Charles University (Czech: Univerzita Karlova) is the oldest and largest university in the Czech Republic. Founded in 1348, it was the first university in Central Europe.
It is one of the oldest universities in Europe in continuous operation and ranks in the upper 1.5 percent of the world’s best universities. Today, the university consists of 17 faculties located in Prague, Hradec Králové and Pilsen.
Its academic publishing house is Karolinum Press. The university also operates several museums and two botanical gardens.
Medieval university (1349–1419)
The establishment of a medieval university in Prague was inspired by Holy Roman Emperor Charles IV. He asked his friend and ally, Pope Clement VI, to do so. On 26 January 1347 the pope issued the bull establishing a university in Prague, modeled on the University of Paris, with the full number of faculties, which is including theological.
On 7 April 1348 Charles, the king of Bohemia, gave to the established university privileges and immunities from the secular power in a Golden Bull and on 14 January 1349 he repeated that as the King of the Romans.
Most Czech sources since the 19th century such as encyclopedias, general histories and materials of the University itself prefer to give 1348 as the year of the founding of the university, rather than 1347 or 1349. This was caused by an anticlerical shift in the 19th century, shared by both Czechs and Germans.
The university was opened in 1349. The university was sectioned into parts called nations: the Bohemian, Bavarian, Polish and Saxon.
The Bohemian natio included Bohemians, Moravians, southern Slavs, and Hungarians; the Bavarian included Austrians, Swabians, natives of Franconia and of the Rhine provinces; the Polish included Silesians, Poles, Ruthenians; the Saxon included inhabitants of the Margravate of Meissen, Thuringia, Upper and Lower Saxony, Denmark, and Sweden. Ethnically Czech students made 16–20% of all students.
Archbishop Arnošt of Pardubice took an active part in the foundation by obliging the clergy to contribute and became a chancellor of the university.
The first graduate was promoted in 1359. The lectures were held in the colleges, of which the oldest was named for the king the Carolinum, established in 1366. In 1372 the Faculty of Law became an independent university.
Present-day university (since 1945)
Although the university began to recover rapidly after 1945, it did not enjoy academic freedom for long. After the communist coup in 1948, the new regime started to arrange purges and repress all forms of disagreement with the official ideology, and continued to do so for the next four decades, with the second wave of purges during the "normalization" period in the beginning of the 1970s.
Only in the late 1980s did the situation start to improve; students organized various activities and several peaceful demonstrations in the wake of the Revolutions of 1989 abroad.
This initiated the "Velvet Revolution" in 1989, in which both students and faculty of the university played a large role.
Václav Havel—a writer, dramatist and philosopher was recruited from the independent academic community and appointed president of the republic in December 1989.
Charles University does not have one joint campus. The academic facilities occupy many locations throughout the city of Prague and three of the faculties are located in other cities (two of them in Hradec Králové, one in Pilsen). In Hradec Králové there are Faculty of Medicine and Faculty of Pharmacy which are doing great.