University of Fribourg

Jump to: navigation, search

University of Fribourg
Université de Fribourg
Universität Freiburg
Università de Friburgo

Latin: Universitas Friburgensis

Motto Science et Sagesse ("Knowledge and Wisdom")
Established 1763, 1889
Type Public (Catholic)
Rector Prof. Guido Vergauen
Students 10,000
Location Fribourg, Switzerland
Affiliations BeNeFri

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

It was founded in 1889 by local businessman Georges Python, although the origins of the university can be traced to 1580 with the foundation of the Jesuit Seminary of St. Michel. Courses in this University are given in the French language and German language. Except for certain departments (such as history and law) where curricula are available in both languages, students are normally expected to understand both languages. Students number about 10,000. Traditionally, the university also attracts a strong contingent of students from Italian-speaking Ticino. The Misericorde Campus, constructed between 1939–42 was designed by the architects Honegger and Dumas, students of the famous Swiss architect Le Corbusier and as such is deemed to be of major architectural importance.

There are five faculties: Catholic theology, law, natural sciences, arts, and economics & social sciences.


File:University Fribourg 003.JPG
University of Fribourg, main building.

The University owes its origin to the foundation of the Jesuit College St. Michel on Belze Hill by St. Pierre Canisius in 1580 at the invitation of the government of Fribourg. The question of Catholic higher education came to the fore with the development of the Protestant academies at Geneva, Lausanne and Basle. 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. The College St. Michel was closed following the expulsion of the Jesuits by the Bernese from Fribourg after the canton's defeat in the Sonderbund war.

File:Georges Python.jpg
Plaque commemorating Georges Python.

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.[1] One of the conditions was that he should delay the construction of the university buildings and lectures took place in the buildings of St. Michel. The cantonal library became integrated with that of the university and the Academy became the Faculty of Law. The Dominicans managed the theological faculty, due to an agreement with the canton of Fribourg. The buildings of St. Michel eventually became too crowded and 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. The Perolles campus was constructed on the site of a former wagon factory.

Although lectures were originally in Latin, Fribourg is now the only French/German bilingual university in the world (40% French and 60% German).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.

Recent developments

The university just completed construction of its Perolles 2 campus, to where the renowned Faculty of Economics and Social Science relocated. Plans are underway to commence construction of a Museum for Biblical Antiquities which will be housed in the Tower of Henry IV once it is renovated. Fribourg has also developed FriMat, a centre of excellence in nanotechnology. As part of the BeNeFri association comprising the Universities of Berne, Neuchatel 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.


File:Entrance-Av.enue de l'Europe.jpg
Entrance, Avenue de l'Europe.

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

  • Misericorde - Humanities and central administration (including the famous Senate room)
  • Perolles- Science
  • Perolles 2 - Economics
  • Regina Mundi- Psychology
  • BCU centrale - main library
  • Pierre Aeby- Department of Classical Philology
  • Bonnesfontaines- Pedagogy
  • Stade St. Leonard - university stadium


  • 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.
  • Student Guilds- These are similar to the student nations at the universities of Uppsala, Lund and Helsinki. They dine together in uniform once a week and tend to be organised on geographic/linguistic lines. They also engaged in dueling until quite recently. Membership has often been considered advantageous for those wishing to pursue a career in business, politics or law.
  • The Day of Welcomes (Jour D'Accueil)- Similar to Fresher's Week in Anglophonic 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.

Student life

The main sports at the University are skiing, fencing, ice hockey, football, basketball. In common with many Swiss universities, Fribourg does not have its own halls of residence. A minority of Students live in foyers, often run by religious organisations (though the university aids with some of the construction costs) but most of them rent a place on their own, a common practice in Switzerland. Two of the main foyers at Fribourg are Cité St. Justin and the Salesianum. There is also a student housing cooperative known as REST.

Primary degrees used to last for five or five and a half years, culminating in a Lizenziat (equivalent to a Master's degree), although with the introduction of the Bologna reforms, the University awards a BA after three years and an MA after a further two years. Students are issued with a tabella, a book in which they record all the lectures which they have attended, and which the professors sign.

Fribourg also has an active nightlife, with bars like the Café Populaire (with its renowned Crazy Mondays) or the Irish Pub and clubs like the To See and the FMRA. The Fri-Son club often presents famous musical acts, with venues as diversified as Death Cab for Cutie, X-cutioners, Booba, Pleymo, Air, Soulfly, The Decemberists, Zuriwest,Stress...


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. This is being replaced increasingly by the use of a blue logo with triangles depicting the Alps and the name of the University in Latin.

Notable alumni and faculty

Writers and Academics

  • Maurice Zermatten, writer, winner of the Schiller International Prize
  • Tariq Ramadan, philosopher and Islamic scholar
  • Michel Plancherel, mathematician
  • Alfred Gockel, physicist, a graduate of Heidelberg but a Professor of Fribourg, involved in the discovery of cosmic radiation.
  • Gonzague de Reynold, writer and academic. Author of Cités et pays suisse.
  • Mary Daly(PhD, Feminist theologian and advocate of parthenogenesis
  • Emmanuel Levinas, philosopher
  • Professor Thierry Madies- Economic Advisor to French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin
  • Professor Philippe Gugler, president, European International Business Academy
  • Peter Trudgill, British sociolinguist and dialectologist





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



  • Christa Rigozzi, Miss Switzerland 2006-2007


  • Benito Mussolini worked as a stone mason on the Bibliothèque Cantonale et universitaire (BCU) centrale, the central library of the university.
  • The university has the third largest collection of Biblical antiquities in the world after the British Museum and the Cairo Museum.
  • During the Second World War, the University set up "university camps" along with the University of Zurich to educate Polish prisoners of war.
  • Every year, the Catholic Church holds collections at Masses throughout Switzerland. known as Fribourg Sunday,the funds raised are mainly used to award scholarships to foreign priests by the Theology Faculty.
  • To commemorate the centerary of the University La Poste issued a stamp depicting the figures Science and Sagesse.


  1. "University of Fribourg (Switzerland)". Catholic Encyclopedia. Retrieved 2007-02-18.

External links

de:Universität Freiburg (Schweiz) it:Università di Friburgo no:Université de Fribourg