Oldest Universities In The World

Interesting Fact: There is a library bell at Oxford University that has not stopped ringing for more than 175 years.

Can you believe that the origin of universities will trace back to the early fifth century, and many of these universities are functioning even today? There are universities like the University of Bologna, which was established in1088-1190 and holds its head high even today. How cool would it be to be a part of such a university that offers much more than education but also is an epicenter of culture, historical lineage, and one that stood the test of time? So, today let us cover something really fascinating; let’s look at the oldest universities around the world and their current ranking.

Note: This is not a list of the oldest universities in order of establishment, but instead an article on the oldest universities, which also have a high international ranking according to the QS University ranking.

Al-Qarawinyyin is considered to be the oldest university in the world; this university was founded in 859 CE, over 1162 years old, and is located in Fez, Morocco. Al-Qarawinyyin was started as a madrasa, a school primarily for the studies of the Islamic religion. Many people do not consider it a university as its history is of a religious institution and it did not officially become a university until 1965. However, the UNESCO and Guinness world records consider Al-Qarawiyyin as the world’s oldest existing continuously operating institute of higher education.

The oldest university in Asia is the University of Santo Tomas, located in the Philippines. This university was established in the year 1611, and the oldest US university is Harvard University, Massachusetts, which was established in 1636.

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Most of the oldest universities are located in Europe, two in the UK, and one university in Africa. When we look back at history, we will find that many of the oldest universities have split into different colleges or have modernised beyond all recognition. Almost all of the universities were once religious institutions or part of a religious institution in their respective country. The buildings were part of churches, cathedrals, or mosques once. With time religious studies took the back seat in these universities, and these universities expanded their curriculum to every other field of study.

Here is a list of the oldest universities in the world, which also has a high international ranking according to the QS University ranking and their year of establishment :

University Established In Location
University of Bologna 1088 Italy
University of Oxford 1096-1167 United Kingdom
University of Salamanca 1134 Spain
University of Paris 1160-1250 France
University of Cambridge 1209 United Kingdom
University of Padua 1222 Italy
University of Naples Federico II 1224 (1258) Italy
University of Siena 1240 Italy
University of Coimbra 1290 Portugal
University of Perugia 1293 Italy
Charles University 1308 Czechia

University of Bologna

The University of Bologna was founded by an organised guild of students in 1088, and it is presently one of the most popular universities in Europe. For a very long time, the university only taught doctorate studies, but now the university has a diverse range of programs at all levels. The university is historically notable for the teaching of canon and civil law and currently offers 232-degree programs. The university has an enrolment of 87,760 students, of which 6,400 students are international students. The university is ranked 160th in the QS world university ranking 2021.

University of Oxford

The University of Oxford is the oldest university in England and the second oldest university in the world in constant operation. The University of Oxford has one of the best alumni associations, including 28 UK prime ministers, 20 Archbishops of Canterbury, 27 Nobel laureates, and 50 Nobel prize winners. The evidence suggests that the university came into operation in early 1096. Presently the university comprises 39 autonomous colleges affiliated with the university, and nearly 24,300 students are pursuing their education at the university, out of which 43% are international students.

University of Salamanca

The University of Salamanca is the oldest university in Spain and the third oldest operational university in the world. This university was founded in 1134 and was given the royal charter by King Alfonso IX in 1218. Currently, there are 26 faculty members who are part of this university, and it offers 81 courses at UG and PG levels. The University of Salamanca is ranked between 601-650 on the QS ranking and presently caters to 26000 students across the nine campuses. The university is well known for research courses, social science, legal science, and technical fields.

University of Paris

The University of Paris is the second oldest university in Europe, established between the 1160 and1250 University of Paris is also known as La Sorbonne. Presently there are 13 autonomous universities affiliated with the University of Paris and have a total of 26 departments which are divided into three areas of study.

If the survival journey of the universities has inspired you and if you wish to be part of any of these universities that stood the test of time, be in touch with us.

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