Jagiellonian University was founded in 1364 by the Polish king Casimir the Great, and was at that point known as the Studium Generale. It is the country’s oldest higher education institution and, at 652 years, is also one of the oldest in Europe, having survived a number of invasions and two world wars.
Among its alumni are several major historical figures, including astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus, who enrolled as a student in 1491, and more recently Karol Wojtyła (later Pope John Paul II), who was one of around 800 students educated in secret by Jagiellonian during the Second World War when the Nazis closed the university during the Polish occupation.
After the war, Jagiellonian became a place of refuge for academics forced to leave Lviv and Vilnius owing to the alteration of the Polish border.
Today, the university is made up of 15 faculties. It has 4,000 academics and more than 40,000 students, 65 per cent of whom are women.
Its campus is centrally located in the city of Kraków, Poland’s former capital. Local and national government funding, coupled with funds from the European Union, have recently seen the construction of a new site for the Faculty of Chemistry as well as continued work on the construction of the Centre for Natural Sciences Education.
The university is replete with historical buildings, the oldest being the Collegium Maius, dating back to 1400, which houses the Jagiellonian Museum.
The Jagiellonian Library is one of Poland's biggest, containing 6.5 million volumes, and housing a collection of medieval manuscripts that includes Copernicus' De Revolutionibus.