VU is one of two large, publicly funded research universities in the city, the other being the University of Amsterdam (UvA).
The literal translation of the Dutch name Vrije Universiteit is “Free [as in liberated] University”. Both within and outside the University, the institution is commonly referred to as “the VU” (pronounced somewhat like ‘vew’ as in ‘new’). In English, therefore, the university uses the name “VU University”.
Though founded as a private, faith-based institution, VU has received government funding on a parity basis with public universities since 1970. Over the past decades, VU has transformed from a small, Protestant institution into a broad, research-intensive university attended by a wide variety of students of diverse backgrounds.
The university is located on a compact urban campus in the southern Buitenveldert neighbourhood of Amsterdam and adjacent to the modern Zuidas business district.
In 2012, VU had about 24,500 registered students, most of whom were full-time students. Measured in FTE, the university had 2,250 faculty members and researchers, who were supported by 1,500 administrative, clerical and technical employees. The university’s annual endowment for 2013 is around € 450 million. About three quarters of this endowment is government funding, the remainder is made up of tuition fees, research grants, and private funding.
The emblem of the university is the griffin. The position of its wings symbolizes the freedom in the university’s name: freedom from both state and church.