Who’s first in the top 10 oldest universities in the world?

Many universities have survived the centuries and years. But which are the oldest institutions in the world that still receive students? The answer through this article on who’s first in the top 10 oldest universities in the world…


#1 – The University of Al-Quarawiyyin, Morocco (859)

Al Quaraouiyine University in Fez is considered the oldest in the world by UNESCO, the Guinness Book of Records and many historians. Still, in operation, its construction was initiated in 859 during the reign of the Idriss dynasty. It has seen the passage of great Arab philosophers such as Averroes (Ibn Rochd) and Avempace (Ibn Baja).


#2 – Al-Azhar University, Egypt (988)

Al-Azhar University was founded in Cairo in 988, long after the construction of the mosque of the same name. Over the years, the teaching offered has been enriched by courses in Arabic literature and language. Specializing in the study of Islam, al-Azhar University is today the best known Arab university in the world.


#3 – The University of Bologna (1088)

Founded in 1088, the University of Bologna is the oldest in Europe. Originally dedicated to the exegesis of Roman law, it became an independent research center in 1158. With more than 30 departments, it is today one of the biggest Italian universities.


#4 – The University of Oxford, United Kingdom (1167)

Oxford University is Britain’s oldest university. The oldest traces date back to around 1116, with the arrival of the schoolhouse Thibaud d’Etampes. But the university really started to develop from 1167, when Henry II forbade English students to attend the University of Paris.


#5 – The University of Modena and Reggio Emilia, Italy (1175)

The University of Modena and Reggio Emilia was founded in 1175, both in Modena (headquarters) and Reggio Emilia.  It has a population of 20,000 students. Among its former students are the historian Ludovico Antonio Muratori and the playwright Carlo Goldoni.


#6 – The University of Paris, France (1200)

In the 11th century, the first chapter schools were created on Île de la Cité around Notre-Dame. The schools of the cloister of Notre-Dame de Paris were attended in particular by schoolchildren from all over Europe. Among them, the Englishmen formed the most important college. The official birth of the University of Paris nevertheless dates back to January 15, 1200, when Philippe Auguste granted in a charter the “ecclesiastical fortress” to all the members of the corporation universitas magistrorum et scholarium Parisiensis. Then, in 1231, the Papal Bull ‘Parens Scientiarum’ gave the University of Paris its full importance.


#7 – The University of Cambridge, United Kingdom (1209)

Cambridge is the second oldest university in Britain. It was founded in 1209 by students and scholars fleeing Oxford after a dispute with local leaders. But the university only obtained the right to award degrees from Pope John XXII in 1318, when it was officially named Studium generale.


#8 – The University of Salamanca, Spain (1218)

The University of Salamanca is the second oldest university in Spain, after Palencia, but the latter no longer exists. King Alfonso IX of Leo granted the University of Salamanca the degree of General Studies in 1218 in order to imitate his nephew, Alfonso VIII of Castile, who had done the same in Palencia in 1208.


#9 – The University of Padua, Italy (1222)

The University of Padua was founded on 29 September 1222 by professors and students who had fled from the University of Bologna because of the infringement of academic freedoms and privileges that had been guaranteed. Initially, teaching was limited to law and theology, before being extended to medicine, philosophy, rhetoric…


#10 – The University of Naples, Italy (1224)

“Federico II” is the oldest secular and state university in the world. It was founded on 5 June 1224 by Emperor Frederick II Stupor mundi, King of Sicily. Today it has more than 85,000 students.

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