The World’s Oldest Universities

Universities have existed for thousands of years and became what they are today during the Renaissance. Today there are thousands of universities all over the world that offer a wide range of courses. But did you know that they are the oldest universities? Here are ten of the oldest universities in the world.

The world’s oldest universities

Al-Karaouine in Fez – Morocco (859)

This university is classified by both the Guinness World Records and Unesco as the oldest university in the world still open to students. Founded in 859, it serves as a university but also as a mosque in the city of Fez in Morocco. Today this university has several faculties spread over different cities Fez, Agadir, Tetouan and Marrakech where it is taught mainly studies on religion, literature, law and also a teaching of languages but less important than the previous courses.

Famous person who studied in this university: Ali Squalli Houssaini

Al Azhar Cairo – Egypt (972)

This time, it’s in Egypt where we can find the second oldest university in the world. Just like its predecessor, it is a university attached to a mosque. There, the Koran and the Islamic laws were taught in detail. Nowadays, the teaching is focused on Arabic literature and the teaching of Islam. It is open to students from all over the world who wish to learn more about the courses offered.

Famous person who studied in this university: Abdurrahman Wahid

Nizamiyya Baghdad – Iraq (1065)

This university is considered to be the largest medieval university. It is a madrasa, that is to say that it is a Muslim theological university, where different courses are taught on the study of religion.

Famous person who studied in this university: Ibn Asakir

University of Bologna – Italy (1088)

The University of Bologna is also often called the “Mother of all studies” and it’s the oldest university in europe. It is one of the most prestigious universities today, ranking in the top 200 in the world. You can learn any kind of education from science, agriculture, foreign languages etc… It was in this university that the first woman in the world graduated from university and became a teacher.

Famous person who studied in this university: Nicolas Copernic

Oxford – United Kingdom (1096)

This university is the oldest in the United Kingdom and one of the leading universities in the world. As well as the university of Bologna, you can learn any kind of education like languages and literature, medical sciences, researching the past, art & music, etc… Oxford is famous for research excellence and innovation.

Famous person who studied in this university: Bill Clinton

La Sorbonne Paris – France (1200)

The Sorbonne was created in 1200, then suppressed in 1793 and recreated in 1896 with the merger of several universities. This faculty is specialized in art, literature and languages even if it is possible to study other subjects there. This university is currently ranked 39th on the list of the best universities in the world. The Sorbonne University is now divided into several campuses according to the fields of study chosen.

Famous person who studied in this university: Christiane Taubira

Cambridge – United Kingdom (1209)

When it was founded, this university in England was granted the status of a royal charter by King Henry III. Cambridge is the second oldest university in the anglophone world. Like all universities today, you can pretty much do anything you want, however Cambridge is very well known for its courses on Arts and Humanities and Biological and Physical Sciences.

Famous person who studied in this university: Stephen Hawking

University of Salamanca – Spain (1218)

Although it is the fifth oldest in Europe, it was the first one to obtain the title of university. It was built because the king wanted the people to have access to a university without having to travel across the country. It was here that Christopher Columbus presented his plan for his expedition to Asia, spoiler alert, he arrived in America. This university offers highly regarded international courses open to students from all over the world.

Famous person who studied in this university: Adolfo Suárez

University of Padova – Italy (1222)

It is the second oldest university in Italy, built by students and professors fleeing the University of Bologna. Initially limited to law and theology, it soon spread to medicine and astrology for example. It was here that the famous Galileo was a professor of mathematics. It is known for its high quality of education and research.

Famous person who studied in this university: William Harvey

University of Naples Federico II Naples – Italy (1224)

It is the third oldest university in Italy and yet it is the first secular and public university in the world. It was and still is a very famous university and has many educational records such as the creation of the first chair of economics in the world. The university allows students to study in three divisions: science and technology, humanities and social sciences, and life sciences. Each offers several tracks within a division.

Famous person who studied in this university: Gabriella Ambrosio

The oldest university in North America

The oldest university in the United States and one of the top 5 most prestigious in the world is Harvard. Founded in 1636, it is well known for its reputation and history. Many people who have gone through Harvard have received prestigious awards or have great wealth.

Famous person who studied in this university: Georges W. Bush

The oldest university in South America

The University of San Marcos in Peru was the first to open its doors in 1551 in South America. It is a public school in the city of Lima and is considered to have the most important and recognized education in the country.

Famous person who studied in this university: Mario Vargas Llosa

The oldest university in Asia

The oldest university in Asia is the University of Santo Tomas in Manila in the Philippines built in 1611 due to the colonization of the Spanish in the country. It has long been the oldest Catholic university on a single campus. It is also the only university in the world to have been visited by three popes.

Famous person who studied in this university: Sergio Osmeña

The world’s oldest universities – resume

As you can see, the first universities were created in the Mediterranean region or in the north of Europe for the United Kingdom, mainly under religious influence. All the universities have evolved through time to become, for some of them, the most prestigious in the world. 

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