The founding motto of the Freie Universitat Berlin — "Truth, Justice, Freedom"— has shaped its history since 1948. With 39,200 students in 2003 (without medicine) in approximately 100 different programs of study the FU Berlin is the largest university in Germany's capital, and one of the largest in the nation. Owing to its internationally recognized achievements in both teaching and research, the FU exerts a strong attraction on students from Germany and beyond. The Freie Universitat ranks among the top 20 universities in Germany in the external funding balance sheet of the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (German Research Council). The university's research activities in the Humanities and in the Social and Natural Sciences are distinguished by their international orientation, as well as by the interdisciplinary and collaborative character of work carried out by a number of research networks: the FU Berlin's twelve Collaborative Research Centers, eight Research Training Centers, six DFG Research Units and the participation in a DFG Research Center are ample evidence of this.
Today, about 415 professors (without medicine) are engaged in teaching and in research at the Freie Universitat. In 2004 17,3 percent of professorships are occupied by women. Altogether, the Freie Universitat employs more than 4,000 individuals, making it one of the region's largest employers.
The central campus, including the Henry Ford Building and the "Rost-und Silberlaube", is located in Dahlem, a particularly green section of the city, and one with a distinguished tradition of scholarly achievement. Most of the university's institutes in the Humanities and in the Social and Natural Sciences and in Medicine, as well a the Central University Administration, are located on the Dahlem campus. Veterinary Medicine is located for the most part on its own little campus in Düppel. The Campus Benjamin Franklin of the Charite — University Medicine Berlin, with several medical institutes in Steglitz, constitutes an additional "mini-campus", as do the Earth and Communication Sciences, located in Lankwitz.
A special attraction for visitors from all over the world is the Botanic Garden and the Botanical Museum of the FU. More than 22,000 different kinds of plants are grown on the 43 hectare site, so that the Botanic Garden is one of the largest in the world in terms of species numbers. The Botanic Garden and the associated museum are an important element of the Berlin-Brandenburg science region, and they play an important role in international biodiversity research. Horticultural highlights include the tropical giant water lily Victoria amazonica, and the scientific treasures include the herbarium, a collection of dried specimens with an international reputation. The Botanic Garden brings together in a unique fashion the three elements of research, teaching and recreation, attracting some 400,000 visitors and visiting scientists from all over the world every year.
The Freie Universitat is housed in approximately 230 buildings — many of them formerly privately-owned villas — scattered throughout several sections of southwest Berlin. Since the beginning of the 1990s, a growing number of facilities have been relocated to FU-owned buildings, thereby reducing reliance on rented villas.
Dahlem seems predestined as a location for the promotion of interdisciplinary research and development, and with various Max Planck Institutes in the direct vicinity, as well as the Zuse Institute Berlin (ZIB) working in the field of applied mathematics and computer science, and the Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing, a lively exchange is always maintained.
The Library System of the FU Berlin is the largest among all German universities. The FU's library holdings amount in all to around 8 million volumes and 20,000 periodical subscriptions.