650th anniversary of the University of Pécs

As of 2017, the first day of September will be the Day of the Hungarian Higher Education, the memorial day of the foundation of the University of Pécs. On the 650th anniversary of the foundation of the University, we are commemorating this institute of great tradition with the following virtual exhibition.

Studium Generale Quinqueecclesiense

Légifelvétel a Székesegyházról és környékéről - Csorba Győző Könyvár - Pécs, CC BY-NC

The first university of Pécs and of Hungary, the Studium Generale Quinqueecclesiense, opened its gates on 1 September 1367. Pope Urban V approved the foundation of the university; the implementation can be related to Bishop William, who established the university with the consent of King Louis the Great and the financial support of the diocese of Pécs. The university fitted naturally into the first university-establishment wave of Central Europe, and was preceded by the University of Prague (1348), the one in Cracow (1364) and the one in Vienna (1365). The determinant elements in selecting the location of the university were primarily the personality of founder Bishop William, the economic situation of the diocese and the central role of the city regionally, but the high-level operation of the ecclesiastical educational institute was also significant. Presumably, it had two university faculties: humanities (facultas artium) and the canonical (facultas decretorum). The medical faculty (facutas medicorum) might have been established as well, but there are not any remaining records of it. As the university did not have a separate building, the education – according to the European practice of the period – happened in different locations: in the rooms of the ecclesiastical school, at the professors’ houses, at churches or in the open air. The university was closed in the 1390s; during the foundation of the University of Óbuda in 1395, it was not likely to be operating. The assumed building of the medieval university of Pécs was explored in the Bishop’s Castle between 1978 and 1998. In 2015, a permanent university-historical exhibition was opened in the restored building with significant medieval gothic statue relics.

Hungarian Royal Erzsébet University

Akvarell az Erzsébet Tudományegyetemről - Csorba Győző Könyvár - Pécs, PDM

There was no university education in the city afterwards, until the beginning of the 20th century, but the famous and high-standard prebend school remained. With several Hungarian cities in similar state, Pécs fought for establishing a second – and after founding one in Kolozsvár in 1872 – a third university in Hungary. However, in 1912 the parliament decided against Pécs on establishing a university in Pozsony and one in Debrecen. After the WW I in January 1919, the Czechs occupied the university of Pozsony that moved to Budapest temporarily as of 1921. After long negotiations, the Hungarian Royal Erzsébet University of Pécs gained it place on the basis of the Act 25 of 1921. Nevertheless, the moving in Pécs was delayed a lot due to the Serbian occupation, thus the first term could be started only in 1923. After the university moved in, the city had many thing to do: more than a thousand university students, professors and their families had to be accommodated, the institutions of faculties had to be placed, clinics and a library had to be established. All of these were created during a short period of two years. Under the economic circumstances after the Trianon dictates hitting the city that found itself on the edge of the borderline, they could not build a new university quarter, so they had to use existing municipal or state-owned buildings and institutions. The organizational units were put in city hospitals and secondary education institutes; new investments could not be implemented. The Hadapródiskola (Cadet School) still belonged to the Ministry of Defence, thus the state-owned public school on today’s Rákóczi Road was left as the largest suitable estate. At the same time, the Bishop gave the Lyceum church and the Klimo Library over to the university.

Erzsébet Tudományegyetem - Csorba Győző Könyvár - Pécs, CC BY-NC

Settling down educators in the new University City was extremely important. In the case of the law faculty, they could count on the affiliated episcopal law academy, while the medical faculty provided practising professionals locally, who educated the medical staff of future clinics. Despite their initial aversion, local people took a liking for the university because more and more local students studied there and the number of visitors increased. Constructions, like the Saint Maurus College, ensured the living of many tradesmen and builders of Pécs. The faculties and the clinics also employed professional and assistant staff permanently. Due to economic reasons, they planned to close the university in 1925, because the number of enrolled students decreased for the term 1926/27. Primarily, the Jewish students were absent, but the University of Pécs was famous for the ‘inappropriate rates’, not respecting the numerus clausus. The complete square construction of the central building on Rákóczi Road started in the term 1927/28. The city of Pécs voted 600 thousand pengős for the new law and humanities faculty buildings in the term 1929/30, because the danger of shutdown emerged again due to the high rate of overqualified people and unemployment. In the term 1934/35, the law faculty settled in the new building, but the block of the humanities faculty was not finished yet. As of the term 1940/41, the humanities faculty was removed – according to the Second Vienna Award – to Kolozsvár in Northern Transylvania. After WW II, the name of the university was changed to Erzsébet University of Pécs by omitting the ‘Hungarian Royal’ attributives, and as of 1948, it was named Pécsi Tudományegyetem (University of Science of Pécs literally) - PTE.

A Pécsi Orvostudományi Egyetem felújított épületei - Dr. Kistelegdi István, CC0

When the medical faculty seceded in 1950, the Pécsi Orvostudományi Egyetem - POTE (Medical University of Pécs) was formed. From this date, PTE went on with only one faculty: Faculty of Political Science and Law. In 1970, another higher education institution was formed in the city under the name Pollack Mihály Műszaki Főiskola - PMMF (Pollack Mihály Technical College) by merging the Felsőfokú Építő- és Építőanyagipari Technikum of Budapest and the Felsőfokú Vegyipari Gépészeti Technikum of Pécs. In 1975, the second faculty of PTE, the Faculty of Business and Economics was formed from the Karl Marx University of Economics that had operated as an affiliated section.

Janus Pannonius University

Janus Pannonius Tudományegyetem - Csorba Győző Könyvár - Pécs, CC BY-NC

Janus Pannonius University (JPTE) was created in 1982 with the Faculty of Law, the Faculty of Economics and the Teachers’ Training Faculty (after upgrading the Teachers’ Training College). In the 1990s, Pollack Mihály Technical College joined JPTE and three other faculties (Visual Arts, Humanities and Sciences) were established. The higher education of Pécs was characterized by dividedness in the second half of the 20th century. The unified university structure was created in 2000 by integrating POTE, JPTE and the Illyés Gyula College of Szekszárd and renaming it again University of Pécs (PTE). In 2005, the Faculty of Adult Education and Human Resources Development was established and in 2016, the youngest faculty of the university, Faculty of Pharmacy was created.

Pécsi Tudományegyetem Természettudományi Karának botanikus kertje - Csorba Győző Könyvár - Pécs, CC BY-NC

Nowadays, PTE is a significant higher education institute of the Southern Transdanubian region and the largest employer in Pécs. It has a separate faculty in Szekszárd and outsourced education programs are operating in Kaposvár, Szombathely and Zalaegerszeg. It teaches almost all fields of sciences (except for agricultural education); its clinical centre and hospitals are important medical units in the region. It maintains a botanical garden, a kindergarten, several practising schools (number 1 and number 2), the University Library and the University Archives. More than 30 thousand students are educated on its ten faculties. There are special colleges within the frame of the university. The town citizens can visit its sports facilities and the performances of the Janus University Theatre (JESZ) as well. The university maintains the Univ TV and a periodical called UnivPécs too. PTE actively participated in accomplishing the project ‘Pécs Európa Kulturális Fővárosa 2010’ (Pécs European Capital of Culture 2010); it was an investor in the Knowledge Centre of Pécs and took part in creating the Zsolnay Cultural District. The Szentágothai János Science Building on Ifjúság Road was inaugurated in 2012. The rectorate moved into the restored building of Saint Maurus College; the University Library moved into the Knowledge Centre and the Faculty of Music and Visual Arts went to the Zsolnay District in 2010.

Many famous lawyers, artists, historians, philosophers and politicians graduated at the University of Pécs, including two presidents of the republic: Ferenc Mádl and László Sólyom.


  • Pécs Lexikon / főszerk. Romváry Ferenc, Pécs, Pécs Lexikon Kulturális Nonprofit Kft., 2010.

Etele Szüts

Translated by Zita Aknai


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