University of Lausanne

University of Lausanne
Université de Lausanne
Logo Université de Lausanne.svg
Latin: Schola Lausannensis
Motto Le savoir vivant
Motto in English
Live knowledge
Type Public university
Established 1537; 485 years ago (1537)
Rector Frédéric Herman (since August 2021)
Administrative staff
3,700 (2014)
Students 13,500 (2014)
Undergraduates 8,066 (2010)
Postgraduates 1,370 (2010)
1,583 (2010)
Université de Lausanne, 1015 Lausanne, Suisse
, , ,
46°31′21″N 6°34′46″E / 46.52250°N 6.57944°E / 46.52250; 6.57944Coordinates: 46°31′21″N 6°34′46″E / 46.52250°N 6.57944°E / 46.52250; 6.57944
Affiliations EUA, AUF, UNICA

The University of Lausanne (UNIL; French: Université de Lausanne) in Lausanne, Switzerland was founded in 1537 as a school of theology, before being made a university in 1890. The university is the second oldest in Switzerland, and one of the oldest universities in the world to be in continuous operation. As of fall 2017, about 15,000 students and 3,300 employees study and work at the university. Approximately 1,500 international students attend the university (120 nationalities), which has a wide curriculum including exchange programs with world-renowned universities.

Since 2005, the university follows the requirements of the Bologna process. The 2011 Times Higher Education World University Rankings[1] ranked the University of Lausanne 116th globally. The CWTS Leiden Ranking 2015 ranks the University of Lausanne 11th in Europe and 41st globally, out of 750 universities.[2]

Together with the École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) the university forms a vast campus at the shores of Lake Geneva.


The Palais de Rumine, one of the former buildings of the University of Lausanne
Unithèque building houses one of the two sites of the Cantonal and University Library of Lausanne on the main campus of the UNIL

The university was founded in 1537 as the Schola Lausannensis, one year after Bern conquered the territory of Vaud from the Duchy of Savoy. At the time it was a school of theology with the purpose of training pastors for the church.[3] It enjoyed great renown for being the first and, until the establishment of the Academy of Geneva in 1559, the only French language Protestant school of theology. In its early years it became a center of humanist learning, with thinkers such as Corderius and Celio Secondo Curione among its professors.[3] In the 17th century it became known as the Academy of Lausanne (Académie de Lausanne).[3] As the centuries passed, the number of faculties increased and diversified until, in 1890, the Academy received the name and status of a university.

In 1909, Rudolphe Archibald Reiss founded the first school of forensic science in the world: the Institut de police scientifique.

From 1970, the university moved progressively from the old centre of Lausanne, around the Cathedral and Château, to its present site at Dorigny.

The end of the 20th century witnessed the beginnings of an ambitious project aiming at greater co-operation and development among the French-speaking universities of Lausanne, Geneva, and Neuchâtel, together with the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne (EPFL). Among others, this led to the transfer of the sections of Mathematics, Physics and Chemistry from the university to the EPFL; the funds that were made available following this transfer were invested in the development of the life sciences at the university, including the creation of a Center for Integrative Genomics.

In 2003, two new faculties were founded, concentrating on the life and human sciences: the Faculty of Biology and Medicine and the Faculty of Geosciences and Environment.

On 1 January 2014, the Swiss Graduate School of Public Administration (IDHEAP) was integrated into the University of Lausanne.[4]

Since August 2021, the rector of the University of Lausanne is Frédéric Herman; before then, the university was led by Nouria Hernandez (2016-2021) and by Dominique Arlettaz (2006-2016).

Faculties and schools

The University of Lausanne comprises seven faculties:

The University of Lausanne also comprises schools and different sections, including but not limited to:

  • School of Criminal Justice (ESC)
  • School of French as a Foreign Language (EFLE)
  • French summer and winter courses (Cours de vacances)
  • Science-Society Interface


Main campus

The main campus is presently situated outside the city of Lausanne, on the shores of Lake Léman, in Dorigny. It is adjacent to the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne (EPFL) and is served by the Lausanne Metro Line 1 (M1). The two schools together welcome about 20,000 students.

The UNIL and the EPFL share an active sports centre located on the campus, on the shores of Lake Geneva[5] and their campus is also equipped with a bicycle sharing system.[6]

The university campus is made up of individual buildings with a park and arboretum in between. The university library also serves as eating hall and is centrally located. The view from the library across the sports fields to the lake of Geneva and the French and Swiss Alps. On a clear day, Mont Blanc can be seen.

The Swiss Institute of Comparative Law and the central administration of the Swiss Institute of Bioinformatics are also located on the main campus.

Other sites

In addition to its main campus at the lakeside, the University of Lausanne also has other sites. The Faculty of Biology and Medicine is also located in two other sites: around the University Hospital of Lausanne (CHUV) (site called Bugnon) and in Épalinges (to the north of Lausanne).

The Department of Biochemistry, the Ludwig Cancer Research branch of the University of Lausanne and the WHO Immunology Research and Training Centre and some laboratories of the University Hospital of Lausanne are located in Épalinges. The Biopôle was built next to the Épalinges campus. The Faculty of Biology and Medicine also comprises a fourth site, the Psychiatric Hospital of Cery, in Prilly.

Associated institutions

The Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne (EPFL) and the University of Lausanne form a large campus near the lake Geneva.
One of the Biopôle buildings in Épalinges (2010). More Biopôle buildings were built there since then.

Reputation and rankings

University rankings
Global – Overall
ARWU World[12] 100-150
CWUR World[13] 146
CWTS World[14] 84
QS World[15] 149
RUR World[16] 50
THE World[17] 152
USNWR Global[18] 179
The main building of the Faculty of Law and Criminal Justice and of the Faculty of Business and Economics

The University of Lausanne is consistently ranked among the top 100 universities in the world. Between 2010 and 2018, the Leiden Ranking (CWTS) ranked the University of Lausanne 57th-98th globally, and 15th-38th among all universities in Europe.[2] According to the Times Higher Education World University Rankings (THE), the University of Lausanne ranked 62nd in life sciences worldwide (4th in Switzerland) in 2017.[19] The QS World University Rankings (QS)[20] placed the University of Lausanne 96th in life science and medicine.[21] The Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU) ranked the University of Lausanne 101-150 globally.[22]

Below are rankings for the University of Lausanne by the Leiden Ranking (CWTS).[2]

Year In Europe In the World
2015-2018 35 98
2014-2017 38 108
2013-2016 28 90
2012-2015 34 99
2011-2014 22 73
2010-2013 15 57
2009-2012 31 88
2008-2011 21 67
2007-2010 16 67
2006-2009 14 67


The UNIL publish free monthly campus magazine entitled L'Uniscope[23] The UNIL also publish Allez savoir !,[24] a free magazine aimed at a larger audience (general public), in January, May, and September.

Besides these, L'auditoire is the students' newspapers from both UNIL and EPFL, with a circulation of 19,000 free copies.


ALUMNIL network

In 2011, an on-line network of the UNIL alumni, called ALUMNIL, was created.[25] Since then, regular events (throughout the year) and an annual party (in autumn) are organised every year for the alumni.







School of Lausanne

Neoclassical school of thought in economics founded at the University of Lausanne by two of its professors: Léon Walras and Vilfredo Pareto. The School of Lausanne is associated with the development of general equilibrium theory as well as the marginalist revolution.

See also