The Radboud University Nijmegen was established in 1923 as the Katholieke Universiteit Nijmegen, or Catholic University of Nijmegen. It started with 27 professors and 189 students. The RU was founded because the Catholic community in the Netherlands wanted its own university. Catholics in the Netherlands at that time were disadvantaged and occupied almost no higher posts in government. After fierce competition with the cities of Den Bosch, Tilburg, The Hague and Maastricht, Nijmegen was chosen as the city to house the university. The subsequent Second World War hit the university hard. Many prominent members were lost, like professors Robert Regout and Titus Brandsma. They were deported to Dachau concentration camp. In 1943, rector Hermesdorf refused to cooperate with the Germans. On 22 February 1944, the university lost many buildings in a bombardment. Classes resumed at the RU in March 1945 . Student numbers rose from 3,000 in 1960 to 15,000 in 1980.
Since the 1980s the RU has constantly renewed itself. One of the world's most powerful magnets was installed at the RU. In 2004, the university officially changed its name to Radboud University Nijmegen, after Saint Radboud, a Catholic bishop who lived around 900.