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The Oldest Universities in the World

  • Posted by Amanda
  • November 01, 2016
The Oldest Universities in the World

We live in a world where universities seem to keep appearing overnight. As students, we are drawn towards what’s new and exciting, simply because it is a new experience. But for those who are more old-fashioned at heart, there are a few universities in the world that date back hundreds of years – while still keeping onto their fresh, original beauty.

Karaouin: A Long History of Religion

What is known today as the Karaouin University of Fez was originally built as a mosque, by a wealthy family. After a successful merchant named Mohamed Ben Abdullah Al Fihri had given his last breath, his two daughters had inherited his grand fortune and moved to Fez. The mosque was built in the year 859 from that wealth by one of his daughters, Fatima, making it even older that the Azhar University of Egypt (970) and even Oxford (1096), which is known as the oldest English-speaking University, according to AllTopReviews.

The Guinness Book of World Record recognizes Karaouin University as the oldest university in the world that has been granting degrees. Even more, UNESCO considers Al Karaouin to have been a university from the moment it has been founded. That is because, even though the place was originally built as a place of worship, it started to develop other functions as well. It was a place where people could study the Quran, Arabic grammar, mathematics, science, legislation, medicine – even political and astronomical sciences. The mosque, later on, became surrounded by various places of business, lodging, and knowledge, making it the first university in the world to create an infrastructure.

Knowledge in Europe

While the University of Karaouin wins the title of the world’s oldest university, the University of Bologna has also received that ranking of the oldest university in Europe. Also known as the “Nourishing Mother of Studies,” the University of Bologna in Italy has been continuously teaching students ever since 1088. Up until not long ago, the university has been exclusively giving doctorate degrees, but now it offers all kinds of study programs, from bachelor to master’s and doctorate. Around 85,000 students have enrolled at this university, and 30,000 of them are postgraduates. It is definitely one of the most popular universities because, in the World University Ranking, the University of Bologna ranks 182nd. And that is a lot, considering that there are thousands of universities around nowadays.

As it is said on the review page, the second oldest university in Europe, while it may be nowhere near the oldest universities of the world, it is still known as the oldest university directed towards English-speakers. The University of Oxford in the United Kingdom has an alumni list that includes 47 Nobel Prize Winners, 27 Nobel laureates, 27 UK Prime Ministers, 20 Archbishops of Canterbury, 12 saints, and one Stephen Hawking. This University is as old as it is respected, and while the founding date may be vague, it is still estimated to have been built around 1096 – or even earlier. Being the 5th highest ranked university in the world, it has been raising important figures for almost a millennium.

Old But Gold in the U.S.

While Harvard University isn’t part of the oldest institutions of the world, it is definitely the oldest university in the US. Founded in Massachusetts in the year 1636, Harvard University was originally known as the New College. The reason why the name later changed into Harvard was to honor its first benefactor, named John Harvard. In his will, he had given this university half of his monetary estate, plus his entire library made out of 320-volume scholarly books. Harvard ranks 2nd in the World University Ranking, making it the first choice for students who wish to learn medicine and life sciences. The second oldest university in the United States is the College of William and Mary, named after the royal monarchs who had given their royal charter to this college. While it may not be the oldest college in the world, it is definitely the oldest college in North America.

While the University of Karaouin, Morocco, is the oldest structure meant for teaching in our history, each of these institutions is important and renowned. Whether it is the oldest in a region or the oldest English-speaking one, each of these has set the path for a certain kind of education.

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