The University of Copenhagen (Københavns Universitet) is the oldest and largest university and research institution in Denmark. Founded in 1479, it has more than 37,000 students, a majority of whom are female (59%), and more than 7,000 employees. The university has several campuses located in and around Copenhagen, with the oldest located in central Copenhagen. Most courses are taught in Danish; however, many courses are also offered in English and a few in German. The university has 2800 foreign students where half is from the Nordic countries.
The university is a member of the International Alliance of Research Universities (IARU) along with University of Cambridge, University of Oxford, Yale University and UC Berkeley among others. It is generally recognized, and ranked, as the leading university in Scandinavia, and one of Europe's leading research institutions.
The University of Copenhagen was founded in 1479 and is the oldest university in Denmark. Between the closing of the Studium Generale in Lund in 1536 and the establishment of the University of Aarhus in the late 1920s, it was the only university in Denmark. The university became a centre of Roman Catholic theological learning, but also had faculties for the study of law, medicine, and philosophy.
The university was re-established in 1537 after the Lutheran Reformation and transformed into an evangelical-Lutheran seminary. Between 1675 and 1788, the university introduced the concept of degree examinations. An examination for theology was added in 1675, followed by law in 1736. By 1788, all faculties required an examination before they would issue a degree.
In 1801, under the command of Admiral Horatio Nelson, the British fleet bombarded Copenhagen during the Battle of Copenhagen, destroying most of the university's buildings. By 1836, however, the new main building of the university was inaugurated amid extensive building that continued until the end of the century. The university library, the Zoological Museum, the Geological Museum, the Botanic Garden with greenhouses, and the Technical College were also established during this period.
Between 1842 and 1850, the faculties at the university were restructured. Starting in 1842, the University Faculty of Medicine and the Academy of Surgeons merged to form the Faculty of Medical Science, while in 1848 the Faculty of Law was reorganised and became the Faculty of Jurisprudence and Political Science. In 1850, the Faculty of Mathematics and Science was separated from the Faculty of Philosophy.
The first female student was enrolled at the university in 1877. The university underwent explosive growth between 1960 and 1980. The number of students rose from around 6,000 in 1960 to about 26,000 in 1980, with a correspondingly large growth in the number of employees. Buildings built during this time period include the new Zoological Museum, the Hans Christian Ørsted and August Krogh Institutes, the campus centre on Amager Island, and the Panum Institute.
The new university statute instituted in 1970 involved democratisation of the management of the university. It was modified in 1973 and subsequently applied to all higher education institutions in Denmark. Further change in the structure of the university from 1990 to 1993 made a Bachelor's degree programme mandatory in virtually all subjects.
Also in 1993, the law departments broke off from the Faculty of Social Sciences to form a separate Faculty of Law. In 1994, the University of Copenhagen designated environmental studies, north-south relations, and biotechnology as areas of special priority according to its new long-term plan. Starting in 1996 and continuing to the present, the university planned new buildings, including for the University of Copenhagen Faculty of Humanities at Amager (Ørestaden), along with a Biotechnology Centre. By 1999, the student population had grown to exceed 35,000, resulting in the university appointing additional professors and other personnel.
In 2005, the Center for Health and Society (Center for Sundhed og Samfund - CSS) opened in central Copenhagen, housing the Faculty of Social Sciences and Institute of Public Health, which until then had been located in various places throughout the city. In May 2006, the university announced further plans to leave many of its old buildings in the inner city of Copenhagen, an area that has been home to the university for more than 500 years. The purpose of this has been to gather the university's many departments and faculties on three larger campuses in order to create a bigger, more concentrated and modern student environment with better teaching facilities, as well as to save money on rent and maintenance of the old buildings. The concentration of facilities on larger campuses also allows for more inter-disciplinary cooperation; for example, the Departments of Political Science and Sociology are now located in the same facilities at CSS and can pool resources more easily.
In January 2007, the University of Copenhagen merged with the Royal Veterinary and Agricultural University and the Danish University of Pharmaceutical Science. The two universities are now faculties under the University of Copenhagen, and are now known as the Faculty of Life Sciences and the Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences.
Although many privately owned dormitories (kollegier in Danish) exist in Copenhagen, there are also five which are partially administered by the university. Only students who have passed at least two years of studies are considered for admission. These are normally referred to as the old dormitories, and they consist of Regensen, Elers Kollegium, Borchs Kollegium, Hassagers Kollegium, and Valkendorfs Kollegium.
Contrary to the tradition of most American dormitories, Danish dormitories in general, and the old dormitories in particular, only offer single rooms for rent, meaning no student has to share their room with others. Many Danish students live in dormitories throughout their studies.
In addition to the university seal, each of the university's eight faculties have a seal of their own.
The Academic Ranking of World Universities published by Shanghai Jiao Tong University 2007 ranks the University of Copenhagen as the best university in Denmark and Scandinavia, the 8th best university in Europe, and is #46 in Top 500 World Universities
The University of Copenhagen is ranked number 56 on a top 100 of the world's best universities published by Times Higher Education Supplement. It is the only Scandinavian university in the top 100.
The university cooperates with universities around the world. In January 2006, the University of Copenhagen entered into a partnership of ten universities, along with the Australian National University, ETH Zürich, National University of Singapore, Peking University, University of California Berkeley, University of Cambridge, University of Oxford, University of Tokyo, and Yale University. The partnership is referred to as the International Alliance of Research Universities (IARU).