Groundbreaking for the new Polytechnikum took place on and lectures started during the Franco-Prussian War on 10 October 1870 with 223 students and 32 teachers.
The other two lines of funding were graduate schools, where the Aachen Institute for Advanced Study in Computational Engineering Science received funding and so-called "clusters of excellence", where RWTH Aachen managed to win funding for the three clusters: Ultra High-Speed Mobile Information and Communication (UMIC), Integrative Production Technology for High-wage Countries and Tailor-Made Fuels from Biomass (TMFB).
RWTH Aachen University's 620-acre (250 ha) campus is located in the north-western part of the city Aachen.
The unclear position of the new Prussian polytechnika (which officially were not universities) affected the first years.
Polytechnics lacked prestige in society and the number of students decreased.
The newly founded faculties in particular began attracting new students, and the number of students almost doubled twice from 1970 (10,000) to 1980 (more than 25,000) and from 1980 to 1990 (more than 37,000).