The history of Radboud University

Foundation in 1923

Radboud University was founded on 17 October 1923 under the name Catholic University Nijmegen.

The Dutch Catholic population planned to use its university to promote the emancipation of Catholics in the Netherlands who, at that time, were strongly under-represented in such areas as public administration, the legal profession and the medical sector. The university was initiated by the Saint Radboud Foundation, whose namesake was Bishop Radboud, who was a patron of Roman Catholic higher education.

Find out more about the name Radboud

Opening van de Radboud Universiteit in 1923
Opening van de Radboud Universiteit in 1923

When the university opened in 1923, the first Rector Magnificus, Professor Schrijnen, referred to the university as a ‘scientific workplace’ and ‘the scene of fruitful intellectual collaboration and interaction’, where ‘dissenting opinions are discussed with seriousness and objectivity’.

World War II

Radboud University was heavily affected by World War II and suffered the loss of several distinguished professors like Robert Regout and Titus Brandsma. They were arrested for resistance activities and both died in the concentration camp in Dachau. The university also lost its principal buildings in the local town, such as its main building in the Keizer Karelplein.

Hoofdgebouw Radboud Universiteit
Hoofdgebouw Radboud Universiteit

Closure of the university

In 1943, Rector Magnificus Bernard Hermesdorf refused to present students with a declaration of loyalty to the German occupying forces. The inevitable consequences of this fundamental decision were that the university was forced to close its gates indefinitely. 

Het briefje van Hermesdorf
Het briefje van Hermesdorf

Modern and green campus

In 1949, the university purchased the Heyendael estate. The university buildings at other locations in Nijmegen were gradually abandoned and gave way the modern and green campus of today, which inspires personal contact and collaboration. 

Prime Ministers

The following four Dutch Prime Ministers studied law at Radboud University: Louis Beel, Jo Cals, Victor Marijnen and Dries van Agt.

Nobel Prize

Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov, both of whom are professors by special appointment at Radboud University, were awarded the 2010 Nobel Prize for Physics for their discovery of graphene, which is the thinnest material in the universe. Their work at the High Field Magnet Laboratory played an important role in this discovery.

First-ever photo of a black hole

In 2019, an international group of astrophysicists presented the first photo of a supermassive black hole and its shadow. Astronomers at Radboud University played an important role in this project.

Zwart gat
Zwart gat

A brief history