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University of Bern

Coordinates: 46°57′02″N 7°26′17″E / 46.950519°N 7.438109°E / 46.950519; 7.438109
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University of Bern
Universität Bern
Latin: Universitas Bernensis
TypePublic (cantonal)
Established1834; 190 years ago (1834)
BudgetCHF 939 million (third-party funds: CHF 367 million)[1]
RectorChristian Leumann[2]
Academic staff
529 professors
Administrative staff
Students19,297 (female enrollment: 59%)[4]
Hochschulstrasse 6
, , ,
Colours  White
AffiliationsGuild of European Research-Intensive Universities, swissuniversities

The University of Bern (German: Universität Bern, French: Université de Berne, Latin: Universitas Bernensis) is a public research university in the Swiss capital of Bern. It was founded in 1834.[5][6] It is regulated and financed by the Canton of Bern. It is a comprehensive university offering a broad choice of courses and programs in eight faculties and some 150 institutes.[7] With around 19,000 students,[8] the University of Bern is the third largest university in Switzerland.[9]


The University of Bern operates at three levels: university, faculties and institutes. Other organizational units include interfaculty and general university units. The university's highest governing body is the Senate, which is responsible for issuing statutes, rules and regulations. Directly answerable to the Senate is the University Board of Directors, the governing body for university management and coordination. The board comprises the rector, the vice-rectors and the administrative director. The structures and functions of the University Board of Directors and the other organizational units are regulated by the Universities Act.[10]

The University of Bern had 19,297 students in 2022. Of these, 42 percent (8,056) were registered in bachelor programs and 24 percent (4,610) in master's programs, 17 percent (3,371) were doctoral students, and another 17 percent (3,260) were enrolled in continuing education programs.[4] There were 1,667 bachelor's degree graduation, 1,603 master's degree graduations and 725 PhD student graduations in 2021.[4] For some time now, the university has had more female than male students. At the end of 2022, women accounted for 59% of students.[4]

academic year students[4]
2014/2015 17‘428
2015/2016 17‘430
2016/2017 17'514
2017/2018 17'882
2018/2019 18'019
2019/2020 18'576
2020/2021 19'230
2021/2022 19'441
2022/2023 19'297


Main building of the University of Bern

The University of Bern does not have a single large campus on the edge of the city, but has consistently pursued the principle of a university in the city. Most institutes and clinics are still in the Länggasse, the traditional university district adjoining the city centre, within walking distance of one another. The Faculty of Theology and various institutes in the Faculty of Humanities are now housed in an old chocolate factory (the Unitobler), and in 2005 the former women's hospital was refurbished to serve as a university centre for institutes in the Faculty of Law and Department of Economics (the UniS).[11] The vonRoll site, another former factory building, is in the process of being refurbished to house the Faculty of Human Sciences and the Department of Social Sciences.[12]


Early history: Collegiate school and academy (1500–1834)[edit]

The roots of the University of Bern go back to the sixteenth century, when a collegiate school was needed to train new pastors after the Reformation. As part of its reorganization of higher education, the government of Bern transformed the existing theological college into an academy with four faculties in 1805. Henceforth, it was possible to study not only theology in Bern, but also law and medicine.[5][6]

The old university: New beginning and development (1834–1900)[edit]

As in other countries of Europe, nineteenth-century politics in Switzerland were dominated by the struggle between conservative and liberal currents. The liberals gained control of the Canton of Bern in 1831 and in 1834 turned the academy into a university, with an academic staff of 45 to teach 167 students. Owing to the political situation, it was not until the promulgation of the federal constitution in 1848 that the university was able to embark on a period of peaceful development. Between 1885 and 1900, the number of students doubled from 500 to 1,000. As a result, at the turn of the twentieth century the University of Bern was the largest university in Switzerland. This rapid growth reflected the university's attraction for foreign students, in particular Germans and Russians, who accounted for half of the total enrollment. It was also Russian female students who in the 1870s won the right for women to study.[5]

The new university: New building and consolidation (1900–1950)[edit]

With the growing prosperity of the city of Bern, the university in the Länggasse quarter expanded at the end of the 19th century. In 1903, a new Main Building was inaugurated on the Grosse Schanze and the number of faculties increased. In 1908–09, three prominent persons put the University of Bern in the limelight. In 1908, Albert Einstein taught the first of three semesters of theoretical physics. The following year, Anna Tumarkin, a Russian philosopher, was appointed to an extraordinary professorship and thus became the first female professor at a European university entitled to examine doctoral and post-doctoral theses. Also in 1909, Theodor Kocher, a Bernese surgeon, was awarded the Nobel Prize in Medicine. In the following years the university consolidated its position as a small centre of higher learning with a stable enrollment of about 2,000 students.[5]

The modern university: Expansion and reorganization (1950–2000)[edit]

After World War II, a growing number of voices called for the expansion of tertiary education in Switzerland. The rapid growth in the 1950s and 1960s (enrollment at the University of Bern had already reached 5,000 in 1968) – generated pressure for expansion. The completely revised University Act of 1996 transformed the University of Bern from an administrative division of the Department of Education of the Canton of Bern into an autonomous institution. a legal entity in its own right. The Act clearly defined the competencies of the university and of the state. The university passed another milestone in 1992, when its enrollment reached 10,000.[5]

The university today: Bologna Reform and restructuring (since 2000)[edit]

The Bologna Declaration ushered in the era of ECTS credits and the bachelor's and master's degree structure. The university set strategic research priorities, such as climate research, and promoted inter-university cooperation. At the same time, the university reorganized its faculties. With the amendment to the University Act in summer 2010, the University Board of Directors acquired the right to choose its own ordinary professors and keep its own accounts separate from the state.

The University Board of Directors formulated a strategy in 2013, whixh builds on the previous strategy of 2006, the 2012 mission statement, and the performance mandate for the university from the Cantonal Government.[13]



Entrance to the Botanic Garden

The University of Bern has eight faculties:

The medical faculties of the Universities of Bern and Basel have formed a strategic alliance in the fields of cardiac surgery, neurosurgery, pathology and microbiology. The Vetsuisse Faculty was created in 2006 through the merger of the Faculties of veterinary medicine of the Universities of Bern and Zurich. The Humanities Faculty is comparable to the arts and sciences departments of American universities and offers majors in the three areas of art and culture, archaeology and history, and languages and literature. The Faculty of Science focuses on the natural and life sciences. The Human Sciences Faculty was founded in 2005 and offers study programmes in education, sports and psychology.[14]

Academic programs[edit]

Steel container for the Rosetta mission of the ESA, 2009.

As a comprehensive university, Bern covers a wide range of classical university courses in some 39 bachelor, 71 master and 69 advanced study programs. The Physics Institute contributed to the first flight to the Moon and still carries out experiments and provides apparatus for NASA and ESA space missions on a regular basis.[15][16][17]

In addition to the classical disciplines, the University of Bern has also established programmes in newer ones such as sports science and theatre studies. It is the only institution in Switzerland with a theatre studies course that enables students to major in dance in their master program.[18] The University of Bern also offers the Master in Applied Economic Analysis (MAEA), which is the only university-level program in Switzerland with focus on applied economic analysis.[19] The Graduate Schools for doctoral candidates offer further-reaching programmes that are closely linked to the university's research priorities in the fields of climate science, health care and penal law and criminology.[20]

General university institutions[edit]

There are six centres with specialized roles and interfaculty units maintained by the University of Bern:

The function of these general university institutions is to promote dialogue between students in different disciplines and faculties through interdisciplinary events for academic staff and students. The Centre for Continuing University Education (ZUW) focuses on scientific further education. The selection of topics in the ZUW programmes ranges from public administration through dentistry to spiritual guidance. In addition, the University of Bern has also taken the lead in the German-speaking world in creating a number of novel study programmes, for instance Evaluation.[21]

Interdisciplinary centres[edit]

Ice core of the OCCR for climate reconstruction, 2006

The university has defined specific strategic focuses of research and established interdisciplinary centres for research and teaching. The biomedical engineering programmes of the Artificial Organ (ARTORG) Center for Biomedical Engineering Research and the Public Management and Policy programme of the Center of Competence for Public Management (CCPM).[22]

There are 10 strategic centres and interfaculty units at the University of Bern:

A number of the university's centres focus on the challenges of sustainability. The Centre for Development and Environment (CDE) manages research programmes in the field of sustainable development, focusing on its particular areas of expertise in integrated regional development and natural resource management. The World Trade Institute (WTI) manages research, education, and outreach focused on global economic governance, including global sustainability policy. The Oeschger Centre for Climate Change Research (OCCR) is at the forefront of international research on climate science and policy, and its researchers have participated as co-chair, coordinating lead authors or lead authors in all the assessment reports so far published by the IPCC.[23]

The Center for Regional Economic Development (CRED) is an interfaculty center for research, teaching and consulting in regional economic development. Researchers from the research units Economics, Entrepreneurship, Geography and Tourism deal with research questions regarding the following research areas: Location dynamics and regional economic policy, Tourism as well as Land use policy and real estate.[24]

The Center for Space and Habitability (CSH) leads the European CHEOPS (CHaracterising ExOPlanets Satellite) project. CHEOPS is a planned European space telescope for the study of the formation of extrasolar planets, with a launch window in October to November 2019.[citation needed]

Several of the centers offer specialized graduate programmes. For example: the biomedical engineering programmes of the Artificial Organ (ARTORG) Center for Biomedical Engineering Research; the Public Management and Policy programme of the Center of Competence for Public Management (CCPM); the WTI (offering MAS, LLM, and PhD programs in international economics and economic law);[25] and the OCCR graduate school (offersing an MSc and a PhD program in Climate Sciences, as well as a Swiss Climate Summer School).[26]


University rankings
Global – Overall
ARWU World[27]101–150 (2023)
QS World[28]=126 (2024)
THE World[29]=116 (2024)
USNWR Global[30]107 (2023)

The University of Bern has been ranked as one of the top 150 universities in the world. In the QS World University Rankings 2023, it ranked 120th.[31] The Shanghai Ranking (ARWU) 2022 ranked the University of Bern in the range 101st–150th in the world.[32] In the Leiden Ranking 2021, it ranked 180th in the world.[33] In the Times Higher Education World University Rankings it ranked 94th in 2023.[34]

Notable people[edit]


A number of professors at the University of Bern were pioneers in their field. The Russian-born Anna Tumarkin was the first female professor in Europe with the right to examine doctoral and post-doctoral students. The physician Gabriel Gustav Valentin was the first Jewish professor to be elected to a chair at a German-speaking university. Theodor Oskar Rubeli was co-responsible for founding the first faculty of veterinary medicine in the world. Finally, the ice core analyses of physicist Hans Oeschger played a pioneering role in the development of climate research. Other notable academics at the University of Bern include (by faculty):[citation needed]


Eduard Herzog, Ulrich Luz, Adolf Schlatter, Lukas Vischer, Eduard Zeller


Carl Hilty, Eugen Huber


Jakob Klaesi, Emil Theodor Kocher, Hugo Kronecker, Theodor Langhans, Ludwig Lichtheim, Maurice Edmond Müller, Fritz de Quervain, Hermann Sahli, Gabriel Gustav Valentin, Esther Fischer-Homberger


Andreas Alföldi, Elisabeth Ettlinger, Carl Heinrich Wilhelm Hagen, Walther Killy, Julius Pokorny, Ignaz Paul Vitalis Troxler, Anna Tumarkin, Hermann Usener, George van Driem

Natural sciences

Albert Einstein, Heinrich Greinacher, Hans Oeschger, Ludwig Schläfli, Bernhard Studer, Hugo von Mohl, Heinrich von Wild, Hugo Hadwiger


Alfred Amonn, Max Weber


Theodor Oskar Rubeli


The following prominent persons studied at the University of Bern:


See also[edit]

Notes and references[edit]

  1. ^ "Annual Report 2021: University of Bern". University of Bern. Retrieved 7 January 2023.
  2. ^ "Rektor Täuber verlässt Uni auf August Martin Täuber, Rektor der Uni Bern tritt nach fünf Jahren an der Spitze der Universität ab und übergibt an Christian Leumann". Der Bund. No. 13 July. Der Bund Publishing Group. 2016. Retrieved 12 March 2019.
  3. ^ "Facts and Figures: Employees". University of Bern 2021 Annual Report. 15 September 2021. Retrieved 7 January 2023.
  4. ^ a b c d e "Facts and Figures: Current Students". unibe.ch. University of Bern. Retrieved 7 January 2023.
  5. ^ a b c d e "History of the university". History, University of Bern. University of Bern. 2024. Retrieved 2024-03-17.
  6. ^ a b "University of Bern Universitieshandbook". Archived from the original on 2014-04-07. Retrieved 2014-04-03. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  7. ^ "University of Bern". www.unibe.ch. 2 September 2015.
  8. ^ "University of Bern Jahresbericht". {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  9. ^ "Annual Report". unibe.ch. Retrieved 18 August 2020.
  10. ^ Leitziele für die räumliche Entwicklung der Universität Bern Retrieved on Märch 25, 2011.
  11. ^ "History and Architecture". unibe.ch. University of Bern. 22 March 2015. Retrieved 12 March 2019.
  12. ^ "Rektorat - Universität Bern". rektorat.unibe.ch. Retrieved 4 March 2017.
  13. ^ "Faculties and Institutes". unibe.ch. University of Bern. 3 September 2015. Retrieved 12 March 2019.
  14. ^ Overview of the international collaborations of the NASA Archived 2013-02-15 at the Wayback Machine Retrieved on 12 August 2013.
  15. ^ The ROSINA/ROSETTA project on the website of the ESA Retrieved on 12 August 2013.
  16. ^ "Studies: Degree Programs & Courses". unibe.ch. University of Bern. 17 June 2015. Retrieved 12 March 2019.
  17. ^ "Master's in Theatre Studies/Dance Studies". unibe.ch. University of Bern. 22 February 2019. Retrieved 12 March 2019.
  18. ^ "Master's degree programs at the University of Bern". unibe.ch. University of Bern. 14 December 2018. Retrieved 12 March 2022.
  19. ^ "Doctoral Studies at the University of Bern". unibe.ch. University of Bern. Retrieved 12 March 2019.
  20. ^ Website of the ZUW Archived 2013-08-16 at the Wayback Machine Retrieved on 9 August 2013.
  21. ^ "Centers of Excellence". unibe.ch. University of Bern. 12 April 2021. Retrieved 11 March 2022.
  22. ^ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Assessment Reports
  23. ^ Center for Regional Economic Development (CRED)
  24. ^ "Program Overview". wti.org. University of Bern. Retrieved 12 March 2019.
  25. ^ "Studies: Oeschger Centre for Climate Change Research (OCCR)". unibe.ch. University of Bern. 25 June 2015. Retrieved 12 March 2019.
  26. ^ "ARWU World University Rankings 2034". www.shanghairanking.com. Retrieved 26 August 2022.
  27. ^ "QS World University Rankings 2024". topuniversities.com. 19 June 2023. Retrieved 26 August 2023.
  28. ^ "World University Rankings". timeshighereducation.com. 6 August 2023. Retrieved 26 August 2023.
  29. ^ "U.S. News Education: Best Global Universities 2022-23". Retrieved 23 November 2023.
  30. ^ "University of Bern". www.topuniversities.com. Retrieved 7 January 2023.
  31. ^ "Shanghai Ranking". www.shanghairanking.com. Retrieved 7 January 2023.[title missing]
  32. ^ CWTS Leiden Ranking 2021, Retrieved 7 January 2023.
  33. ^ [1], Times Higher Education World University Rankings, Retrieved 7 January 2023
  34. ^ Charles Albert Gobat - Biographical, The Nobel Peace Prize 1902 Retrieved on 30 January 2017.
  35. ^ NASA Retrieved on 30 January 2017.
  36. ^ Sir Paul Nurse - Biographical, The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 2001 Retrieved on 30 January 2017.


  • Im Hof, Ulrich et al. (ed.). Hochschulgeschichte Berns 1528–1984. Zur 150-Jahr-Feier der Universität Bern 1984. Bern: Universität Bern, 1984.
  • Im Hof, Ulrich et al. (ed.). Die Dozenten der bernischen Hochschule. Ergänzungsband zu: Hochschulgeschichte Berns 1528–1984. Bern: Universität Bern, 1984.
  • Rogger, Franziska. "Die Universität Bern und ihre gesammelte(n) Geschichte(n)", UniPress, 139 (December 2008), pp. 12–31.
  • Rogger, Franziska, and Bankowski, Monika. Ganz Europa blickt auf uns! Das schweizerische Frauenstudium und seine russischen Pionierinnen. Baden: Hier + jetzt Verlag für Kultur und Geschichte GmbH, 2010. ISBN 978-3-03919-146-8

External links[edit]

46°57′02″N 7°26′17″E / 46.950519°N 7.438109°E / 46.950519; 7.438109