The word ‘university’ is derived from the Latin word universitas magistrorum et scholarium, which approximately means “community of teachers and scholars”. The term was coined by the Italian University of Bologna, which, with a traditional founding date of 1088, is considered to be the first university.
The following is the list of ten oldest universities in the world that shows their brief histories:
University of Bologna, Italy
University of Bologna, the oldest university in the world, was founded as far back as 1088. The Word ‘University’ was actually derived from its foundation. It received, in 1158, from Emperor Frederick I Barbarossa, the “Authentica habita”, which settled the rules, rights and privileges of universities. It is located in Italy with about 100,000 students in its 23 schools.
University of Paris, France
The exact date of establishment of the University of Paris is unknown but it is believed that it was established sometime between 1150 and 1170. The university was suspended for a Century (between 1793 and 1896) and then ceased to exist in 1770 although 13 autonomous universities were created from it (The University of Paris 1-XIII).
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University of Oxford, England
It is believed that the University of Oxford is the oldest university in the English speaking world and the teaching existed at Oxford in some form in 1096 and developed rapidly from 1167 but there are other claims that the University was in existence in the mid-800’s. The University of Oxford is one of the highest ranked and oldest universities in the world, catering to a student community of around 22,000 and operating the largest university press in the world.
University of Salamanca, Spain
The University of Salamanca was believed to have been founded in 1134 and it received its royal charter of foundation as “Estudio General” in 1218, and is the third oldest university in continuous operation in Europe. It was the first European university to receive the title of “University” as such, which was granted by the King of Castile and León, Alfonso X, and the Pope in 1254.
University of Cambridge, England
The University of Cambridge in England was established in 1209 after a dispute due to political conflicts in the University of Oxford led to the execution of two scholars. The university was granted a royal charter in 1231. Through one of Cambridge University’s alumni, John Harvard, it inspired the establishment of Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States with the first college in the United States, Harvard University.
University of Padua, Italy
The University of Padua was initially founded as a school of law in 1222 by a group of professors and scholars from the University of Bologna. It’s curricular quickly expanded and was eventually divided into three distinct universities. In 1545, the Università di Padova established the Botanical Garden of Padova, now one of the oldest academic gardens in the world. It also runs nine museums.
University of Naples Federico II, Italy
The University of Naples Federico II is also located in Italy. It was founded in 1224 and it is one of the first public university in the world named after its founder Federeco II the emperor of the Italy Roman Empire. The famous philosopher “Thomas Aquinas” was a graduate of the university of Naples Federico. The university moved to Salerno in 1253, and its return to Naples in 1258 is sometimes considered as a refoundation.
University of Siena, Italy
The University of Siena (Originally called Studium Senese), Italy was founded in 1240 by Commune of Siena and is located in Siena, Tuscany. It closed temporarily in 1808–1815 when Napoleonic forces occupied Tuscany. On November 7, 2015 the University celebrated its 775th anniversary.
Al-Azhar University, Egypt
This university, located in Egypt, is the world’s oldest surviving degree-granting institute. Founded in 970-972, this university serves as a center for Arabic literature and Sunni Islamic learning. Al-Azhar university concentrates upon a religious syllabus, which pays special attention to the Quranic sciences and traditions of the Prophet Muhammad on the one hand, while also teaching all modern fields of science.
University of Valladolid, Spain
The University of Valladolid is the 10th oldest university in the world having been established in 1241 in Valladolid Castile-Leon, Spain. The university still functions today and has over 31000 students and 2000 teachers. One hypothesis is that its foundation is the result of the transfer of Palencia General Survey between 1208 and 1241 by Alfonso VIII, king of Castile, and Bishop Tello Téllez de Meneses.
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