Leiden University was founded in 1575, not only in the midst of great political turmoil, but also in a time that experimented intensely with new forms of higher education. In due course Leiden was to choose an eclectic attitude, remaining loyal on the one hand to late medieval, scholastic traditions, but on the other hand emancipating the arts faculty in agreement with humanist ideas. The thesis this article wants to examine is that the curriculum of Leiden University during the first 75 years of its existence was characterised by a high level of pre-university, Latin schooling, and, linked up with this, a differentiation and specialisation of the arts faculty. These developments, however, had social rather than scientific goals. The arts courses did not prepare the way for a well-defined profession, but served as an initiation into a cultural élite.