Today the University of Oslo (my alma mater) celebrates its bicentenary in the presence of the King and Queen and the Queen of Denmark.
A Norwegian university was one of the dearest wishes of Norwegian patriots as the eighteenth century gave way to the nineteenth, but the Dano-Norwegian King was reluctant to grant one. Eventually he gave way and on 2 September 1811 Norway’s first university was founded by King Frederik VI. His reluctance was perhaps understandable, as the foundation of the University is generally considered a significant step towards the independence Norway achieved three years later.
It was not immediately clear where the University would be located, but in 1813 it began its work in Christiania, as Oslo then was. The main University buildings in the city centre were the work of architects Karl Friedrich Schinkel and Christian Heinrich Grosch and were completed in 1852. Today they house the Faculty of Law, while the rest of the University moved to a new campus at Blindern in the middle of the twentieth century. The name of the University was originally Frederik’s Royal University (Universitas Regia Fredericiana) in honour of its founder. This was a thorn in the eye of King Carl XIV Johan, who feared Danish revanchism and tried unsuccesfully to have it changed. However, the name remained until 1939, when it was changed to simply the University of Oslo (Universitas Osloensis).
Today there are some 27,600 students at the University of Oslo, which employs 7,094 people. It has fostered five Nobel laureates and currently ranks 75th among the universities of the world.
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