The University of Orlais in Val Royeaux is one of the oldest universities in Thedas. It is a major center of learning that attracts young nobles from all over Thedas as it provides some of the best education one can buy. The university is a relatively progressive institution whose liberal-minded professors have clashed with religious conservatives over the content of classes. In theory, commoners, including elves, are allowed to attend if sponsored by a noble patron.
The university was founded by one of the former rulers of Orlais. For many ages, it was just a way to get rid of unpromising children, with the Chantry snapping up all of the greatest minds. Under political and religious pressures, the school could only study what none of the former had problems with, thus producing little more than harsh critiques of other nations and occasional mathematical findings. This changed when newly crowned Empress Celene announced that she would study at the university to learn from the greatest minds of the nation. In truth, her duties meant that she was only able to visit with the professors, but thanks to Celene's influence, the university became one of the most respected learning institutions in all of Thedas. With the empress' public support, it soon became fashionable for even the eldest children of noble families to study at the University of Orlais, both for scholarly pursuits and as a field of play in the Grand Game. The heightened prestige of the university attracted students not only from Orlais, but all across Thedas, including Nevarra, the Free Marches, and the Tevinter Imperium.
Fearing that religious and political pressure might hinder the university's capacity for innovation and research, Empress Celene has made a concerted effort to ensure that the University is free of any such constraining interests. When the Chantry objected to the university's plan to study changes to the Chant of Light over the ages, Celene declared that as long as the research dealt only in history, it was the domain of mortals and not the Maker, and that inquiries into the means by which the Chant was perfected could lead to better understanding of the Chant. This support, along with a substantial donation to the Chantry, waylaid any further concerns. Celene's efforts to transform the university into a respected institution is regarded by some as the most vehemently opposed project in Orlesian history, successful only because of her ability to win the support of even the most bitter rivals An ardent patron of the arts, she hoped the university would be her legacy.
In recent years, Celene has been strongly encouraging the university to overlook the lack of status and rank for individuals who show prodigious talent or potential which could help further the interests and prestige of the Orlesian Empire, provided a noble sponsors them. Most recently, this has even extended to Celene personally interceding in support of an elven math prodigy, Lennan, who was sponsored by Comtesse Helene. Elves are now allowed into the university, although it is common for their work to go unacknowledged and uncredited. In addition to humans and elves, the University of Orlais is also home to several dwarven academics.
The university offers classes on nature, magic, history, mathematics, and the arts that are respected throughout the world. Home to some of the best scholars in Thedas, it also offers lectures from visiting scholars such as renowned Chantry scholar Ferdinand Genitivi and Mother Clothilde. Although it is an infamously liberal institution, at least one brilliant scholar has been thrown out for radical and revolutionary political ideas.
The grounds of the university include a great Chantry Courtyard, as well as the Great Library, one of the largest libraries in the world and rivalled in Orlais only by those at the Imperial Palace and the Winter Palace in Halamshiral. The university and library's collections include a detailed series of woodcuts on the anatomy of various livestock and other creatures (such as nugs) by Ambrose Dumont, now used as a primary reference by visiting naturalists, a wide variety of texts containing possible references to the fortress of Skyhold in the Frostback Mountains, and the personal library of Comte Brevin de Chalons, donated upon his death.
Dragon Age: The Masked Empire
Empress Celene travels to the university where she meets with the Chancellor to discuss the institution's lack of non noble-blooded students despite her decree opening it to commoners with noble patronage. She convinces the Chancellor to reconsider the application of Lennan, an elven math prodigy sponsored by Comtesse Helene. She then retires to the university's chantry to meet with Sister Nightingale, the representative of Divine Justinia V.The move to allow elves into the University is controversial. In response, several professors are asked to write papers about elves. One asserts that they are similar to rabbits and therefore not to be trusted. Another states that interracial relationships are an affront to the Maker.
Dragon Age: The Last Court
Dragon Age: Inquisition
In the wake of the disaster at the Temple of Sacred Ashes, the University of Orlais establishes a good working relationship with the newly reformed Inquisition, offering resources and researchers in exchange for political and military protection.Gaspard de Chalons becomes Emperor:
Kenric mentions that Emperor Gaspard has surprisingly made no demands of the University and ostensibly intends to continue Celene's policy of non-involvement and support.
Known faculty and students
- Professor Bram Kenric – specialized in early Chantry history
- Cedric Marquette – adjunct scholar; specializes in archaeology and the recovery of historical artifacts
- Professor Doucy
- Professor Frederic of Serault – Professor of Draconology
- Lord Ghippin – university Archivist
- Professor Cheval Laurant
- Chancellor Henri Morrac
- Chancellor Jurgen Haulis – current university Chancellor (9:41)
- Karsten Groeke – Philosopher-poet
- Senallen Tavernier – author of A Treaty on the Pagan and Heretical Customs of the Elven
- Felix Alexius – studied mathematics at the university after his magical talents proved to be negligible
- Professor Auffret – a naturalist studying at the university
- Colette – Professor Kenric's research assistant
- Lennan – a math prodigy; first elf allowed to attend the university
- Jace Turbot
- Empress Celene Valmont I – publicly declared her intent to study at the university, though only met with a few professors due to her obligations as empress
The University of Orlais publishes a variety of scholary works, including:
- A Study of the Southern Draconids by Frederic of Serault
- A Treaty on the Pagan and Heretical Customs of the Elven by Senallen Tavernier and commissioned by Empress Celene
- The Lion and the Bull: Racial Bias and Oversimplification of Qunari Societal Roles in the Orlesian Court, author unknown
- Orlesian Musical Tradition by Sister Rosette
- A New Perspective on the Exalted March by anonymous
- By decree of Divine Renata I, any Chantry art in Orlais depicting elves was destroyed save a single mural of Shartan. A reproduction of this mural is depicted at the university, albeit with Shartan's ears cropped. This was the Divine's sole concession.
- Brother Ferdinand Genitivi lectured at the university on the conflict between fact and belief.
- The University of Orlais is one of the few institutions of higher learning mentioned in the series that is not a Circle of Magi.
- The University's chantry is the tallest building in the university, nicknamed the "bosom of Andraste" by students because of its twin bronze domes.