Originally Albrechts University, the university started with four faculties (theology, philosophy, medicine, and law). Its establishment belongs to the second wave of German university foundings in the late Middle Ages, like the University of Tübingen and the University of Basel. Established by papal privilege (papal bull), the University in Freiburg actually was – like all or most universities in the Middle Ages – a corporation of the church body and therefore belonged to the Roman Catholic Church and its hierarchy. The bishop of Basel consequently was its provost or chancellor (Kanzler), the bishop of Constance was its patron, and the real founder of the university was the sovereign, Archduke Albert VI of Austria, being the brother of Frederick III, Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation. At its founding, the university was named after Albert VI of Austria. He provided the university with land and endowments, as well as its own jurisdiction. Also he declared Albrechts University as the "county university" (German Landesuniversität) for his territory until it was handed over to the Austrian House of Habsburg in 1490.
The university soon attracted many students, such as the humanists
Geiler von Kaysersberg, Johann Reuchlin, and Jakob Wimpfeling. When Ulrich Zasius was teaching law (until 1536), Freiburg became a centre of humanist jurisprudence. From 1529 to 1535, Erasmus of Rotterdam lived and taught in Freiburg. From around 1559 on, the university was housed at the Altes Collegium ("Old College"), today called the "new town-hall". The importance of the university decreased during the time of the Counter-Reformation. To counter reformatory tendencies, the administration of two faculties was handed over to the Roman Catholic order of the Jesuits in 1620. From 1682 on, the Jesuits built their college, as well as the Jesuit church (nowadays the "University Church" or Universitätskirche).
In 1679, Freiburg temporarily became French territory, along with the southern parts of the upper Rhine. French King Louis XIV disliked the Austrian system and gave the Jesuits a free hand to operate the university. On November 6, 1684, a bilingual educational program was initiated. From 1686 to 1698, the faculty fled to Konstanz.
After Freiburg was re-conquered and appointed as capital of Further Austria, a new time began for the university by the reforms of Empress Maria Theresa of Austria. The requirements for admission were changed for all faculties in 1767 (before that time only Roman Catholics were allowed to study) and Natural Sciences were added as well as Public Administration. Also in 1767, the university became a governmental institution despite the Church's protests. The Church finally lost its predominant influence on the university when the Jesuits were suppressed following a decree signed by Pope Clement XIV in 1773. Consequently, Johann Georg Jacobi (brother of the more famous philosopher Friedrich Heinrich Jacobi) in 1784 was the first Protestant professor teaching at the university in Freiburg.
When Freiburg became a part of the newly established Grand Duchy of Baden (in German "Großherzogtum Baden") in 1805 (after Napoleon occupied the area of the formerly Further Austria), a crisis began for the university in Freiburg. Indeed, there were considerations by Karl Friedrich, Grand Duke of Baden and Karl, Grand Duke of Baden to close down the university in Freiburg while both of them thought that the Grand Duchy could not afford to run two universities at the same time (the Ruprecht Karl University of Heidelberg had existed since 1386).
University of Freiburg
The university had enough endowments and earnings to survive until the beginning of the regency of Ludwig I, Grand Duke of Baden in 1818. Finally in 1820, he saved the university with an annual contribution. Since then, the university has been named Albert Ludwigs University of Freiburg (Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg) as an acknowledgement of gratitude by the university and the citizens of Freiburg.
In the 1880s, the population of the student body and faculty started to grow quickly. The scientific reputation of Albert Ludwigs University attracted several researchers such as economist Adolph Wagner, historians Georg von Below and Friedrich Meinecke, and jurists
Karl von Amira and
, erected in 1913 as the main building of the university
In 1900, Freiburg became the first German university to accept female students. In the beginning of the 20th century, several new university buildings were built in the centre of Freiburg, such as the new main building in 1911. The university counted 3,000 students just before World War I. After World War I, the philosophers Edmund Husserl and Martin Heidegger (since 1928) taught at Albert Ludwigs University, as well as Edith Stein. In the field of social sciences, Walter Eucken developed the idea of ordoliberalism, which subsequently is known as the "Freiburg School".
During the Third Reich, the university went through the process of "political alignment" (Gleichschaltung) like the rest of the German universities. Under the rector Martin Heidegger, all Jewish faculty members were forced to leave the university in accordance with the "Law for the Reintroduction of Professional Civil Service".
The University of Freiburg in 1961
After World War II, the university was reopened. New buildings for natural sciences were erected in the Institutsviertel ("institute quarter").
In the postwar years, the ideas of ordoliberalism, developed earlier by economists of the Freiburg School, such as Walter Eucken, Franz Böhm, Hans Grossmann-Doerth, and Leonhard Miksch, drove the creation of the German social market economy and its attendant Wirtschaftswunder. Nobel Prize winner and former professor at the University of Freiburg, Friedrich Hayek, is also associated with this theory. He directed the Walter Eucken Institut, an economic think tank in Freiburg cooperating with the university. Arnold Bergstraesser, considered a founding father or German political science after World War II, was also a professor at the University of Freiburg. His research group later formed what is now the Arnold Bergstraesser Institute for sociocultural research at the university.
In the late 20th century, the university was part of a mass education campaign and expanded rapidly. The student body grew to 10,000 by the 1960s, and doubled to 20,000 students by 1980. In the 1970s, the faculty structure was changed to 14 departments, with the Faculty of Engineering becoming the 15th faculty in 1994. In 2002, the number of faculties was reduced to 11. The university opened a memorial dedicated to the victims of National Socialism among the students, staff, and faculty in 2003.
In 2006, the University of Freiburg joined the League of European Research Universities (LERU). One year later, the University was chosen as one of nine German Universities of Excellence. However, it did not receive the third line of funding in 2012.
The university seal is set into the floor at the entrance of the largest lecture hall - auditorium maximum
The seal of the University of Freiburg depicts the educator Christ seated on a gothic throne holding the gospel in his right hand with the temple curtain in the background. Christ offers the teachings of the gospel to the Jewish scholars who are crouched at his feet. To the left and right of Christ are structures resembling towers, most likely symbolic of the Temple of Jerusalem. Located to the right of Christ is the coat of arms of the Austrian duchies, a banner with five eagles. The shield on the opposite side symbolizes the coat of arms used by the Habsburgs in conjunction with their territories. The coat of arms of the city of Freiburg is located at the bottom of the seal, displaying St George's Cross. The Latin inscription on the seal reads Sigillum universitatis studii friburgensis brisgaudie. The seal was slightly modified in 1913, but has otherwise been in continuous use since it was adopted in 1462.