Top 10 Oldest Universities Around the World

The word university is derived from the Latin universitas magistrorum et scholarium, roughly meaning “community of teachers and scholars”. The term was coined by the Italian University of Bologna, which, with a traditional founding date of 1088, is considered the first university. The following list of ten oldest universities in the world shows, through their brief histories and trend.

Here is a list of the Top 10 oldest universities in the world which are in continuous operation.

10. University of Valladolid (Valladolid, Spain, Founded in 1241)

10 oldest universities
University of Valladolid, Salamanca, Spain and Canary Islands

The University of Valladolid is a public university in the city of Valladolid, province of Valladolid, in the autonomous region of Castile-Leon, Spain. The university currently has 31,780 undergraduate students and more than 2,000 teachers.

At 10th position among the oldest universities in the world, The University of Valladolid (UVa) is a Spanish public university founded in 1241 as removal of studies at the University of Palencia, founded by Alfonso VIII of Castile, between 1208 and 1212. He is currently responsible for teaching higher education in seven campuses distributed through four cities of Castile and Leon: Valladolid, Palencia, Soria and Segovia.

One hypothesis is that its foundation is the result of the transfer of Palencia General Survey between 1208 and 1241 by Alfonso VIII, king of Castile, and Bishop Tello Téllez de Meneses.

9. University of Siena (Siena, Italy, Founded in 1240)

10 oldest universities
University of Siena in Arezzo, Italy

The University of Siena in Siena, Tuscany is one of the oldest universities and first publicly funded universities in Italy. Originally called Studium Senese, the University of Siena was founded in 1240. The University had around 20,000 students in 2006 nearly half of Siena’s total population of around 54,000. Today, the University of Siena is best known for its Schools of Law and Medicine.

Originally called Studium Senese, was founded by Commune of Siena in 1240. In 1321, the studium was able to attract a larger number or pupils due to a mass exodus from the prestigious neighbouring University of Bologna. Closed temporarily in 1808–1815 when Napoleonic forces occupied Tuscany. On November 7, 1990 the university celebrated its 750th anniversary.

8. University of Toulouse (Toulouse, France, Founded in 1229)

10 oldest universities
Université Toulouse 1 Capitole – The Oldest Universities

The Université de Toulouse is a consortium of French universities, grandes écoles and other institutions of higher education and research, named after one of the earliest universities established in Europe in 1229, and including the successor universities to that earlier university. This article describes the institutions that have been called the “Université de Toulouse”.

The formation of the University of Toulouse was imposed on Count Raymond VII as a part of the Treaty of Paris in 1229 ending the crusade against the Albigensians. As he was suspected of sympathizing with the heretics, Raymond VII had to finance the teaching of theology. Bishop Foulques de Toulouse was among the founders of the University. Among its first lecturers were: Jean de Garlande, Roland of Cremona. Other faculties (law, medicine) were added later. Initially, the University was located in the center of the city, together with the ancestors of student residences, the colleges.

7. University of Naples Federico II (Naples, Italy, Founded in 1224)

10 oldest universities
The University of Naples Federico II is maybe one of the the oldest universities

Founded by Frederick II, emperor of the Holy Roman Empire.

The University of Naples Federico II is a university located in Naples, Italy. It was founded in 1224 and is organized into 13 faculties. It is the world’s oldest state university and one of the oldest academic institutions in continuous operation. The university is named after its founder Frederick II.

The University of Naples Federico II was founded by emperor of the Holy Roman Empire Frederick II on 5 June 1224. It is the most ancient state-supported institution of higher education and research in the world. One of the most famous students of this university was Roman Catholic theologian and philosopher Thomas Aquinas.

6. University of Padua (Padua, Italy, Founded in 1222)

10 oldest universities
University of Padua. Department of Structural and Transportation Engineering

Founded by scholars and professors after leaving Bologna.

The University of Padua (Italian Università degli Studi di Padova, UNIPD) is a premier Italian university located in the city of Padua, Italy. The University of Padua was founded in 1222 as a school of law and was one of the most prominent universities in early modern Europe. It is among the earliest universities of the world and the second oldest in Italy. As of 2010 the university had approximately 65,000 students.

The university is conventionally said to have been founded in 1222 (which corresponds to the first time when the University is cited in a historical document as pre-existing, therefore it is quite certainly older) when a large group of students and professors left the University of Bologna in search of more academic freedom (‘Libertas scholastica’). The first subjects to be taught were law and theology. The curriculum expanded rapidly, and by 1399 the institution had divided in two: a Universitas Iuristarum for civil law and Canon law, and a Universitas Artistarum which taught astronomy, dialectic, philosophy, grammar, medicine, and rhetoric. There was also a Universitas Theologorum, established in 1373 by Urban V.

5. University of Salamanca (Salamanca, Spain, Founded in 1218)

10 oldest universities
The University of Salamanca, Spanish higher education institution

The University of Salamanca is a Spanish higher education institution, located in the town of Salamanca, west of Madrid, in the autonomous community of Castilla and León. It was founded in 1134 and given the Royal charter of foundation by King Alfonso IX in 1218. It is the oldest founded university in Spain and the third oldest European university in continuous operations. It was the first European institution to receive the formal title of “University” as such; it was granted by King Alfonso X in 1254 and recognized by Pope Alexander IV in 1255.

It is the oldest university in operation in Spain. Although there are records of the University granting degrees many years before (James Trager’s People’s Chronology sets its foundation date in 1134), it only received the Royal chart of foundation as “Estudio General” in 1218, making it possibly the fourth or even the third oldest European university in continuous operations. However, it was the first European university to receive the title of “University” as such, granted by king of Castile and León Alfonso X and the Pope in 1254. Having been excluded from the University in 1852 by the Spanish government, the Faculties of Theology and Canon Law became the Pontifical University of Salamanca in 1940.

4. University of Cambridge (Cambridge, England, Founded in 1209)

10 oldest universities
The University of Cambridge is one of the world’s oldestuniversities

Founded by scholars leaving Oxford after a dispute caused by the execution of two scholars in 1209, and 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.

3. University of Oxford (Oxford, England, Founded in 1167)

10 oldest universities
Oxford University Museum of Natural History.

“Claimed to be the oldest university in the world, there is no clear date of foundation of Oxford University, but teaching existed at Oxford in some form in 1096 and developed rapidly from 1167, when Henry II banned English students from attending the University of Paris.” Teaching suspended in 1209 (due to town execution of two scholars) and 1355 (due to the St. Scholastica riot), but was continuous during the English Civil War (1642–1651) – the University was Royalist. All Souls College and University College have repeatedly claimed that they own documents proving that teaching in Oxford started in the year 825, but these documents have never seen the public light (allegedly, John Speed dated his famous 1605 Oxford maps based on these documents). However, it was not until 1254 that Pope Innocent IV granted to Oxford the University charter by papal bull (“Querentes in agro”).

2. University of Paris (Paris, France, Founded in 1150)

10 oldest universities
The Old Sorbonne on fire in 1670.

It was founded in the mid-12th century, and officially recognized as a university probably between 1160 and 1170 (or, possibly, as early as 1150). After many changes, including a century of suspension (1793–1896), it ceased to exist as such in 1970 and 13 autonomous universities (University of Paris I–XIII) were created from it. The university is often referred to as the Sorbonne or La Sorbonne after the collegiate institution (Collège de Sorbonne) founded about 1257 by Robert de Sorbon. In fact, the university as such was older and was never completely centered on the Sorbonne. Of the 13 current successor universities, the first 4 have a presence in the historical Sorbonne building, and three include “Sorbonne” in their names.

1. University of Bologna  (Bologna, Italy, Founded in 1088)

10 oldest universities
The College of Bologna, founded in 1088, may be the earliest academic institution from the Civilized world. At top the Oldest Universities

The first university in the sense of a higher-learning, degree-awarding institute, the word university having been coined at its foundation. At top of the list of ten oldest universities in the world which are in continuous operation.

The Alma Mater Studiorum – University of Bologna is a university located in Bologna, Italy founded in 1088. As of 2000 the University’s motto is Alma mater studiorum (Latin for “nourishing mother of studies”) The University has about 100,000 students in its 23 schools. It has branch centers in Imola, Ravenna, Forlì, Cesena and Rimini and a branch center abroad in Buenos Aires. Moreover, it has a school of excellence named Collegio Superiore di Bologna.

The date of its founding is uncertain, but believed by most accounts to have been 1088. The university received a charter from Frederick I Barbarossa in 1158, but in the 19th century, a committee of historians led by Giosuè Carducci traced the founding of the University back to 1088, which would make it one of the oldest universities in the world.

  • muhammad moosa

    nice and beautiful universities

  • kaash………! our leaders take interest on this side???????????

  • jack

    say that there where universities befor them u dont know

  • I have heard from some literature that University Al-Azhar in Cairo, Egypt had became as one of the oldest university in the world. Does anyone have any idea about that???

    • No doubt Al-Azhar University was first educational instituate on the world but i think this was founded in 970 or 972 as a madrasa not as university at that time. In 1961, Al-Azhar was established as a university under the government of Egypt’s second President Gamal Abdel Nasser when a wide range of secular faculties were added for the first time, such as business, economics, science, pharmacy, medicine, engineering and agriculture. Before that date, the Encyclopaedia of Islam classifies the Al-Azhar variously as madrasa, center of higher learning and, since the 19th century, religious university, but not as a university in the full sense, referring to the modern transition process as “from madrasa to university”. An Islamic women’s faculty was also added in the same year, six years after Zaib-un-Nissa Hamidullah had been the first woman to speak at the university.

      • Nazif Ali

        Medicine has been taught in Al-azhar since it was established. Scholars of all fields from around the world used to come at Al-Azhar to discuss and explore. Even the white coat that doctors wear today was originated there.

  • Juan Rodriguez

    Morocco’s Al Carauin University is the oldest university in the world.

    • Al-Karaouine was founded with an associated school, or madrasa – in 859 by Fatima (Morocco’s Al Carauin University)al-Fihri, the daughter of a merchant Mohammed Al-Fihri. It was described by some sources as a university, but there is a contraduction.

      Al-Karaouine’s institutional status before World War II is disputed with most sources considering it to just be a madrasah or mosque school but with some sources considering it to also be a university.

      Historians of the university, encyclopedias and dictionaries of the Middle Ages consider that the university (from Latin universitas) was an institution unique to Christian Europe, that the first universities were all located in Western Europe with Paris and Bologna often cited as the earliest examples

      • Jamalovic

        You totaly wrog .

        Further, regarding universities they were a pure islamic product at the Muslims golden ages when europe (and rest of the world) were in dark ages and they used to send their people to study in those islamic universities especially in Andalusia(iberia now) and cecilia (in italy) …all that was on Arabic.

      • Anwar

        Madrasah just means place of learning. kindergarten or university its the same. Al-Karaouine was the first degree giving university(jami’at). The dispute originate from western/christian scholars who tried their very best to downplay and even eradicate the achievements of their subjects in colonial territories. Its well researched.

    • Anwar

      AL-Qarawiyyin or al-Karaouine is the oldest and continually operating university in the world. est 859. All European universities were modeled after Islamic universities! Even pope Silvester(999) studied logic and science there. Well met Juan.

  • Excellent

    this ten universites are really old some were built even before JESUS came to earth

  • Why changing history?

    The oldest university in the world is Al Zaitouna in Tunisia
    Arabs were the first to build universities.

    • Al-Zaytuna, no doubt one of oldest learning center in history. This is a graet mosque originally and is known to host one of the first and greatest universities in the history of Islam. Many Muslim scholars were graduated from the Al-Zaytuna for over a thousand years. From Ibn ‘Arafa, one of the greatest scholars of Islam, Imam Mazari, the great traditionalist and jurist to the famous Tunisian poet Aboul-Qacem Echebbi and countless others all taught there.

      But Al-Zaytuna is not famous as university – much famous as a Mosque – not corrently working as university, So I think that’s why… this is not in the list.

      • ajay

        hope this is not a list of famous universities,what do you mean by famous,famous doesn’t mean a few europeans must know about it.

        • what you mean dear? this is the list of oldest universities, defiantly not about famous universities.

  • Ramachandran Mangalamkat

    How did you forget Nalanda?

    Nalanda was one of the World’s first residential Universities(Source: Wikipedia). The University was burned by the rogue invaders and is now in ruins in present day State of Bihar.

    • Dear @ramachandranmangalamkat:disqus this is a list of 10 oldest universities which are in continuous operation.

      • Ramachandran Mangalamkat

        Greetings of the day. Thanks Ejaz for your rersponse.

      • ajay

        it must be mentioned,how do you think readers will understand

        • It’s mentioned in first paragraph of article

  • giuseppe manzo

    the schola medica salernitana is the oldest university of the west

  • Nishant Soni

    I laughed so hard. Because the oldest Universities on Earth are India’s Takshashila (700 BC) & Nalanda Universities. Nalanda is opening again next year after centuries..

    & the articles should include “In continuous operation” if that’s the case.

    • Wroots

      You didn’t read the article very well. It states: “At top of the list of ten oldest universities in the world which are in continuous operation.”

      Closing down and opening up again doesn’t count.

  • Omar EL Maadarani

    According to Guinness world records University of Karueein, founded in 859 AD in Fez, Morocco is the oldest university. So do not change history. Arabs and Muslims are the founder of higher education . And all resources consider it to be founded as a university not as school.

    • Quester

      After the Arabs and Muslims destroyed other universities that existed before Mohammed and plundered cultures. You have the audacity to claim that they are the founders of higher education. You cannot hide the truth you can only try to hide it.

      • Oscar

        Arabs and muslims destroyed universities??? The biggest libraries,schools and universities, in middle ages were in middle east. Who destroyed libraries and higher education institutions were the cristians, who also forbid real cience (flat earth hahahah). If you remember muslims in middle ages were the ones who preserved the greek, roman and oriental cience, and also developped it.

        • IdiotMuslim

          Sure mate, that’s why 98% of the inventions, discoveries and contributions to science, medicine, technology, space are made / discovered by non-Muslims

          • GANDU hindu

            WTF!!! r u saying….@idiot hindus ?
            for sample….
            do u know who is the Missile Man of India..?
            Fucker hindus like u everywhere…..

        • vinsin

          Muslims invaders destroyed all universities in subcontinent,

  • nasranichristian

    What about Nalanda 5th AD of India

  • pradeep

    Oldest university is banaras university in india found more than 1000 years ago

  • Ghana Boy

    How about the ancient university in Timbuktu.
    Maybe because it was located in Africa it dosn’t count

  • the title must change The oldest Moerdn University………

  • Adam

    University of al-Qarawiyyin
    is auniversity located in Fes, Morocco.founded by Fatima al-Fihri in 859
    It is the oldest existing, continually operating and the first degree awarding educational institution in the world according to UNESCO and Guinness World Records[5

  • Adam M. Bakr

    the second oldest is al azhar uiversity,,it was found by Al-Mu’izz li-Din Allah in 972 a.d and its located in cairo,egypt!!! the first is AL-Qarawiyyin university in morocco

  • wrishav roy

    as i know that takhshila and nalanda was the oldest university of the world . you must mention it
    .before writing anything you must study first and put the correct facts on internet.WISH U BEST OF LUCK

    • vinsin

      Those are already destroyed long time back. You must study that on internet.

  • wrishav roy

    taxila university was established in 600BC. the founders of the mentioned universities didnt even existed that time………. they are mere children.

  • JamesGodwin

    Are you fucking kidding us? University of Al-Karaouine in Morocco is the first university in the universe. Stop hating on Muslims you stupid people.

  • Suvadip

    you should also see nalanda university in india which was established during the tenure of mauryan emperor ashoka and became the seat of learning from 500 C.E.

  • Innovator3

    Nalanda was established in the fifth century AD in Bihar, India[22]
    and survived until circa 1200 AD. It was devoted to Buddhist studies,
    but it also trained students in fine arts, medicine, mathematics,
    astronomy, politics and the art of war. (source: Wikipedia “Ancient higher-learning institutions)

  • كولار

    The oldest universities and yet existant are successivley in Tunisia (University of Zeytuna), Morocco (AL Qaraween) and Egypt (Al Azhar), you didn’t mention it because you hate everything non european.

  • Larbi S

    misleading article – the oldest university is in Fes – Morocco not italy

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