In 1852, two commercial institutes were founded in Antwerp: the Rijkshandelshogeschool (the State School of Economics) and the Sint-Ignatius Handelshogeschool (the Sint Ignatius School of Economics). Initially geared to business and commerce, they helped to make Antwerp a world centre for commerce and culture.
In 1965, the two commercial institutes gained university status and became Faculties for Economic Science. Studies in Medicine at undergraduate level were added to the Rijkshandelshogeschool, together with the first and second year of the Science courses, and renamed RUCA (Rijksuniversitair Centrum Antwerpen). The Sint Ignatius School of Economics expanded and offered first and second year courses in Arts and Social Sciences, and Law. In 1965, it was officially renamed UFSIA (Universitaire Faculteiten Sint-Ignatius te Antwerpen).
In 1971, the third institute, the UIA (Universitaire Instelling Antwerpen) was founded. It offers second cycle studies to students from UFSIA and RUCA, post-graduates and PhD programmes.
In 1973, these three institutions began to cooperate as a confederation under the name 'University of Antwerp' - 'UA' (Universiteit Antwerpen). Committed to closer cooperation, in 1995 an act of the Flemish parliament secured this cooperation by giving the UA a confederate structure. The confederation is governed by the Board of the UA and is directed by a Vice-Chancellor.
Professor Francis baron Van Loon is the University of Antwerp's rector from 2000 until 2008.
In October 2003, they were finally brought together to form the University of Antwerp we know today.
Professor Alain Verschoren is the University of Antwerp's rector from 2008 until 2016.
In academic year 2013-'14, the university will welcome two new faculties.
- Artesis University College Antwerp's courses on product development and architecture will be integrated in the Faculty of Design Sciences at the University of Antwerp.
- Similarly, the engineering programmes at Karel de Grote University College and Artesis University College Antwerp will merge with the Faculty of Applied Engineering.
- Translation and interpreting courses will join the Faculty of Arts, while rehabilitation sciences and physiotherapy will be incorporated in the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences.
Prof Herman Van Goethem, lawyer and historian, starts as the new rector of the University of Antwerp on 1 October 2016. His term of office will run until 2020.