The history of the academic higher education in Cluj is closely related to the evolution of the city on river Someș. The beginnings of local academic life go down to the 16th century. In 1578, Prince of Transylvania Ștefan Báthory requested permission from Pope Gregory XIII to establish a Jesuit college in Cluj. The following year, the pope sent to Transylvania the first mission for this purpose, which included Jesuits Ștefan Szántó (Arator), Jakob Wujek, Valentin Ladó, Luigi Odescalchi, Justius Rabbus, Matias Thomány, Wolff Schreck.
The Diploma founding the Major Jesuit College in Cluj was issued by Ștefan Báthory on May 12, 1581, in Vilna (today Vilnius in Lithuania). The founder wished this Major College to be an institution similar to established universities of the time, to include courses in grammar, philosophy, theology and rhetoric. In this college Latin, Hebrew and Greek were taught and graduates could earn the titles of Baccalaureus, Magister and Doctor. The first rector of the college was Jakub Wujek . Latin was the teaching language of the College.
In 1583, besides the Major Jesuit College, the Pontifical and Royal Seminary was created (Seminarium Pontificium ac Regium) for Catholic priests. Jesuit diplomat Antonio Possevino was sent to organize the seminary from a pedagogical and administrative point of view. For this reason Antonio Possevino can be considered the spiritual father of the Jesuit higher education in Cluj. The activity of the Major Jesuit College was carried uninterrupted, with brief hiatuses until around 1607 when the Jesuits were banned from Transylvania.
Since autumn 1698 the Jesuit teaching was resumed by the Jesuit Academy (mentioned in the documents of the time as Collegium Claudiopolitanum or Academia Claudiopolitana), an institution regarded as the heir of the Major Jesuit College. In the same year was reestablished the Jesuit Seminary. At Collegium Claudiopolitanum the languages of study were Latin and German (since 1751), and the subjects matters included logic, rhetoric, theology, philosophy, natural sciences, mathematics and law.
At the beginning of the eighteenth century, the Jesuit Order started the construction works in the west end of the Mihail Kogalniceanu Street today, an ensemble of representative buildings: The Jesuit Academic College, Jesuit Church , "Báthory-Apor" boarding school, and the noble boarding school building (today the Echinox building).
In 1753, Empress Maria Theresa raised the Collegium Claudiopolitanum to the rank of University Academic College. After the dissolution of the Jesuit Order in 1773 the University Academic College in Cluj went under the piarists. In 1780 the Academic College was structured as follows: Faculty of Philosophy - with 5 departments (logic and metaphysics, physics, mathematics, geometry (applied mathematics) and history), Faculty of Law (with the departments of canon law and criminal law, civil law and Roman law), Faculty of Medicine (a single department for anatomy, surgery and obstetrics), and the Faculty of Theology (4 departments).
In 1784, following the decision of Emperor Joseph II, the University Academic College of Cluj became the Royal Academic Lyceum (Lyceum Regium Academicum). It retained three distinct specializations - philosophy, law and medicine, while theology was moved to Alba-Iulia. During the nineteenth century, Cluj had other educational and higher education institutions, such as: the Medical-Surgical Institute, Academy of Law (founded in 1863), the Reformed College (which included law subject matters), Unitarian College (which had departments of law and theology).
On October 12, 1872 Francis Joseph I, emperor of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and King of Hungary, ratified laws XIX and XX, which sanctioned the foundation of the Hungarian Royal University in Cluj. The institution opened its doors with four faculties: Faculty of Law and State Sciences (12 departments), Faculty of Medicine (11 departments), Faculty of Philosophy, Letters and History (10 departments) and the Faculty of Mathematics and Natural Sciences (7 departments). Besides the latter two faculties, a pedagogical institute was founded for prospective secondary school teachers. The first rector of the University of Cluj was Áron Berde , previously director of the Academy of Law in Cluj.
It was only on January 4, 1881 that Francis Joseph I issued the official document founding the university and accepting that it bears his name. The delay was due to the initial state of very poor infrastructure for teaching and research in Cluj. However they gradually initiated extensive construction works for the university. Until 1918, by the end of World War I were built 63 buildings for teaching activities. Among these the most important were:
The Hungarian university started off with a teaching staff of 40 people for the 40 departments, but until 1919 the number of departments has increased to 61 and that of teachers to 150, along with a large number of secondary teaching staff and support and administrative staff. Many teachers had outstanding scientific achievements recognized internationally. Among them were: mathematicians Lipót Fejér, Alfréd Haar and Frigyes Riesz, geographer Jenö Cholnoky, polihistorian Sámuel Brassai, archaeologist Bélá Pósta, physicists Lájos Martin and Gyula Farkas,etc.
Students enrolled here belonged to all nationalities living in Transylvania (Hungarian, Romanian, German, Hebrew, Armenian, etc.) and all religious denominations (Protestant, Catholic, Orthodox, Greek Catholic, Jewish). Beginning with year 1895 women were allowed to enrol in the University of Cluj. Between 1872-1918 more than 40,000 students studied at the Hungarian University of Cluj and graduation diplomas were granted for 12,000 young people. More than 2,600 of the students were Romanian, with the following personalities standing out: Iuliu Maniu (law student), Iuliu Haţieganu (Medicine), George Coşbuc (Philosophy), Vasile Meruţiu (Natural Sciences), and others.
At the end of World War I, following the unification of Transylvania with Romania and the creation of Greater Romania, King Ferdinand I stipulated by signing decree no. 4090 of September 12, 1919 „the transformation of Royal Hungarian Franz Joseph University in Romanian university beginning October 1, 1919”. The new academic institution was composed of four faculties: Law, Medicine, Sciences, Letters and Philosophy. The new academic community elected the teachers in charge during the first year: Sextil Puşcariu - rector , Nicholae Drăganu - vice-rector, Gheorghe Bogdan-Duică - Dean of Letters, Demetrius Călugăreanu - Dean of Sciences, and Pharmacy Iuliu Hațieganu - Dean of Medicine and Vasile Dimitriu- Dean of Law. In the first semester the Romanian university had 1,871 students, and in the second semester 2,182 students. The inaugural lecture, entitled suggestively The Duty of Our Life, was delivered on November 3, 1919 by the renowned archaeologist and historian Vasile Pârvan impressive to an audience of teachers, students, and other representatives of the Transylvanian Romanian elite.
Between January 31 to February 2, 1920 official opening celebrations were held at the Romanian University in Cluj in the presence of King Ferdinand I, Queen Mary, as well as numerous scientific and political personalities, both Romanian and foreign. King Ferdinand I donated 400,000 lei from his own fortune for the establishment of the Institute of National History.
In 1924 the law that officially recognizes the University in Cluj as a legal entity of public law is adopted and published in the Official Monitor.
The first decade of the Romanian academic life in Cluj was marked by the effort to build a performant educational and scientific community, with a view to the Transylvanian context. By 1932, the operating principles of the academic body and university authorities were slightly different from those implemented at the universities of Bucharest and Iași, Cluj enjoying greater autonomy and flexibility. From a scientific and educational perspective the 1919-1932 period is characterized by diversification of subjects studied, as well as creating a large number of institutes, laboratories, departments and seminars, which have contributed to the prestige of the new Romanian university. Now were created: the Institute of Speleology (managed by Emil Racoviţă), the Botanical Garden (director Alexandru Borza), the Astronomical Observatory, the Institute of National History (Directors: Alexander Lapedatu and Ioan Lupaș), Museum of the Romanian Language (coordinated by Sextil Puşcariu), the Institute of Experimental, Comparative and Applied Psychology (founded by Florian Ștefănescu-Goangă), the first Anti-Rabies Institute in Transylvania, the Seminary of Mathematics (headed by Petre Sergescu) and the Seminary of art history, the departments of journalism and social policy, etc.
In October 1927 the University of Cluj will officially adopt as a homage the name of the first king of Great Romania, becoming known as the King Ferdinand I University, name that it will bear until 1948.
The 1932-1940 period stands out by the standardization of the administrative operation of universities across Romania, Cluj being thus organized like the Universities of Bucharest and Iași. On the other hand, now is the time the great psychologist Florian-Ștefănescu Goangă is rector, a period during which the university underwent significant development. During this interval several major academic infrastructure projects are completed: The Academic College (inaugurated in 1937) and the Sports Park (founded at the initiative of Iuliu Haţieganu) . At this time the Academy of Law of Oradea will be included in the Faculty of Law of the University of Cluj.
On August 30, 1940 the northern part of Transylvania, which included the city of Cluj, was conceded to the Hungarian state following the Vienna Arbitration dictate. The impact on the Romanian university was immediate. In September 1940 teachers and students were forced to leave Cluj, looking for a place of refuge in order to continue their teaching and research. After discussing several options, a decision was taken to divide the University of Cluj: The Faculties of Letters and Philosophy, Medicine, and Law moved to Sibiu, and the Faculty of Science was displaced in Timișoara. The first meeting of courses was held on November 10, 1940, both in Sibiu and Timişoara; the displaced university operated without interruption for the duration of the Second World War. As stated by Iuliu Haţieganu, rector during the 1941-1944 period, the mission of the university in the new socio-political and organizational conditions was to preserve and promote Romanian spirituality in Transylvania, the formation territory of the Romanian people.
While "King Ferdinand I" University took refuge in Sibiu and Timișoara, "Francis Joseph" University returned from Szeged and resumed its activity in Cluj with teaching in Hungarian language. This institution had five faculties: Faculty of Law and State Sciences (Law), Faculty of Mathematics and Natural Sciences, Faculty of Arts, Languages and Historical Sciences (Philology), Faculty of Medicine, Faculty of Economics.
The academic life of Cluj was deeply influenced by the geopolitical context at the end of the Second World War. In the spring of 1945, after the reinstatement of Romanian administration over Transylvania, "King Ferdinand I" University returned to Cluj, after its previous displacement to Sibiu and Timișoara. The 1946-1947 years were marked by a massive purge of the teachers of the university, motivated by political and ideological reasons.
In parallel, by Royal Decree no. 407 of May 29, 1945 the "University with Hungarian teaching" was formally established in Cluj. The structure of this new institution included the Faculty of Law and Economics, Faculty of Mathematics and Natural Sciences, Faculty of Letters and History. For a brief period there was also a Faculty of Medicine, which later moved to Târgu Mureș. In December 1945, the Hungarian university in Cluj was called Bolyai University as a tribute to the two Transylvanian mathematicians, Farkas and János Bolyai, father and son.
On December 30, 1947, the proclamation of the Romanian People's Republic marked the final installation of communism in Romania. As a result, beginning May 1948 King Ferdinand I University of Cluj has officially changed its name in Victor Babeș University.
Following the education reform of August 1948, the structure of both Victor Babeș University and Bolyai University was profoundly altered. Thus, the Faculties of Medicine were completely and irrevocably detached from the composition of the universities and became independent institutions. Starting fall 1948 the departments of Dialectical and historical materialism, Foundations of Marxism-Leninism and Political economy were established. In the fall of 1957 part-time learning (evening) courses and distance learning were created per faculties and departments.
During this period, the following departments functioned with a four-year duration in the Victor Babeș University: Faculty of Mathematics and Physics, Faculty of Natural Sciences, Faculty of Chemistry, Faculty of Geology and Geography, Faculty of Pedagogy and Psychology, Faculty of Philology, Faculty of Philosophy and Faculty of History (which merged into one Faculty in 1954). There was also a Faculty of Legal and Administrative Studies with a three-year duration of studies, which for a short period (1951-1953), functioned jointly with the Faculty of Law of the Bolyai University.
In the same period, Bolyai University included the following faculties: Faculty of Economics, Law and Public Administration, with 18 departments; Faculty of Natural Sciences, with eight departments; Faculty of Mathematics and Physics, with 10 departments; Faculty of Chemistry, with five departments; Faculty of History, with seven departments; Faculty of Philosophy, with four departments; Faculty of Pedagogy and Psychology, with two departments.
Following the decisions of the Romania state and party leadership during March-July 1959 a single state university will be created in Cluj by the unification of the Romanian and the Hungarian university.
The new institution, which began its activity in September 1959 was called Babeș-Bolyai University and comprised at the time of its creation six faculties: Faculty of Mathematics and Physics; Faculty of Chemistry; Faculty of Natural Sciences and Geography; Faculty of Philology; Faculty of Law; Faculty of History and Philosophy. The first rector of the Babeș-Bolyai University was professor Constantin Daicoviciu . Upon its foundation Babeș-Bolyai University summed up a total of 702 teaching positions, compared to 782 before unification. In the 1959-1960 academic year the number of students from Babeș-Bolyai was 4,502 of which 3,159 were Romanian, 1,285 Hungarian, 36 German and 22 other nationalities.
Between 1959-1970 the University of Cluj underwent a long process of reorganization of faculties, departments, sections, curricula and programmes of the academic study. In 1961 the Faculty of Economics was established. Gradually, it came to an academic structure in which the university and the Pedagogical Institute which joined it included 16 faculties with 37 sections in full time learning, 11 sections in part-time learning and 20 sections in distance learning. During this period new investments were made in the infrastructure for students and teachers of Cluj: the Haşdeu dormitories campus and Students Cultural House were built.
In the 1970-1971 academic year was recorded the highest number of students enrolled: 14,438 people (6,742 in full time learning, 235 in part time learning and 7,461 in distance learning) and the largest number of teachers - 841 people (102 professors, 151 associate professors, 299 lecturers, 198 assistants and 91 interns). Decades eight and nine of the twentieth century represented a difficult period in the Cluj academic life. A gradual restriction of teaching and research activity occurred in line with an internal merging of specializations, disappearance of disciplines (e.g. Psychology), diminishing the scientific contacts with foreign universities, degradation of students and teachers status, etc.
In 1989 Babeș-Bolyai University had a total of 5,619 students and a teaching staff composed of 470 Romanian teachers, 81 Hungarian teachers, 6 German teachers, 10 teachers from other minorities. On December 22, 1989 the Declaration for a new University of Dacia superior was published; it stated the willingness to reorganize the University of Cluj on modern bases, similar to those of the interwar period, following the disappearance of the communist regime.
After 1990, within the new democratic context of Romania, Babeș-Bolyai University underwent a profound transformation. Since 1995 a decision was taken to organize a multicultural university; thus the three major lines of study were created on linguistic criteria: the Romanian line of study, Hungarian line of study, German line of study. Between 1991-2005 an extensive process of faculties diversification took place, either by their detachment from older structures, either by direct establishment. Thus, since the 2006-2007 academic year Babeș-Bolyai University has been operating in a system of 21 faculties. The teaching and research infrastructure has also underwent a substantial development in recent decades; in 1997 one of the largest recent investments was initiated: the building of the Faculty of Economics and Business Administration campus (Photo Campus) (Photo Cube Psychology, etc.). Contacts and collaborations with prestigious academies and universities worldwide were resumed, strong networks of teaching and research were created and numerous scientific cooperation projects were conducted.
By 2015, of the 21 faculties of Babeș-Bolyai University, 17 faculties included activities in Hungarian, and 9 faculties in German. For the 41,690 students enrolled in our institution there were 337 study programmes, undergraduate and master's degree in Romanian, 119 undergraduate and master's programmes in Hungarian and 18 such programmes in German.
Babeș-Bolyai University was recently classified by the line Ministry as a “university of advanced research and education. The institution is situated on prestigious positions internationally; specialized rankings place Babeș-Bolyai University among the world’s academic elite in the field. On a domestic level the University has been ranked in the past years on leading place among the approximately one hundred universities according to the majority of such rankings.
Thus, in the Best Global Universities 2015 ranking Babeș-Bolyai University ranked 560th in the world and in the top released by the Times Higher Education for 2015-2016, Babeș-Bolyai University was the single university in Romania placed in the 501-600 category, at a similar level to other universities of tradition in Central and South-Eastern Europe such as Krakow, Warsaw, Budapest, Bratislava and Ljubljana. It was also in 2015 that Babeș-Bolyai University was nominated for the research excellence award offered for the first time by Scopus (Scopus Research Excellence Award).
According to Webometrics (Ranking Web of Universities) which includes 11,996 universities, Babeș-Bolyai University was ranked 938th place, which makes it the best ranked Romanian university. According to a general ranking for 2016, Babeș-Bolyai University ranked first in Romania.
According to the Report of National Universities Metaranking Exercise of 2016 Babeș-Bolyai University is ranked first in Romania.