In 1852 the Jesuit Order founded a college for higher education in commerce and trade in the port city of Antwerp. This Jesuit college was one of the first business schools in Europe that offered formal university degrees. Gradually, the Sint-Ignatius Handelshogeschool (Saint-Ignatius School for Higher Education in Commerce) enlarged its activities with a Faculty of Literature and Philosophy (including Law) and a Faculty of Political and Social Sciences.
In the late 1960s the college was granted university status by the Belgian government and renamed Universitaire Faculteiten Sint-Ignatius Antwerpen (UFSIA). UFSIA offered formal degrees in applied economics, language, literature&philosophy, law, and social & political sciences. From the early 1970s UFSIA and two public institutions - « Rijksuniversitair Centrum Antwerpen » (RUCA) and « Universitaire Instelling Antwerpen » (UIA) – formed a confederation.
In 2002 UFSIA, RUCA and UIA decided to merge into the University of Antwerp. University of Antwerp is the first explicitly pluralistic university in Belgium emphasising the importance of philosophical, ethical and spiritual discourse and openness towards religion and intercultural dialogue. It offers degree programmes in social sciences, humanities, law, natural sciences and medicine to about 9000 students.
The University Centre Saint-Ignatius Antwerp (UCSIA) is an offspring of the former Jesuit institution of UFSIA. It is an independent non-profit organisation founded by the Jesuit Order and members of the former UFSIA with the aim of continuing the Jesuit tradition of involvement in university education, research and community service in the Flemish and Antwerp region. The main focus of is on problems and issues that express the Christian ideology thus serving the faith and culture and contributing to a more just society.
The articles of association of UCSIA were deposited in the summer of 2002 and UCSIA became operational by the end of that year.