The University of Zagreb is the oldest Croatian university and also the oldest university in South East Europe. The university was officially founded 23 September 1669 by Emperor and King Leopold I Habsburg who issued a decree granting the status and privileges of a university to the Jesuit Academy of the Royal Free City of Zagreb. According to that document the study of philosophy in Zagreb acquired a formal and legal status as Neoacademia Zagrabiensis and officially became a public institution of higher education.
The Academy was run by the Jesuits for more than a century when the Jesuit order was dissolved by Pope Clement XIV in 1773. Under a new leadership in 1772 the Academy enrolled a total of 200 students.
In 1776 Empress and Queen Maria Theresa issued a decree founding the Royal Academy of Science (Regia Scientiarum Academia) consisting of three studies or faculties - Philosophy, Theology and Law. The former political-cameral studies became part of the newly established Faculty of Law, and thus were integrated into the Academy. Each of the faculties of the Royal Academy of Sciences had several chairs teaching one or several courses.
The Academy in Zagreb remained until 1874, despite numerous organizational changes, the focal institution of higher education in Croatia, educating most of the members of the Croatian intelligentsia.
Bishop Josip Juraj Strossmayer in 1861 proposed to the Croatian Parliament that a legal basis be established for the founding of the University of Zagreb. During his visit to Zagreb in 1869 the Emperor Franz Joseph signed the Decree on the Establishment of the University of Zagreb. Five years later the Parliament passed the Act of Founding, which was ratified by the Emperor on 5 January 1874. On 19 October 1874 a ceremony was held in the name of the founding of the modern University of Zagreb.