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  LEUVEN : The University of Leuven
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Leuven is not a very large city. The number of inhabitants amounts to more or less 90.000 people. The number of students that study at the University (K.U.L), however, is awesome to European standards : around 22.000. The entire city lives off and with the University.

The university was founded in 1425 (on December the 9th by Pope Martin V). Just in time to give the city a new passport to future wealth and fame. By the beginning of the 15th century the cloth industry (once Leuven's prime source of prosperity) had lost its importance. The first academic year started on September the 7th in the presence of 12 professors. The creation of the Leuven University was not a unique fact in late Medieval Europe. All over the Christian countries universities were founded so that higher education in Christianity could be divulged and controlled in a universal way (for instance : by using one common language (Latin) for studies. Very symbolic for the situation in Leuven is the Main hall of the University. This building used to be the cloth hall of the city. In 1679 the city sold the building to the university and a second floor was added above the Gothic ground floor.

The Maria-Theresia CollegeAt the start of the university four faculties were created : artes, civil justice, religious justice and medicine. The university had to pass through a trial period before it could open a theological faculty, which it received after 5 years (despite Rome and Paris trying to preserve that right for themselves). From then on the City and the University walked hand in hand to the future. All through the centuries new buildings were constructed were the colleges were housed (colleges are buildings were seminars were given  and were students could live at the same time). It has, however, always been a tradition for Leuven students to rent rooms in the houses of private citizens, a tradition which still goes on today.

The Leuven University is considered to be the oldest catholic university in the world. Some don't agree with this. Mainly because the University was abolished in 1797 by the French Republic (after the annexation of the Austrian Netherlands to France). Only in 1817, during the Dutch Regime, the university was re-opened, but this time as one of the 6 state universities in the United Kingdom of the Netherlands.  After the Belgian independence in 1830, the Belgian Bishops recreated the Catholic University in 1834 in the city of Mechelen (at 20 miles from Leuven). One year later, the Catholic University returned home to Leuven.

In 1968 , after persisting linguistic problems in the Unitarian Belgium, the University was split in two parts: the Dutch-speaking section (K.U.L) remained in Leuven. For the French-speaking students a new university town was built south of Brussels : LOUVAIN-LA-NEUVE (New Leuven).


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