss Canton of Fribourg.[5][6]

The University of Fribourg is Switzerland’s only bilingual university and offers full curricula in both French and German, two of Switzerland's national languages.[7] Students number about 10,000; there are about 200 tenured professors and 700 other academic teaching and research personnel.[8] The Misericorde Campus, constructed between 1939–42, was designed by the architects Honegger and Dumas, students of Swiss architect Le Corbusier.[5]

There are five faculties: Catholic theology, law, natural sciences, humanities, and economics & social sciences.[1][6]


The university owes its earliest origin to the foundation of the Jesuit College St. Michel on Belze Hill by Peter Canisius in 1580 at the invitation of the government of Fribourg.[5] In 1763, an Academy of Law was founded, housed in the Albertinium (now a Dominican residence). In 1834, the cantonal library was formed from works brought to Fribourg (from Catholic monasteries) for safekeeping.[9] The College St. Michel was closed following the expulsion of the Jesuits from Fribourg after the canton's defeat in the Sonderbund war.[10]

In 1886, Georges Python, founder of the cantonal bank and State Counsellor for Fribourg (M.P. in the upper house of the Swiss parliament) became Director of Public Education. He raised funds through a lottery and was granted some 2,500,000 CHF by the canton.[10] The cantonal library became integrated with that of the university and the Academy became the Faculty of Law. In 1939, the university moved to a new campus constructed on the former cemetery of Misericorde, ceding St. Michel to one of Fribourg's gymnasia, which took the name College St. Michel. During the Second World War, the university set up "university camps" along with the University of Zürich, HEC in St. Gall and a Lycée camp at Wetzikon provided a wide variety of courses to educate Polish prisoners of war.[11]

The Perolles campus was constructed on the site of a former wagon factory.[12]

Although many lectures were originally in Latin, Fribourg is now the only French/German bilingual university in the world (45% French and 55% German).[1] The town itself is 70% French and 30% German. This fact, coupled with the traditional dominance of French as the language of the city aristocracy explains why French has remained so dominant in university administration and in the AGEF (Association Generale des Etudiants Fribourgois), the Student's Union. To commemorate the centerary of the university, La Poste issued a stamp depicting the figures Science and Sagesse.

Recent developments

In 2005, the university inaugurated its Perolles 2 campus, to which the Faculty of Economics and Social Science relocated. The university has the third largest collection of Biblical antiquities in the world after the British Museum and the Cairo Museum. Fribourg has also developed FriMat, a centre of excellence in nanotechnology. As part of the BeNeFri association comprising the Universities of Berne, Neuchâtel and Fribourg, students at any one of these universities may take courses at another in the association and still receive credit at their home institution. The academic degrees were the Demi-Licence, Licence, DEA / DESS, Doctorate. The university now follows the requirements of the Bologna process. The University of Fribourg launched for the 2009–2010 academic year a new postgraduate law programme, the "Master of Laws in Cross-Cultural Business Practice" (MLCBP), an LL.M taught entirely in English.


Fribourg has no central campus and its buildings are located throughout the city. The main sites are:[13]

  • Misericorde - Humanities and central administration (including the famous Senate room)
  • Perolles - Science
  • Perolles 2 - Economics & Social Sciences
  • Regina Mundi - Psychology
  • BCU centrale - Main Library
  • Pierre Aeby - Department of Classical Philology
  • Bonnesfontaines - Pedagogy
  • Stade St. Leonard - University Stadium


The Fribourg University is divided in five faculties:[14]

  • The Faculty of Humanities is the largest faculty with about 4,000 students. They follow courses and seminars in the fields of philosophy, historical sciences, languages, literature, education, psychology or social sciences.
  • The Faculty of Law has about 1,900 students. The program includes national and international law; both subjects areas can be followed bilingual.
  • The Faculty of Theology is the largest and the most international of Switzerland, and, with Lucerne, it is the only state university in Switzerland to have a Faculty of Catholic Theology.
  • Approximately 1,900 students are enrolled in one of the four Bachelor programmes and one of the seven Master programmes of the Faculty of Economics and Social Sciences. The faculty is composed of four departments: business management, economics, computer science, media and communication. In addition, the international institute of management in technology (iimt) and the Verbandsmanagement Institute (VMI) are attached to the Faculty.
  • The Faculty of Science was founded in 1896 and has seven departments: biology, chemistry, geosciences, computer science, mathematics, medicine and physics. The Faculty is composed of 14 fields: biochemistry, biology, chemistry, geography, computer science, human medicine and dentistry (Bachelor), mathematics, neuroscience, pharmacy, physics, biomedical sciences, environmental sciences, earth sciences (geology) and sport.


  • Dies Academicus - On this day in November every year, no lectures are held. Festivities begin with Mass in the Chapel of the Collège St. Michel. The members of the University then proceed to the Aula Magna (Great Hall) in solemn procession. After an address by the rector and a prominent guest speaker, honorary degrees are awarded. The student guilds attend in ceremonial dress including swords.
  • Corporations - These are similar to the Studentenverbindungen in Germany and Austria, but there is no de facto constraint to participate as it is in the student nations at the universities of Uppsala, Lund and Helsinki. They maintain Central European student traditions and meet at least once a week around a Stammtisch ("regulars’ table") in order to socialise, drink and sing together. They tend to be organised on linguistic lines. One of them is still engaged in dueling, while the other corporations in Fribourg already rejected this tradition at the time they were founded, amongst others for religious reasons. Membership has often been considered advantageous for those wishing to pursue a career in business, politics or law. Most of Fribourg's student corporations belong to the formerly Catholic Schweizerischer Studentenverein. An example is AV Fryburgia.
  • The Day of Welcomes (Jour D’Accueil) - Similar to Freshers’ Week in anglophone universities. New students are invited to the Aula Magna, where they are welcomed to Fribourg by the Rector and the Syndic (Mayor of the City of Fribourg). This is followed by a meal in the university mensa provided by the city, where new students are expected to dine with the rest of the faculty to which they have been admitted.
  • Every year, the Catholic Church holds collections during masses throughout Switzerland. Known as Fribourg Sunday, the funds raised are mainly used to award scholarships to foreign priests by the Faculty of Theology.


The university seal depicts a cross and bishop's ring representing the university's Catholic ethos on a shield of black and white, representing the canton of Fribourg. The logo of the university is a blue stylized "F" (with triangles echoing the facade structure of the Miséricorde Building and symbolizing the Alps) and the name of the university in Latin.

Notable alumni and faculty

Writers and academics



Business and economics



  • Mario Botta, Founder of the Academy of Architecture at Mendrisio (Honoris Causa)




  • Three of the members of the medieval ensemble Freiburger Spielleyt are graduates of the university's early music program


See also

Notes and references

  1. 1 2 3 "University of Fribourg (UNIFR)". External link in |journal= (help)
  2. "Fribourg University Law Faculty". External link in |journal= (help)
  3. "Saint Peter Canisius - The Windmill of Wisdom". External link in |journal= (help)
  4. "University of Fribourg". External link in |journal= (help)
  5. 1 2 3 "University of Fribourg - Universities Handbook". External link in |journal= (help)
  6. 1 2 "Université de Fribourg". External link in |journal= (help)
  7. "Université de Fribourg". External link in |journal= (help)
  8. "University of Fribourg". External link in |journal= (help)
  9. "Université de Fribourg". External link in |journal= (help)
  10. 1 2 "University of Fribourg (Switzerland)". Catholic Encyclopedia. Retrieved 2007-02-18.
  11. "The polish Army in France & 2DSP internment in Switzerland 1939 - 1940". External link in |journal= (help)
  12. "University at miséricorde". Archived from the original on 2016-03-04. External link in |journal= (help)
  13. "University of Fribourg Ranking and address". 10 April 2012. External link in |journal= (help)
  14. "Faculties". Freibrug/Fribour, Switzerland: University of Fribourg. Retrieved 2018-06-18.
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