Catholic Encyclopedia (1913)/University of Fribourg (Switzerland)

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From the sixteenth century, the foundation of a Catholic university in Switzerland had often been canvassed among the Catholic cantons. The need of such an institution was with the passage of time ever more keenly felt, as the fact that higher educational institutions existed only in the Protestant cantons ensured for the Protestants a certain intellectual ascendancy. In spite of the pressing nature of the case, however, the want of the necessary means and the jealousy among the Catholic cantons combined to prevent any solution of the question being arrived at. From the very beginning, the inhabitants of Fribourg had laboured most zealously for the establishment of a university in their town. Out of their own resources, they founded in 1763 a school of law, which was continued till 1889 and then merged in the juristic faculty of the university. During the nineteenth century, the Catholic movement in Switzerland, making the Swiss "Pius-Verein" its rallying-centre, reinaugurated the agitation for a Catholic university. The Catholic Conservative Government of Fribourg finally took the matter in hand, and George Python, State Councillor for Fribourg and from 1886 Director of Public Education, who enjoyed the fullest confidence of the people, effected the foundation of the university. It was certainly a bold undertaking for a little state of only 119,000 (in 1909, 130,000) inhabitants, but the energy and political acumen of Python coupled with the unselfish liberality of the legislative council were a certain guarantee of success. The conversion of the public debt under favourable conditions in 1886 resulted in a saving of 2,500,000 francs (500,000 dollars), and on 24 December of the same year the supreme council resolved to set aside this sum as a foundation fund for the proposed university. On 4 October, 1889, a second resolution was passed, appropriating the interest on this capital to the foundation of the first faculties, which were opened in the following November, the juristic faculty (the extended school of law) with nine professors and the philosophical (for philosophy, literature, and history) with eighteen.

The town of Fribourg, seat of the university, contributed half a million francs towards the funded capital of the university, and in the autumn of 1890 the theological faculty was instituted with seven professors, In accordance with an agreement between the Government of Fribourg and Father Larocca, General of the Dominicans, this faculty was with the sanction of Leo XIII entrusted to the Dominican Order, and placed directly under the care of the Holy See. Many secular priests, however, have held chairs in the theological faculty, which has received from Rome the privilege of granting academical degrees (baccalaureate, licentiate, doctorate) in theology. The other faculties confer only the degrees of licentiate and doctorate. By the appropriation to the university of the profit on the public supply of water and electricity, and of a fixed annual sum from the newly-founded state bank, the further development of these three faculties and the establishment of the faculty of mathematical physics were made possible. The new faculty was opened in 1895 with eleven professors, and, as the institution of infirmaries has already been some years in progress, the establishment of the medical faculty-the only story now needed to crown the academical edifice-may be expected at an early date. Meanwhile, chairs of physiology and bacteriology have been instituted in connexion with the faculty of mathematical physics.

Despite many difficulties, including the crisis caused by the wanton dismissal of eight German professors in 1898, the development of the University of Fribourg has been steadily maintained. As a cantonal public institution, it stands on the same legal footing as the other universities of Switzerland. The supreme authority is vested in the Cantonal Department of Public Education (i.e the State Council), practically all the expenses being borne by the canton. The general constitution of the university is regulated by the Charter of 1 December, 1899. Leo XIII viewed its foundation with a great satisfaction to which he gave personal expression in many letters to the authorities of the Canton, to the university itself, and to the Swiss episcopate. The main sources of revenue, according to the cantonal budget for 1909, are as follows: Interest on foundation fund, 125,000 francs; yearly contributions from state bank, 80,000 frs.; profits arising from the electric and water works, 150,000 frs.; lease, 2,580 frs. To this sum of 357,580 frs. must be added 7700 frs. for the legal chairs and other endowments (especially the "Grivel" and the "Westermaier"). Many funds have been established for the assistance of students, and the institution of prizes.

In accordance with the wishes of its founder, the university has always maintained an international character, which consists not alone in the appointment of native professors to teach the history and literature of their native lands, but also in the various nationalities of the students attracted to the university. The lectures are delivered in Latin, French, and German. In the winter term of 1908-9, the teaching staff consisted of 70 lecturers from ten different lands, but especially from Switzerland, Germany, France, and Austria. Their distribution among the faculties was as follows: Theology, 13 ordinary and 2 extraordinary professors; Law, 14 ordinary and 4 extraordinary professors; Philosophy, 19 ordinary and 3 extraordinary professors; Mathematical Physics 10 ordinary and 3 extraordinary professors with 2 I4ivatdozen~en. The increase in the attendance at the university may be judged from this table of matriculated students:

Winter Term.