Henry V had thought of establishing a University, but it was founded in 1432 by Henry VI of England, who was then master of Paris and of a large part of France. The job of bringing it into being was charged to the Duke of Bedford. In the beginning it included only faculties of canon and civil law. To these were added, in 1437, a faculty of theology and a faculty of arts, and, in 1438, a faculty of medicine.
The English having been repulsed from Paris, Henry VI's purpose was to give the students the same advantages they would have found in Paris, and thus prevent their going to the university of the capital.
On the petition of the Estates of Normandy, Pope Eugenius IV granted a Bull of erection to the university (he was apparently dissatified with the Sorbonne) and appointed the Bishop of Bayeux as chancellor (30 May, 1437). All those admitted to degrees were required to take an oath of fidelity to the Roman Pontiff, and to pledge themselves never to attempt anything against the interests of the church.
The ceremony of inauguration took place on 18. October 1439, the first rector being an Englishman, Michael of Tregury, afterwards Archbishop of Dublin.
From the beginning the University of Paris opposed very strongly the founding of a university at Caen. In 1433 protests were sent to the chancellor of the kingdom and to the Parlement of Paris. The same year the delegates of the university to the council of Basle were instructed to ask for the suppression of the university at Caen. Later a petition was also sent to Eugenius IV. Notwithstanding this opposition, the university of Caen developed. In 1445 Henry VI declared it the only university in France enjoying the royal privileges.
When Caen was conquered by the French in 1450, King Charles VII allowed the university to continue as before. It was, however, a mere toleration until the king should reach a final decision. This was given on 30 October, 1452, when Charles VII created anew the university of Caen and gave it a new charter, ignoring altogether its former charter and privileges, and granting the same privileges enjoyed by French universities.
Like the other universities in France, the University of Caen ceased to exist in 1791 at the time of the French Revolution. The present university, founded in 1894, has fifty instructors and 750 students.
In 1957, a new campus was completed, north of the chateau