Education, research and international interaction are traditions of the University of Helsinki that span centuries. Throughout its history the University has had a central role in building the civilization, identity and welfare of the Finnish people.
The University was founded as the Royal Academy of Turku on March 26, 1640. The Academy was placed in the premises of the Cathedral School of Turku and in the beginning it was rather small and humble, but by the latter half of the 18th century the scientific quality was up to international standards. In 1809 the University was renamed the Imperial Academy of Turku, and in 1815 a new Academy Hall was completed across the street from the Turku Cathedral.
The University was renamed Imperial Alexander University in Finland when it was moved to Helsinki in 1828. The name was in honor of Emperor Alexander I, who had favored the University by expanding its staff and doubling the budget. In the following years the fields of science became more specialized, new branches of knowledge were born and natural science in particular began to prosper. The number of enrolled students, which for a long time had been around 400, started to increase from the 1880s onwards and after the turn of the century the number reached a thousand.
Following the independence of Finland the name of the University was changed to the University of Helsinki. The University held a key role in the budding state, but other universities were to follow: The Helsinki University of Technology had already been established in 1908, Åbo Akademi University was founded in 1918 and the University of Turku in 1921. The University of Helsinki has also been continually expanding since: today the University consists of 11 faculties and almost 40 000 students spread across four different campuses.