The Université Catholique de Louvain is located in Louvain-la-Neuve, in South-East of Brussels, the head
city of Belgium.
In 1425, the Duke of Brabant, the chapitre collégial de Saint-Pierre (collegiate chapel of Saint-Pierre) and
the town councillors were brought together in their shared desire to set up a university in Louvain.
On the 9th December, the bull Sapientie immarcessibilis heralded, under the authority of Pope Martin V,
the birth of the university.
The setting up of the university meant the town could respond to the needs of a changing world. Until the end
of the 18th century, it educated most senior civil servants, jurists, magistrates, lawyers and
doctors from the Netherlands (successively Burgundians, Spaniards and Austrians).
The university also had its hand in the emancipation of the modern subject at the end of the 15th
century. Vésale, Mercator and many others came to Louvain fired up with academic ambition. Humanism, illuminated by
the work of Erasmus, who spent several years in Louvain, benefiting from the presence of researchers from all
over Europe, such as the Spaniard Vives, and served by the remarkable Collège des Trois Langues, founded in
1518, was to produce remarkable results over the course of the 16th century, in particular the work of Justus
When the Austrian Netherlands and the Principality of Liège were made part of France, the university was
forced to close in 1797.
It was reformed as a State University (Université d'Etat) in 1816 (at the time of the Kingdom of the
Netherlands) and then refounded as a Catholic university in1834, after Belgium gained independence.
Closely combining teaching and research, the Université catholique de Louvain set up five new faculties
(to add to the five created in 1834), institutes, special schools, laboratories and seminaries and took
over the running of the clinics and hospitals.
Since 1880, each generation of UCL graduates has counted, in each discipline, internationally renowned
scientists amongst their number.
The university also became increasingly well-known across the globe thanks to the ever- growing number of
foreign students, the foundation of the Lovanium university in Congo and the countless exchanging of views
and ideas with other continents.
Belgium’s progression towards federalism and the granting of autonomous status to the linguistic communities
led to the institution in 1970 of two independent universities with a shared past. The Université
catholique de Louvain moved towards Brabant wallon and Brussels, founding Louvain-la-Neuve and
l'UCL-Bruxelles in Woluwé Saint-Lambert.
Set up in 2004 by virtue of a decree organizing higher education, the
Académie universitaire Louvain brings together
the Catholic university faculties of Mons, the university faculties Notre-Dame de la Paix in Namur, the
university faculties Saint-Louis and the Université catholique de Louvain.
On 8 March, 2006, UCL and a group of higher education institutes formed a centre for higher education.
The crossover towards the Bologna system began in 2004. In 2005, the university launched a
Development plan which examines how to deal with
the challenges of globalization.
- 1425 – Foundation of the university.
- 1426 – Classes start.
- 1432 – Setting up of the Faculty of Theology. The university is ‘complete’ in the old sense of the term
with five faculties: theology, canon law, civil law, medicine and the arts.
- 1467- The Scottish student George Lichton illustrates his course notes with drawings giving us a moving
insight into what life was like at the time. The university has many European students.
- 1472 – The creation of a poetica chair marks the arrival of Humanism.
- 1502 – Erasmus undertakes his first period of study at Louvain.
- 1517 - Foundation of the Collège des Trois Langues (Latin, Greek and Hebrew). Louvain is a
centre for Humanist studies. In town, the printer Thierry Martens edits great European Humanist texts.
- 1530-1533 - André Vésale studies in Louvain.
- 1540 - Gemma Frisius is the first person to hold a chair in Mathematics. He also composes treatises on
Geography and Mathematics and makes astronomical and cartographical instruments.
- 1546 - First "Royal chairs", funded by the state. They give rise to innovative styles of teaching.
- 1547 - Publication of the Louvain Polyglot Bible. The Faculty of Theology is committed to establishing
- 1578 – The town is rocked by civil war. Peace is reestablished as of 1585.
- 1617 - The "Visite" text reorganizes the way the university is run: rules are set on exams, rights and
duties of members of the university.
- 1636 – Creation of the university central library.
- 1648 - Gérard Van Gutschoven conducts scientific correspondence with Descartes, who entrusts to him
copies of the Discours de la méthode for discussion at Louvain.
- 1658 – The Faculty of Arts opens its modern philosophy programmes.
- 1687 – The Faculty of Law devises its first teaching programme in French.
- 1693 - Publication of Philippe Verheyden’s Corporis humani anatomica. The Dutch translation, published
in 1711, is hugely successful.
- 1723 – First Chair of Public Law.
- 1723-1744 - Henri Rega, Professor of the Faculty of Medicine and rector, extends the library, has a
lecture theatre for anatomy built and creates the botanical garden.
- 1755 – Physical education in the Faculty of Arts commences with practical demonstrations.
- 1784 - Jean-Pierre Minckelers publishes his Mémoire on inflammable air, a sign of the first developments
in modern chemistry.
- 1788 – The state imposes the transfer of the university to Brussels. This is the final stage in the clash
between the university, anxious to maintain its independence, and Emperor Joseph II, inspired by the notions
of an enlightened despotism, which favoured education of a primarily practical nature.
- 1797 – The present Belgian space is part of the French Republic (since 1795). The law of 3 Brumaire of
year IV (14 October, 1797), which shakes up the organization of higher education, leads to the abolition
of the Université de Louvain.
- 1816 - King Guillaume Ist of the Netherlands brings back university teaching to Louvain in the form of
a state university.
- 1834 – Creation of a free Catholic university in Malines.
- 1835 – The Catholic University takes over from the state university which was abolished by the university
law of 25 September, setting down rules for teaching in Belgium, which has been independent since 1830.
It recruits European teachers. The Faculty of Medicine takes on the clinical responsibility for the town
- 1864 – Creation of special engineering schools. They will later become the Faculté des sciences
appliquées (Faculty for Applied Science) en 1961.
- 1878 - Foundation of the Sociét´ générale des Etudiants
(Students’ society). Launch of agronomic studies.The Institut agronomique will later become the
Faculté des sciences agronomiques (Faculty for agronomy) in 1965.
- 1884 - Jean-Baptiste Carnoy publishes the Biologie cellulaire and founds the review La Cellule.
- 1889 – Foundation of the Institut supérieur de philosophie.
- 1892 - Foundation of the Ecole des sciences politiques et sociales (School of Political and Social
Science), which is, alongside the Ecole des sciences commerciales et consulaires (School of commercial
and Consular Studies), created in 1897, the forerunner for the Faculté des sciences
économiques, sociales et politiques (Faculty of Economic, Social and Political Science),
set up in 1950.
- 1911 – The university starts to offer courses in two languages.
- 1914 – Fire strikes the university halls and library on 25 August. Closure of the Belgian universities for
four years. Some teachers continue to teach abroad. Many students enlist to fight on the front.
- 1920 – The university is opened to women students.
- 1933 - Georges Lemaître puts forward the hypothesis of an expanding universe based on one
singularity : the primitive atom.
- 1935 – His first publication reveals the 32 year-old Etienne Lamotte to be a great Orientalist and
specialist in Buddhism.
- 1940-1944- In May, 1940, the library is destroyed by fire. In May, 1944, bombs ravage many university
- 1947 –Construction in Louvain, under the supervision of Marc de Hemptinne, of the first Belgian cyclotron.
- 1954 – Opening of the Université Lovanium in Congo.
- 1963 - Foundation of the AGEL, Association générale des étudiants (francophone) de
Louvain. It later became the AGL, Association générale de Louvain, in 1967.
- 1968 – The two sections of the university, French and Flemish, decide to separate. The new organic
regulations mark the start of forms of representation and participation of all university bodies.
- 1969 – The Institut de psychologie (Institute of Psychology) becomes the Faculté de
psychologie (Faculty of Psychology).
- 1970 – The law of 24 May sets up two universities : Katholieke Universiteit Leuven and Université
catholique de Louvain.
- 1971 – The first stone of Louvain-la-Neuve is laid on 2 February.
- 1972 – Transfer of the first faculty (Applied Science) to Louvain-la-Neuve. The Louvain-la-Neuve Cyclotron
is up and running.
- 1974 - Creation of the FOPES, Faculté ouverte de politique économique et sociale (Open
Faculty of Economic and Social Policy). Christian de Duve obtains the Nobel Prize for Medicine for the
discovery of lysosomes.
- 1975 - Christian de Duve founds the l'ICP, Institut international de pathologie cellulaire et
moléculaire (International Institute of Cellular and Molecular Pathology) .
- 1976 – Complete relocation of the Faculté de médecine (Faculty of Medicine) and inauguration of
the Cliniques Saint-Luc in Woluwé-Saint-Lambert (Brussels).
- 1979 – The transfer is completed.
- 1994 - Inauguration of the Maison de l'UCL in Charleroi, dedicated to Georges Lemaître.
- 1996 – Under the supervision of André Goffeau, one hundred European libraries publish the
complete sequence of the yeast genome.
- 1999 - Creation of the Fondation Louvain and the Institut universitaire de formation continue
(University Institute for Adult Continuing Education)
- 2000 - UCL opens its virtual campus : www.icampus.ucl.ac.be
- 2001 – The university’s 575th birthday. Inauguration of the Aula Magna in Louvain-la-Neuve.
- 2004 – Setting up of the Académie Louvain (29 June). Teaching moves over to the Bologna system. In
November, The Times "Educational" Supplement ranks UCL 52nd best university in the world, on a
par with Duke (USA). At European level, amongst the complete universities, UCL holds 7th
positions (14th in total).
- 2005 - Benoît Lengelé participates in the first partial face graft in France.
- 2006 - Creation of the Pôle d'enseignement supérieur (Centre for higher education) bringing
UCL together with a group of other higher education institutes.