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Ludwig Maximilian University

An educational institution in the heart of Munich topping many international rankings

The beginnings of the Ludwig Maximilian University date from 1472, when Duke Ludwig the Rich established the first university in Bavaria, in the city of Ingolstadt. In its early years, the university witnessed the blossoming of humanism and, for more than 200 years, was one of the most important catholic academic centers in Germany. When, in 1800, Elector Maximilian IV Joseph (later Maximilian I, King of Bavaria) decided that Ingolstadt was too far from the royal residence in Munich, the university was moved to Landshut, a location still far enough away to keep the turbulent and noisy students at arm’s length. It was at this point that the institution became known as Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität (LMU), named after both the elector and Ludwig the Rich. Landshut, however, remained the seat of the university for only one quarter of a century. In 1826, Maximilian’s son, King Ludwig I, moved it to Munich. In 1840, the university settled into a building erected by German architect Friedrich von Gärtner. Located at Geschwister-Scholl-Platz 1, the edifice still serves as the university’s main building. Thanks to Ludwig’s devotion, the university quickly became a significant scientific center, boasting more than 5,200 students by the year 1905.

LMU Lichthof 276x
Before women’s access to education was legally acknowledged, LMU was the first educational facility in Germany to allow women to study and saw its first female students in 1894. During World War II, LMU continued to play an important role in the history of Germany. In 1943, for example, a small student resistance group, “The White Rose,” stood up against the Nazi regime by attempting to awaken the consciousness of German people. When group organizers—the siblings Hans and Sophie Scholl, Christoph Probst, Alexander Schmorell and Professor Kurt Huber—distributed their vehement anti-Nazi leaflets, they were arrested and subsequently executed. Their memory lives on, however. The main university square was named after the Scholl siblings (Geschwister-Scholl-Platz), and the law faculty is located at Professor-Huber-Platz. In the student district of Freimann, many streets are named for the scholars and truth advocates who stood up to Hitler.

Indeed, war did take its toll on LMU. Many parts of the university, including the lecture theater in the main building, were completely destroyed.
After the war, the university witnessed steady growth, both in number of students and in the number of faculties and institutes. In 1990, enrollment reached a record 65,000. Currently, the international student body comprises “only” about 44,000 knowledge-thirsty individuals who study at the school’s 18 faculties.

LMU is based at more than 50 locations in Munich and the surrounding area, including Germany’s biggest university clinic in Grosshadern. Some locations have even gained their own nicknames, such as the Schweinchenbau (“piggy building”) on Leopoldstrasse 13, distinguished by the pink color of the walls, or the Mathebau in Theresienstrasse 39, where maths, physics and informatics lectures are held.

A brief glance at some LMU alumni only serves to strengthen the university’s prestige. Among those to have passed through the famous halls are:
• Various politicians: Konrad Adenauer, Chancellor of Germany 1949–1963, Roman Herzog, President of Germany 1994–1999, and Valdas Adamkus, the current President of Lithuania
• Authors: Bertold Brecht and Ian Fleming
• Scientists and Nobel prize laureates: Wilhelm C. Röntgen (physics, 1901), Max Planck (physics, 1918) and Theodor W. Hänsch (physics, 2005)
• Pope Benedict XVI

It is not surprising, therefore, that Ludwig Maximilian University tops many international rankings. In 2005, for example, the Jiao Tong University in Shanghai declared LMU the best German university, and tenth best in Europe. A year earlier, The Times classified Munich’s university as the fourth best in the country. In Germany, only the universities of Munich and Heidelberg are among the eighteen members of the League of European Research Universities (LERU), an organization that singles out colleges and universities “committed to the values of high quality teaching within an environment of internationally competitive research.”
As if LMU’s reputation were not dynamic enough, there has been talk of merging it with Munich’s Technical University to create a powerful “University of Munich,” around the year 2020. Whether this ever happens seems likely to be the subject of great academic debate over coming years.

For more information on education and other activities at Ludwig Maximilian University, visit

© MF Esen/May 06

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