The word ‘University’ originates from Latin ‘Universitas Magistrorum et scholarium’ which in simple words mean- ‘Community of teachers and scholars’. The origin of the term is thanks to University of Bologna which is considered the first University of Europe. The first universities were self-governing religious institutions called ‘Madarsas’ which originated in the Islamic world and then Europe caught up with Italy starting its first university two centuries later. The history of oldest universities is of utmost interest and importance as they have gone through periods of war and local disputes. So keeping aside the study factor and concentrating more on their historical upbringing, here is a list of the Top 10 Oldest Universities in the world that are still in existence:-
10. University of Toulouse (1229 A.D)
A consortium of French Universities, the University of Toulouse is named after one of the earliest universities established in the year 1229. As a part of Treaty of Paris, Count Raymond VII was imposed to form the University of Toulouse in 1229 to end the crusade against Albigensians. Because he was suspected of sympathising with the heretics, Raymond VII had been told to finance theological teachings. Among the founders of the University was Bishop Foulques de Toulouse under whose name the University is now known. Faculties like law and medicine were added with time. Located in the centre of the city, the University of Toulouse boasts of some of the finest residences and research laboratories for its students.
9. University of Naples (1224 A.D)
University of Naples or University of Naples Federico II is located in Naples, Italy. Founded in the year 1224 by Frederick II, the emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, the University is organized into 13 faculties. Considered one of the oldest academic institutions, University of Naples is the world’s oldest state university. Being the most ancient institution of higher education and research in the world, the University boasts of Roman Catholic theologian and philosopher Thomas Aquinas as one of its alumni.
8. University of Padua (1222 A.D)
A premier Italian University situated in the city of Padua, University of Padua was founded in the year 1222. It started out as a school of law; it was one of the earliest Universities of the world and as of now has around 65,000 students studying under it. As in context of Cambridge University, in the year 1222, a large group of students and professors left the University of Bologna in search of ‘libertas scholastica’ or ‘Liberty of academic freedom’ to form the University. The subjects that were earlier taught included law and theology but with time the curriculum expanded. By the year 1399, there were two divisions- ‘Universitas luristarum’ for civil law and canon law, and second was ‘Universitas Aristarum’ wherein subjects like astronomy, philosophy, medicine, grammar and rhetoric were given prominence.
- Cambridge University (1209 A.D)
In 1209, a dispute was caused in Oxford because of the execution of two scholars which eventually led to the foundation of Cambridge University. The royal charter was granted in 1231. Cambridge University marks 1209 as its official anniversary year. Located in Cambridge, United Kingdom, it is the second oldest university in the English world and the seventh oldest in the world. Formed after the association of Oxford leaving scholars, this University grew into being one of the most prestigious education centres of the contemporary world. Oxford and Cambridge have common features and at times are jointly referred as ‘Oxbridge’. But apart from the similarities, both the universities have ancient rivalry with each other which makes their history more enriching and riveting.
6. University of Paris (1160 A.D)
Officially recognized as a University during 1160-70, the University underwent a century of suspension during the years 1793-1896 and ceased to exist in 1970. 13 autonomous universities were created from it. Often called as the ‘Sorbonne’ or ‘La Sorbonne’ after Robert de Sorbonne, out of the 13 universities, the first 4 have a historical Sorbonne building and three have Sorbonne in their names. But the 13 successor universities consist of rich culture and tradition and are known for their rich education policies.
5. University of Salamanca (1134 A.D)
Founded in the year 1134, and given the Royal charter in 1218, University of Salamanca is Spain’s oldest institution situated in the west of Madrid. This was the very own University wherein the famous explorer Christopher Columbus made a case to obtain royal support for his renowned expedition in the late 15th century. University of Salamanca hosts around 30,000 students annually across its nine campuses and is revered all around the world for its historical significance for changing the course of history.
4. Oxford University (1096 A.D)
Teaching existed in Oxford University way back in 1096 but grew because of the ban on English students who earlier attended University of Paris put by Henry II. Because of the town execution of two scholars and St.Scholastica riot in the years 1209 and 1355 respectively, the teaching in the University was officially suspended. Its origins are dated as early as 825 by All Souls College and University College but no real documents have been provided. It was only in 1254 that Pope Innocent IV granted the institution the University Charter by papal bull.
3. University of Bologna (1088 A.D)
In standards of higher learning, awarding degrees, coining the term ‘University’, University of Bologna is the first standard University of Europe in every manner. Located in Bologna, Italy and founded in 1088, it has about 100,000 students in its 23 schools. In 1158, the University received its charter from Frederick I Barbarossa. Its branch centres to Ravenna, Forli, Cesena, and Imola and even has a centre abroad in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
2. Al-Azhar University (970 A.D)
Al-Azhar University came into existence in early 970 A.D in Cairo, Egypt, but was provided with University status in the year 1961. Known for being the first centre of Islamic learning, this original ‘Madrasa’ taught students from primary to tertiary level. From its initial days of Islamic learning, the university has transformed its curriculum and imbibed secular subjects and has gained wide recognition because of the step. During 12th century, there were loads of political instability which led to a new dynasty taking power and destroying around 100,000 precious texts. Standing uptight in the QS University rankings, Al-Azhar University has currently around 20,000 students studying under it. With programs in business, science, economics, engineering, medicine and agriculture, the university provides a mix batch of potential scholars to the occupation sector.
- University of Al-Qarawiyyin (859 A.D)
As per UNESCO and Guinness World Records, University of Al-Qarawiyyin or Al- Quaraouiyine situated in Fes, Morocco is the oldest university still operating in the world. Founded in the year 859 by Fatia al-Fihri, the educated daughter of a trader, this university was given the status of Morocco’s Modern state university system in the year 1963. Using the traditional Islamic methods, students are educated on Islamic religion, languages and laws. Most of the students here come from all corners of Morocco and Islamic west Africa.