Founded in 1880 by the Neo-Calvinist theologian and former prime minister Abraham Kuyper, VU Amsterdam was the first university in the Netherlands to be independent from the church or state, although it retained close Protestant ties. Its full name, Vrije Universiteit, translates as “Free University”, signifying the strong emphasis that the institution placed on academic independence from the outset.
VU Amsterdam began life in a few rented rooms on the Amstel river and as it continued to grow, it began to occupy more buildings in the city. However, since 1968, the university has been housed on a single campus in the southern Buitenveldert area of Amsterdam, adjacent to the Zuidas business district.
In 2009 work began on renovating and modernising the campus to accommodate its rapidly expanding student population, which today numbers just over 23,000. The ongoing modernisation project, which will effectively double the size of the university, encompasses the Main Building, the New University Building, the O|2 Lab Building and a new campus square, along with further student accommodation. The university’s aim is to create an environment that is car-free, with green roofs and squares that act as meeting places.
VU Amsterdam provides a wide variety of study options, taught by 2,500 academic staff based at 11 faculties. It offers nearly 50 undergraduate degree programmes and more than 100 master’s programmes, many of which are taught in English. The university also has a strong focus on scientific research and is home to five Spinoza (the “Dutch Nobel”) prizewinners.
Notable alumni include cycling world champion Ellen van Dijk and Amazon vice-president Werner Vogels.