The first chapter of the history of Aarhus University began with the inauguration of "University studies in Jutland" in Aarhus Technical College's ceremonial hall on the 11th of September 1928.
The municipality of Aarhus allocated a budget of 33,000 Dkr for the first year, classrooms were rented from the Technical College and a teaching corps consisting of one professor of philosophy and four Readers of Danish, English, German and French was assembled.
On inauguration day, 64 students registered. During the first semester the total rose to 78.
A wide circle of citizens from the city's business community, organisations and institutions formed the University Association Aarhus (Universitets-Samvirket) , in 1921, which, together with the municipality of Aarhus, formed the impetus in the fight to have Denmark's second university located in Aarhus.
From the beginning, in 1928, it was the University Association's job to participate on the University's board together with representatives from the City Council and a representative for the University's teachers. Another important function was the raising of funds for the construction of university buildings on the site allotted by the municipality in 1929 for the coming University Park.
Up until the 1940's the University's buildings were erected exclusively by means of donations. The national government financed the majority of administrative costs from and including 1932. Use of the name "Aarhus University" began in 1933.
In 1928 courses in the humanities were offered (in philosophy and language) and in 1933 the Faculty of Medicine (formally established in 1935) began its courses in basic medical subjects. The Faculty, which in 1953 was completely built-up, merged with the dental school in 1992, after which it changed its name to the Faculty of Health Sciences.
The Faculty of Economics and Law was established in 1936. Once the Political Science and Psychology study programmes began within the same area of study in 1959 and 1968 respectively, the faculty changed its name to the Faculty of Social Sciences.
The Faculty of Theology was established in 1942 following a period in which theology classes had been offered since 1932.
The Faculty of Science was established in 1954. As a result, Physics and Chemistry moved from the Faculty of Medicine to the new faculty and, in a similar manner, Geography moved from the Faculty of Arts. Only Mathematics was completely new.
Aarhus University functioned as a private institution until 1970 when it became a state-run institution under the first University Act. With this, the University Association and the City Council withdrew from the University's administration. But even as a public institution, the University maintains close ties with the city government, the business sector and institutions, this cooperation being exemplified well by Science Park Aarhus. With the Universities Act of 1992, groups external to the university were once again represented in the administration. According to the Universities Act of 2003, the universities are governed by a university board. Rector, deans and heads of department are no longer elected by staff and students, but appointed by the board. The board commenced in January 2004 and appointed a rector in August 2005.
In 1997 emeritus Professor Jens Christian Skou received the Nobel Prize for Chemistry for his discovery of the sodium-potassium pump.
In 2003 the number of regular students was 21,948 while, in the same year, there were 738 PhD students matriculated.
The buildings of Aarhus University are gathered in and around the University Park, and through the years they have multiplied considerably. The first building, which stood ready in 1933, was originally prepared to accommodate medical science classes. It is situated on a protruding promontory on the moraine ravine's eastern side and houses many of the social sciences' subjects.
With only minor modifications, the building style in the University Park has remained consistent since the architects Kay Fisker, C.F. Møller and Povl Stegmann won the architectural competition in 1931. Since 1939, the architectural firm C.F. Møller has been responsible for building activities. In a harmonious interplay with the rolling hills of the park, the uniform buildings create an attractive campus, which has achieved international renown.
The characteristic yellow brick buildings in the University Park have a total floor area of 246,000 m 2 . Beyond this, the University has at its disposal a series of buildings outside of the park with a total floor area of 59,000m 2 .
For three decades Prehistoric Archaeology, Medieval Archaeology and Ethnography have been based at the old Moesgård Manor south of Aarhus, and since the mid 1970's several subjects within the Faculty of Arts have been located at the Trøjborg complex.
Since 1998 the former Langelandsgade Barracks have provided the setting for the aesthetic subjects, and in 1999 the language subjects moved into the Nobel Park complex's new buildings on the street corner of Randersvej and Nordre Ringgade.
In the year 2000 the Faculty of Theology moved out of the main building and into the former Orthopaedic Hospital and the IT Park was inaugurated on the street named Åbogade. During the same year the former maternity home was reopened as the Health Sciences Library under the name of the Victor Albeck Building.
A new building in the University Park with five lecture theatres was put in use in 2001. Its interior is extensively decorated by the artist Per Kirkeby.
In 2006 the Institute of Business and Technology in Herning (HIH) became part of Aarhus University; and in 2007 the Aarhus School of Business, the Danish Institute of Agricultural Sciences, the National Environmental Research Institute and the Danish University of Education did the same. In 2012 Engineering College of Aarhus became part of Aarhus University. As a result of these mergers, the University now has about 40,000 students and 10,000 staff.
After the mergers in 2006 og 2007, the university had consisted of nine main acedemic areas. As a consequence of an academic development process, the number of areas was reduced to four with effect from 1 January 2011: Aarhus Faculty of Arts, Aarhus Faculty of Science and Technology, Aarhus Faculty of Health Sciences, and School of Business Studies and Social Sciences.