Semmelweis University’s history started more than 240 years ago in 1769, when Queen Maria Theresa added a medical faculty to the University of Nagyszombat (now Trnva, Slovakia). Not long after, the university moved first to Buda then to Pest (now Budapest) and, once the university settled in its permanent location, a period of great development commenced. The number of departments and clinical beds grew – so much so, in fact, that by 1838 congestion had become so great, that even the Hungarian National Assembly addressed the Medical Faculty’s situation.
Despite the tight circumstances, the Faculty’s professors strove to keep pace with international medicine, which was gaining momentum and becoming increasingly specialised during this time. Unfortunately, many were imprisoned or forced into emigration following the defeat of the Hungarian Revolution of 1848. As a result of the large-scale construction projects that commenced in the 1870s, Üllői út, then considered the outskirts of the city, became the central axis of the Medical Faculty, complete with clinical departments, a botanical garden, and the directorate.
Although women were allowed to be admitted to the Faculty starting in the 1800s, it was the First World War that brought real change in this area, when the majority of the professors and students enlisted in the army. The situation had barely begun to normalise following the end of the war when the economic crisis ensued, greatly reducing the amount of state money spent on health care. In spite of this, the Medical Faculty achieved international recognition by this time, and it was also during this period that the system of qualifications used today were developed, and the length of study increased to six years.
During the Second World War, as the front neared Budapest in 1944, the authorities tried to evacuate the Medical Faculty to Germany. However, due to the Faculty’s resistance, this attempt was only partially successful. The Faculty sustained considerable damage during the Siege of Budapest, as the majority of its equipment was destroyed, and its buildings suffered significant damage.
In the early 1950s, several hospitals were attached to the university and turned into clinics. At the same time, the Medical Faculty became an independent institution as the Medical University of Budapest; it took on the name of Ignác Semmelweis on the Faculty’s bicentennial.
Numerous students, lecturers and staff took part in the Revolution of 1956, predominately taking care of the wounded. Many of them were forced into emigration following the Soviet invasion of Hungary, while those who remained faced retribution.
Intensifying international relations starting in the 1960s allowed the university to keep pace with the international scientific world. The German and English-language programmes were started, and other significant developments took place, such as the construction of the Theoretical Block at Nagyvárad Tér (NET). By the end of the 1990s, more than 3100 hospital beds were in use at the University’s clinics.
On January 1, 2000, Semmelweis University of Medicine (SOTE) merged with the Imre Haynal University of Health Sciences (HIETE) and the University of Physical Education (TF), and was renamed Semmelweis University. With the addition of the Faculty of Health and Public Services in March 2010, the University comprised a total of six faculties, namely the Faculty of Dentistry, the Faculty of Health and Public Services, the Faculty of Health Sciences, the Faculty of Medicine, the Faculty of Pharmacy, and the Faculty of Physical Education and Sport Sciences until September 1, 2014.
The Faculty of Physical Education and Sport Sciences separated from Semmelweis University on September 1, 2014 and formed a separate university; therefore, Semmelweis University’s final structure includes a total of five faculties. Just like in all the other Hungarian higher education institutions, the organisation of the university was changed by the introduction of the office of the Chancellor at the end of 2014.
A more detailed history of the University is also available.