Uppsala University (Sweden)

Uppsala University. It is an institution located in the city of Uppsala, Sweden, and it is the oldest study house in Scandinavia. It was founded in 1477. It is ranked among the best universities in Northern Europe.


The University of Uppsala (in Swedish: Uppsala universitet) is a university located in the city of Uppsala, Sweden, and is the oldest study house in Scandinavia, having been founded in 1477. It is ranked among the best universities in Northern Europe, and it is generally considered one of the most prestigious higher education institutions in the old continent.

The university achieved an outstanding role during the development of the Swedish Empire in the late 16th century, later gaining some financial stability from a large donation from King Gustav II in the early 17th century. Uppsala also represents an important historical site for Swedish culture and national identity, and even for the rise of the current nation, be it in terms of historiography, literature, politics and music. Many aspects of the country’s academic culture originated in Uppsala, such as the white cap.

The University of Uppsala belongs to the Coimbra Group of European universities. This institution has 9 faculties distributed in three “disciplinary domains”: the first corresponds to the humanities and social sciences; the second to the areas of medicine and pharmacy; and finally, the last one covers the science and technology sectors. It has about 20,000 full-time students, and about 2,000 doctoral students. On the other hand, it has an academic staff of 3,600 professors and researchers, out of a total of 5,500 employees.

Its annual budget is around 4.3 billion Swedish crowns on average, which would be equivalent to approximately 715 million dollars, of which about 60% goes to undergraduate studies and research. In terms of architecture, the University of Uppsala has traditionally had a strong presence in the area surrounding the city’s cathedral, on the west side of the Fyris River. Despite the development of more modern buildings and constructions far from the center, the historic center of the city is still dominated by the presence of the university.

Origins, crisis and restoration (1477-1600)

Uppsala University was founded in 1477, becoming the first Scandinavian university. The initiative in the matter is attributed to the Archbishop of the Swedish Catholic Church, Jakob Ulvsson. The new house of studies was small, having a maximum of 50 students and several teachers. The university began to decline in the first decade of the 16th century due to the political conflicts of the time.

Between 1520 and 1530, the new Swedish monarch Gustav I carried out the Lutheran reform, which meant that the university, dependent on the Catholic Church, lost its economic and ideological base.

However, this situation changed at the end of the 16th century, when the Protestant clergy had gained a solid dominance in the teaching of religion and felt the need to focus on studies from a more academic perspective, to counter the Catholic reform. This is why in 1593, at the synod of the Lutheran Church, it was decided to restore the privileges of the institution. The new decree was signed on March 15, 1595.

The seventeenth century

During the reign of Gustav II Adolf, which lasted between 1611 and 1632, Sweden established itself as a leading military power in Northern Europe, and also developed as an advanced bureaucratic state; therefore, the kingdom needed competent officials. Along with his main adviser, Chancellor Axel Oxenstierna, Gustavo II provided many grants to the university, both financially and administratively. In particular, he made a donation of more than 300 rooms to the house of studies, which are still administered by this institution. Professors from abroad came to the university, and the number of students increased. During this time, the system of university nations was imported from the medieval universities of the continent, which meant that students from the same region came together to collaborate and help each other, and also to have a social life. This system persists to this day in this house of studies.

Between 1660 and 1670, the institution was dominated by Olaus Rudbeck, a Swedish scientist and writer, who was also a professor of medicine at the university. Rudbeck was a very versatile scholar, and he was a person who enjoyed experimenting. Among his achievements we can find the extraordinary anatomical theater, which he erected on the top of the new university building called Gustavianum, which today is a museum dedicated to the history of science and ideas.

The era of freedom, the 18th century

Charles Linnaeus A prominent Swedish scientist, naturalist, botanist, and zoologist, who became a university professor in 1741 after studying in his home country and the Netherlands, is the name that dominates the 18th century. Thanks to him, many students from all over Europe emigrated to study in Uppsala. Linnaeus sent his own students on research expeditions to different parts of the world, such as Japan, South Africa, and Australia. Thus, by the middle of the century, there was a flowering of the natural sciences in the university. In addition, also deserving mention in addition to Linnaeus we can find scholars such as Anders Berch, a Swedish economist; Anders Celsius, the astronomer who designed the world’s most widely used temperature measurement scale; or Torbern Bergman, chemist and former university professor.

At the end of the century, King Gustav III (1771-1792) took an energetic interest in this house of studies. One of the ways in which he showed this interest was the donation of an extensive garden belonging to the Royal Castle of Uppsala. Since then, this extension of land has been known as the university’s botanical garden, which was erected in memory of Linnaeus and in honor of Gustav III.

The period of romanticism (1800-1877)

The 19th century has been called as “the century of the students” in Uppsala. Previously, the students had been more of an anonymous group, but under the doctrines of the French Revolution and with the growing importance, independence and self-esteem of the educated upper middle class, the students gradually became more involved in political affairs, and also counted more. in public opinion. In the middle of the century, Scandinavian nationalist tendencies also had a strong influence on students, which was felt both in Uppsala and in other university towns.

If the 18th century was that of the natural sciences, the 19th century was the age of historians, literary scholars, and writers; so much so that a statue was built in front of the main building in honor of the most outstanding of these illustrated, the historian Erik Gustaf Geijer. Many changes occurred in the middle of the century, reforming the organization of the university, and updating the examination system.

The transition to the New Age (1877-1945)

The University of Uppsala solemnly celebrated its 40th anniversary in the year 1877. As a present from the Swedish State, on this occasion, the university received a new building, which is still in use, although it was officially inaugurated ten years later in the year 1887.

Women were allowed to study at the University in the early 1870s. However, it was a long and arduous struggle for women studying in Uppsala to achieve equal recognition in their studies and in their academic careers. The first woman in Scandinavia to earn a doctorate in research was historian Ellen Fries, who received her degree from Uppsala University in 1833.

During this period, the university housed many prominent scholars, with some of them Nobel Prize laureates. Even Alfred Nobel received a degree of Doctor Honoris Causa from the university in 1893.

Expansion in the late 20th century

This period is characterized by a series of changes including extensive educational reforms and the radical expansion of the number of students. In the 1950s, the university had around 5,000 students, growing dramatically over the next ten years, reaching 20,000 students in all. In the 1990s a new expansion took place, with more than 30,000 college students in total enrolled in the university.

The vigorous growth of the university has implied a need for new premises for education and research. Whereas in the 1950s university activities were concentrated in the central house, located near the cathedral, today the institution spreads over vast areas, with multi-disciplinary and interdisciplinary campuses.

At the same time, external financing has also gained ground. Intensive contact with the surrounding world, both nationally and internationally, broadens the role of the university in the global academic community.

The university in international rankings

Uppsala University is consistently regarded as one of the most prestigious universities in Europe and the country. The academic ranking of world universities developed by the University of Shanghai Jiao Tong places the house of studies at the second national level, after the Karolinska Institute medical university, ranking in 66th place worldwide and eighteenth on the continental level.3

The British Times Higher Education magazine ranking of universities places the university in second place nationally and ranks it 71-80 globally.

Professors and researchers

  • Olaus Rudbeck (1630–1702), anatomist.
  • Anders Celsius (1701–1744), astronomer.
  • Carl von Linné (1707–1778), botanist, physician, and zoologist.
  • Erik Gustaf Geijer (1783–1847), historian and writer.
  • Allvar Gullstrand (1862–1930), ophthalmologist and researcher. Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, 1911.
  • Erik Axel Karlfeldt (1864–1931), poet. Nobel Prize in Literature, 1931.
  • Nathan Söderblom (1866–1931), clergyman and Archbishop of Uppsala. Nobel Peace Prize, 1930.
  • Axel Hägerström (1868–1939), philosopher and jurist.
  • Ernst Trygger (1857–1943), Swedish jurist, professor, conservative politician, and Prime Minister.
  • Robert Bárány (1876–1936), physician. Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, 1914.
  • Theodor Svedberg (1884–1971), chemist. Nobel Prize in Chemistry, 1926.
  • Manne Siegbahn (1886–1978), physicist. Nobel Prize in Physics, 1924.
  • Alva Myrdal (1902–1986), politician and sociologist. Nobel Peace Prize, 1982.
  • Arne Tiselius (1902–1971), biochemist and teacher. Nobel Prize in Chemistry, 1948.
  • Hugo Theorell (1903–1982), physician and scientist. Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, 1955.
  • Kai Siegbahn (1918–2007), physicist. Nobel Prize in Physics, 1981.

Ex student

  • Carl Michael Bellman (1740–1795), poet, singer-songwriter, and troubadour.
  • Carl Jonas Love Almqvist (1793–1866), poet and composer.
  • Lars Levi Læstadius (1800–1861), priest, writer, and botanist.
  • August Strindberg (1849–1912), playwright, novelist, and writer.
  • Svante August Arrhenius (1859–1927), scientist, physicist, and chemist. Nobel Prize in Chemistry, 1903.
  • Hjalmar Branting (1860–1925), politician and Prime Minister of Sweden. Nobel Peace Prize, 1921.
  • Gustaf Fröding (1860–1911), prominent Swedish writer and poet.
  • Pär Fabien Lagerkvist (1891–1974), writer. Nobel Prize in Literature, 1951.
  • Karin Boye (1900–1941), poet and novelist.
  • Dag Hammarskjöld (1905–1961), diplomat, economist, and writer. Nobel Peace Prize, 1961.
  • Hannes Alfvén (1908–1995), electrical and physical engineer. Nobel Prize in Physics, 1970.

Uppsala University (Sweden)