The first German universities were founded in the late 14th and early 15th centuries. The oldest university in Germany is the Ruprecht-Karls-Universität Heidelberg, which opened its doors to students in 1386.
Only two years later, in 1388, the University of Cologne was founded by the citizens of the city. In 1798, it was closed under French occupation because of its medieval structures, which did not correspond to the French educational system. In May 1919, the University of Cologne was re-established as a university by the then mayor Konrad Adenauer.
The university in Erfurt, the capital of Thuringia, was the very first German university to receive its founding charter, in 1379. However, since the decisive factor is the date when the university began offering courses of study, and this was the case with the University of Erfurt in 1392, it is considered to be the third oldest university in Germany. After its closure in 1816, it was re-established in 1994.
Heidelberg, Cologne and Erfurt were followed in the 15th century by Würzburg, Leipzig, Rostock, Trier, Greifswald, Freiburg, Ingolstadt, Tübingen and Mainz, and in the 16th century by Wittenberg and Frankfurt an der Oder. Over the centuries, many of these universities were closed, later re-opened and sometimes changed their location. For example, the university founded in Ingolstadt first moved to Landshut in 1800 and from there to Munich in 1826, where it is now known as Ludwig Maximilian University. The universities of Wittenberg and Halle were merged in 1817, the universities of Frankfurt an der Oder and Breslau in 1811.