Revealed: Oldest Universities in the World

Universities, or institutions of higher education, have their roots in Europe during medieval times where some of the oldest universities in the world were first founded. The term “university” comes from the word “universitas magistrorum et scholarium” which translates to “community of teachers and scholars.” In most places around the world, the term “university” is granted to institutions by a government agency, but in some places like the United States, there is no national standard for its definition.

With its beginnings, the philosophy behind a university is the notion of academic freedom. By the 18th century, universities were publishing research journals. Through the 19th century, religion briefly entered institutions and then became less focused on religion as science became more dominant. As time has progressed, universities have become more accessible to the masses, and today, online institutions like University of the People are helping to make education even more democratic and available to everyone.

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University of Bologna

University of Bologna

The ‘Nourishing Mother of the Studies’ according to its Latin motto, the University of Bologna was founded in 1088 and, having never been out of operation, holds the title of the oldest university in the world. Until relatively modern times, the university only taught doctorate studies, but today it has a diverse range of programs at all levels.

Located in Bologna, Italy, it has an enrolment of around 87,760 students, of which 6,400 are international students. Famous alumni include three popes, numerous businessmen and several Italian politicians. See how the University of Bologna ranks in the QS World University Rankings®

University of Salamanca

University of Salamanca

Sorbonne University

Established between 1160 and 1250 in the French capital, the University of Paris, often known as ‘la Sorbonne’, is known to have been one of the first established universities in Europe, although it was suspended from operating between 1793 and 1896, following the French Revolution.

Today, the University of Paris is scattered throughout the city, having been divided into 13 autonomous institutions in 1970, all of which maintain the high reputation of the original university. Of these 13, the highest-ranked are Sorbonne University (a new merger of Paris-Sorbonne University and Pierre and Marie Curie University, ranked 83 rd in the world) and Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne (joint 287 th ).

1. University of Al Quaraouiyine

About: The University of Al Quaraouiyine is the oldest existing, continually operating and the first degree-awarding educational institution in the world according to UNESCO and Guinness World Records. The institution was incorporated into Morocco’s modern state university system in 1963. Education at Al Quaraouiyine University concentrates on the Islamic religious and legal sciences with a heavy emphasis on, and particular strengths in Classical Arabic grammar/linguistics and Maliki law. Teaching is delivered with students seated in a semi-circle around a sheikh, who prompts them to read sections of a text, asks them questions, and explains difficult points. The university is open to both men and women.

The University was founded with an associated madrasa, a specific type of religious school or college for the study of the Islamic religion, by Fatima al-Fihri, the daughter of a wealthy merchant. Fatima vowed to spend her inheritance on the construction of a mosque suitable for her community.