Charles University Was Founded 674 Years Ago Today

Charles University was founded by Karel IV, King of Bohemia and King of the Romans, on April 7, 1348. 

It was the first university north of the Alps and east of Paris. Charles University is one of the oldest universities in Europe.

Following the model of Paris University, Charles University was to consist of four faculties – the faculty of arts, theology and law and medicine faculty.

The members of the Prague university community belonged to four different „nations“ – these were the Czech, Polish, Bavarian, and Saxon nations. The new university soon made a name in the whole of Europe, and that‘s why thousands of students from many countries came to study here.

In its beginnings, the university had no building of its own, lectures were read in the monasteries and private dwellings of university masters.

It was only in 1366 that Charles IV founded a college near the Church of St. Nicholas, but this was not big enough and it was necessary to find additional premises. Thus, 22 years later, the university moved into  Rothley House, today’s Carolinum.

In 1784 German was introduced as the teaching language instead of Latin and it was used exclusively till 1882 when the university was divided into German and Czech sections.  Well over 200 years were to pass before the original name – Charles University – was restored.

The 20th Century won over distinguished professors to teach there, like Albert Einstein and Thomas G. Masaryk. While it produced vast amounts of scientific research and literary work, World War II erupted and Hitler closed all Czech universities, persecuting professors and students, while the German side of the universities meagerly prevailed.

Charles University was unable to resume its activities until after the Second World War when the German university was abolished.

But the renewal of free academic life at Charles University did not last long. After the communist coup of 1948, the new regime subjected education and research to tight ideological and political control, and continued to do so for the next four decades.

Only in the late 1980’s did the situation start to improve as students began organizing peaceful demonstrations against the totalitarian regime, eventually culminating in the Velvet Revolution of 1989, in which both students and faculty members played a large role.

After 1989, modern university life began to thrive, drawing strongly on renewed international cooperation.

Charles University contains 17 faculties, 3 collegiate institutes, 6 additional establishments for educational, scientific, research and developmental, 5 university-wide facilities, and the vice-chancellor’s/ rectors office as an executive establishment for Charles University management.

There are more than 4300 foreign students—750 of which study in English language academic programs. Over 5000 participants graduate from continuing education courses every year.

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