Over the centuries, many of the world’s oldest universities have disbanded, split into autonomous colleges or become modernized beyond all recognition. The word university comes from the Latin word universities magisterium et scholarium, which means “community of teachers and scholars”. Here is a list of Top 10 Oldest Universities In the World. Some of them are still operating; others are included to celebrate their rich history.
1. Nalanda University (India)
Top 10 Oldest Universities In the World
Nalanda University flourished from 600 BC to 500 AD, in the kingdom of Gandhar. 68 subjects were taught at this university and the minimum entry age, ancient texts show, was 16. At one stage, it had 10,500 students including those from Babylon, Greece, Syria, and China. Experienced masters taught the Vedas, languages, grammar, philosophy, medicine, surgery, archery, politics, warfare, astronomy, accounts, commerce, documentation, music, dance and other performing arts, futurology, the occult and mystical sciences, complex mathematical calculations. The panel of masters at the university included legendary scholars like Kautilya, Panini, Jivak and Vishnu Sharma. Thus, the concept of a full-fledged university was developed in India.
2. University of Al-Karaouine (Morocco)
The second oldest, and still operating university of the world. It was founded by Fatima al-Fihri, a woman. In the beginning, it only has natural science as its offering. It wasn’t until 1957 that other with mainstream science was added to the portfolio. This was built as a mosque to begin with and slowly expanded to become the largest in Africa. The university has statues as old as a university itself.
3. Al-Azhar University (Egypt)
Third oldest institute of world.which is still in operation! It started as the center for studying Arabic literature, Sunni Islamic learning and religious focus. Today it teaches Quranic sciences and traditions along with learnings from Prophet Muhammad on one hand and all modern fields of science on other. The library of Al-Azhar is considered treasure for the Islamic world and efforts are on to preserve them online. The conversion of seven Million pages of a library into the online material is proving to be a mammoth task for the university. It was established by the Fatimid empire era of Egypt. This dynasty is the linage of Prophet Muhammad’s daughter Fatimah and His son-in-Law, Ali. The university is named after Fatimah Al-Zahara.
4. Al Nizamiyya Of Baghdad (Iran)
Founded by Khwaja Nizam al-Mulk in the early eleventh century, this was a part of series of universities started by al-Mulk. Al Nizamiyya remains the most successful and popular one. These universities combined to create ‘Largest University of Medieval world’. It saw the then poets, knowledgeable learned men coming in to share and teach. Al-Ghazali was a professor at this place. The education offered was for free. The Sack of Baghdad in 1258 saw the end of the university. The city was attacked and the place was destroyed. Persian poet Sa’di was among the few people who witnessed this destruction. Nonetheless, Al-Nizamiyya did manage to eclipse all other institutes in the surrounding regions by its sheer brilliance.
5. University of Bologna (Italy)
The University of Bologna in Italy is generally recognized as the oldest university in the Western world, and it boasts many famous alumni, including the poet Dante Alighieri. Although Frederick I granted the university a royal charter in 1158, researchers have traced the origins of the institution to the year 1088. Historically, students at Bologna studied civil and canon law, with more courses of the study, added in the modern era.
Today, the University of Bologna is divided into 23 schools. Out of the roughly 100,000-strong student body, 5,000 hail from outside Italy, while an additional 2,000 study at the university every year as part of its exchange programs. According to 2010 QS World University Rankings, Bologna was ranked 32nd in the world for law and 176th overall.
6. University of Paris (France)
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. As history goes, the University of Paris 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.
7. University of Oxford (England)
The University of Oxford has no known foundation date, and despite claims that it was founded in 825, the only evidence seen points to teaching at Oxford as far back as 1096. Oxford truly blossomed in 1167 when English students returned home from the University of Paris, study there having been banned by King Henry II. Today Oxford is home to over 20,000 students and lauded as one of the greatest universities in the world.
8. University of Montpelier (France)
The university is said to be older than the stated date, the reason is that there was an order by Pope Nicholas IV to combine all old universities into one. Thus, some parts of this center of knowledge could be older. The university was shut down during French Revolution in 1793. It was reinstated in 1810 but only faculties of Science and letter survived. To keep up with changing time, the university was ‘re-founded ‘in 1969 with a major focus on science and Technology. Today the Montpelier University exists in the form of University of Montpellier1, University of Montpellier 2 and Paul Valéry University.
9. University of Cambridge (England)
The Other View
Founded by scholars leaving Oxford after a dispute caused by the execution of two scholars in 1209, and the royal charter was granted in 1231. The university takes 1209 as its official anniversary.
The University of Cambridge is a public research university located in Cambridge, United Kingdom. It is the second-oldest university in the English-speaking world (after the University of Oxford), and the seventh-oldest in the world. In post-nominals, the university’s name is abbreviated as Cantab, a shortened form of Cantabrigiensis (an adjective derived from Cantabrigia, the Latinised form of Cambridge).
The university grew out of an association of Cambridge scholars that was formed in 1209, early records suggest, by scholars leaving Oxford after a dispute with townsfolk. The two “ancient universities” have many common features and are often jointly referred to as Oxbridge. In addition to cultural and practical associations as a historic part of British society, they have a long history of rivalry with each other.
10. University of Salamanca (Spain)
The university was founded in 1218 by King Alphonso IX of Leon. It was given the formal title of “university” by King Alphonso X in 1254, which was later confirmed by the Papal Bull of Alexander IV in 1255. While having only 500 students at the end of the 14th century, today the University of Salamanca is known for its study of the humanities and is home to over 28,000 students and 2,400 members of staff.
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