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10 Oldest Universities in the World You Must Know About

Universities have always played a significant role in forming the intellectual and cultural foundation of civilization. For ages, these esteemed establishments have promoted scholarly endeavors and expanded the frontiers of scientific understanding. Among them, certain colleges are notable for their historical significance as the oldest in the world and their enduring legacies. From the University of Bologna in Italy, founded in 1088, to the University of al-Qarawiyyin in Morocco, founded in 859 AD, these institutions have been hubs of knowledge and creativity, leaving a lasting impression on the world of academia. Their rich histories have inspired and influenced academics and students all around the world for years to come.

List of 10 Oldest Universities in the World You Must Know About

  1. University of Al Quaraouiyine
  2. The University of Bologna
  3. University of Oxford
  4. University of Salamanca
  5. University of Paris
  6. University of Cambridge
  7. Al-Azhar University
  8. University of Padua
  9. University of Montpellier
  10. University of Naples, Federico II

1. University of Al Quaraouiyine

The University of Al Quaraouiyine, which is located in Fez, Morocco, is the oldest continuously running university in the whole world. Originally established as a mosque with a connected madrasa (Islamic school) in 859 AD, it was founded by the visionary Fatima al-Fihri. It developed into a well-known hub of learning over the ages, drawing academics from all across the Islamic world and beyond.

Al Quaraouiyine’s curriculum covered a wide range of topics, including astronomy, mathematics, linguistics, law, medicine, and religion. It rose in popularity because of its emphasis on intellectual inquiry and academic rigor, and the Muslim world of the Middle Ages came to see it as a source of knowledge and enlightenment.

The University of Al Quaraouiyine has seen political upheavals, social changes, and cultural alterations throughout the course of its long existence, but it has never wavered in its dedication to study and teaching. The university’s magnificent architectural design and rich cultural legacy are reflected in its famous architecture, which includes the elaborately decorated courtyard and minaret.

Al Quaraouiyine maintains its reputation for academic achievement today by providing students studying a variety of academic specialities with state-of-the-art facilities and a lively intellectual community. Its long legacy is a treasured representation of Morocco’s intellectual and cultural past, and it bears witness to the ability of education to transcend time and influence the path of history.

2. The University of Bologna

The University of Bologna, which was founded in 1088, is proof of the continuing history of intellectual brilliance and academic study. It is the oldest university in Europe and the Western world, and it is situated in the ancient city of Bologna, Italy. It was first established as a guild of students looking to break away from the local religious establishments, but it expanded fast to become a highly esteemed center for legal studies.

The University of Bologna attracted intellectuals from all across the continent to its hallowed halls, and it was instrumental in forming the intellectual landscape of medieval Europe. Its curriculum was mostly legal in nature, and its well-known glossaries and commentators made major contributions to the advancement of legal jurisprudence and scholarship.

Modern university values and procedures have their roots in Bologna’s centuries-long dedication to academic freedom and independent research. Its unique collegiate structure, which consists of independent academic communities referred to as “colleges,” promoted a collaborative and intellectually stimulating environment.

The University of Bologna offers a broad variety of undergraduate and graduate degrees in several fields, upholding its legacy of academic quality. Historic structures like the Anatomical Theater and the Archiginnasio Palace serve as concrete reminders of the university’s illustrious past and magnificent architecture. The University of Bologna, one of the top universities in the world, continues to be a shining example of research and creativity, encouraging new generations of academics and students to seek out knowledge and the truth.

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3. University of Oxford

The University of Oxford, a historic institution known for its rich history, academic prowess, and significant cultural impact, was founded in the late 11th century. Oxford is among the oldest universities in the world, having been founded as early as 1096; however, its actual establishment date is still unknown.

The university is a distinctive academic institution that is housed in the historic city of Oxford, United Kingdom, and is distinguished by its college structure. Oxford University provides a broad range of undergraduate and postgraduate programs in several fields. The university is made up of 38 independent colleges and other academic departments.

Oxford has produced many academics, scientists, and leaders who have made important contributions to a wide range of disciplines, including philosophy, science, politics, and literature, over the course of its distinguished history. Prominent individuals, including Stephen Hawking, J.R.R. Tolkien, and Malala Yousafzai, are among its esteemed alumni.

Oxford is known for its centuries-old legacy of academic brilliance and intellectual inquiry, which is reflected in its famous buildings, which include the Bodleian Library, Radcliffe Camera, and Christ Church Cathedral. The university’s standing as a major hub for learning and innovation across the world has been cemented by its dedication to encouraging independent thought, demanding research, and critical inquiry. The University of Oxford is unwavering in its commitment to expanding knowledge, developing talent, and influencing the direction of worldwide education and scholarship, even as it continues to adjust to the demands of the contemporary world.

4. University of Salamanca

The institution of Salamanca was established in 1134, making it the oldest institution in Europe and the oldest in Spain. This esteemed university, which has been producing outstanding academics for more than nine centuries, is located in Salamanca, Spain, a historic city.

In the Middle Ages, the University of Salamanca—which had its beginnings as a cathedral school—became a well-known hub for research and study. Teachers of philosophy, theology, law, and the humanities attracted students and intellectuals from all across Europe as they soon achieved recognition for these subjects.

The university’s architectural legacy bears witness to its distinguished history; prominent features, such as the Plateresque façade of the Escuelas Mayores, its main structure, serve as emblematic representations of its cultural and intellectual legacies. The University of Salamanca has shaped Spanish intellectual and cultural life in significant ways throughout the course of its lengthy history. It has given rise to innumerable academics, leaders, and philosophers who have significantly advanced a variety of disciplines, including science, literature, and the arts.

The University of Salamanca still maintains its reputation for intellectual brilliance today and welcomes students from all over the world to enroll in its extensive undergraduate and graduate programs. Its thriving academic community, historically significant surroundings, and dedication to innovation guarantee that its scholarly and educational legacy will last far into the twenty-first century and beyond.

5. University of Paris

The University of Paris was established in the 12th century, and it continues to be a historical leader in academic achievement and intellectual discovery. It swiftly developed into one of the most important educational hubs in Europe after emerging from the thriving cathedral schools of medieval Paris.

After being founded by King Philip II in 1200, the University of Paris attracted academics from all over the continent, with its faculty and student body eager to participate in philosophical discussions, scientific research, and religious debates. It was crucial to the growth of scholasticism, the dissemination of humanism throughout the Renaissance, and the intellectual ferment that led to the Protestant Reformation.

The University of Paris saw phases of growth, consolidation, and change during the course of its lengthy existence, making a lasting impression on intellectual and cultural life in Europe. René Descartes, Pierre and Marie Curie, Thomas Aquinas, and other notable figures who made significant contributions to their areas were among its esteemed faculty members.

Over the ages, the University of Paris has endured as a symbol of intellectual curiosity, academic independence, and cultural variety despite institutional and political upheavals. Its wide range of academic institutions, research centers, and colleges encourage creativity, critical thinking, and interdisciplinary cooperation in the search for knowledge.

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6. University of Cambridge

The University of Cambridge, founded in 1209, is a pillar of intellectual curiosity and academic success. It is recognized as one of the oldest and most esteemed universities in the world and is located in the historic city of Cambridge, England.

Cambridge was established by a group of academics who left Oxford after a disagreement with the locals, and it soon became a thriving hub for learning and study. Some of the greatest brains in history have been raised there over the ages, including Sir Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin, and Stephen Hawking.

The core of Cambridge’s intellectual community is its collegiate system, which consists of 31 independent colleges. Every institution provides a different intellectual and social milieu that nurtures intimate student and scholar communities. The university’s demanding academic programs and innovative research projects demonstrate its dedication to excellence. Faculty members and students at Cambridge are at the vanguard of innovation and discovery, making ground-breaking contributions to their respective disciplines, from the humanities to the sciences.

Cambridge’s renowned buildings, such as the stately King’s College Chapel and the venerable Senate House, are physical reminders of the city’s rich cultural legacy. The University of Cambridge is still committed to maintaining its reputation for academic quality while educating the next generation of leaders, thinkers, and innovators to meet the challenges of the contemporary world with originality and resourcefulness.

7. Al-Azhar University

One of the world’s oldest and most prestigious institutions of Islamic study, Al-Azhar University, was established in 970 AD. Located in Cairo, Egypt, it occupies a distinctive role as a prominent university and a religious establishment.

Originally founded by the Fatimid Caliphate as an Islamic school, Al-Azhar has developed into a complete university with a broad curriculum. It draws students and intellectuals from the Muslim world and beyond with its curriculum that includes religion, jurisprudence, philosophy, Arabic language and literature, and the sciences. Al-Azhar is a preeminent authority on Islamic theology and law; therefore, its impact goes beyond academics. In interpreting Islamic literature, establishing religious decrees, and counseling the Muslim community on issues of faith and practice, its scholars—known as ulama—play a crucial role.

Al-Azhar has endured political upheavals, societal transformations, and cultural alterations throughout the course of its lengthy history, but it has never wavered in its dedication to religious instruction and study. Its vast campus, adorned with recognizable minarets and mosques, is evidence of its cultural significance and long heritage.

In the service of Islam and mankind, Al-Azhar University still plays a significant role in forming the Islamic world today by encouraging communication, developing tolerance, and advancing knowledge. Its history as a shining example of Islamic study will continue into the twenty-first century and beyond, thanks to its dedication to quality, scholarship, and religious enlightenment.

8. University of Padua

One of the oldest and most prestigious colleges in Italy, the University of Padua was established in 1222 and is well-known for its contributions to academics, science, and the humanities. Situated in Padua, Italy’s historic center, it has an illustrious past and an illustrious academic heritage spanning more than eight centuries.

The University of Padua was first founded as a center for legal studies, but it swiftly broadened its scope of study to include the sciences, medicine, philosophy, and religion. Throughout the Renaissance, it was crucial to the growth of humanism and drew thinkers and academics from all around Europe. Legends like Galileo Galilei, who taught at Padua and carried out revolutionary physics and astronomy experiments, were among the esteemed faculty members. His time at Padua is a prime example of the university’s dedication to creativity and scholarship.

The University of Padua has a long history of being at the forefront of academic and scientific innovation, helping to make advances in the fields of engineering, medicine, and the arts. Its storied structures, like the well-known Palazzo Bo and the Anatomical Theatre, act as physical reminders of its academic and cultural legacy.

Currently, the University of Padua maintains its reputation for academic quality by providing students from all over the world with a wide range of undergraduate and graduate programs. Its contemporary facilities, innovative spirit, and thriving academic community guarantee that its reputation as a hub of study and discovery will go on well into the twenty-first century.

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9. University of Montpellier

The University of Montpellier, founded in 1220, stands as one of the oldest academic institutions in Europe and is renowned for its exceptional academic standards and intellectual pursuits. Located in Montpellier, France, this dynamic city has been a major influence on the intellectual and cultural milieu of the area for more than eight centuries.

The University of Montpellier was first established as a medical school, but it swiftly broadened its scope of study to include law, philosophy, theology, and the scientific sciences. It began to draw academics and learners from all across Europe, drawing some of the most brilliant minds of the day. Montpellier has a long and illustrious history of being a hub for invention and exploration. It was at the vanguard of research in areas including anatomy, botany, and pharmacology, leading to breakthroughs in the realms of medicine and the living sciences.

The university’s magnificent architecture and rich cultural legacy are reflected in its historic structures, which include the well-known Faculty of Medicine. The University of Montpellier maintains its reputation for academic distinction today by providing a wide range of undergraduate and graduate programs in several fields.

10. University of Naples, Federico II

One of the oldest and most prominent colleges in Italy, the University of Naples Federico II, was established in 1224 by Emperor Frederick II. It is well-known for its contributions to academics, science, and culture. Situated in Naples, Italy’s ancient capital, it has an illustrious past and an almost eight-century-old record of academic achievement.

The institution was founded with the intention of advancing intellectual study and higher education, and it bears the name of Emperor Frederick II. It has drawn academics and students from all over the world and has been instrumental in forming Southern Italy’s intellectual and cultural environment over the ages.

Numerous undergraduate and graduate programs in a variety of subject areas, including the social sciences, natural sciences, engineering, medicine, and humanities, are available at the University of Naples Federico II. Its distinguished academic members are top authorities in their domains, carrying out innovative research and advancing knowledge and creativity.

The university’s storied campus, complete with recognizable buildings and lovely surroundings, is evidence of its illustrious academic history and rich cultural legacy. As it prepares students to become leaders and innovators in their various disciplines, the University of Naples Federico II still upholds its dedication to quality in teaching, research, and community participation today.


Each of these esteemed institutions has made a distinct contribution to academics and society, positioning them as everlasting strongholds of knowledge. They leave a legacy of academic brilliance and intellectual curiosity that inspires generations even in the face of changing educational procedures and times. We recognize their continued importance in influencing the global landscape of academia and education as we honor their longevity and accomplishments. Scholars and students are led to fresh discoveries and insights by the inspiring light of their rich histories. Even in a world that is always changing, these historic institutions are unwavering in their dedication to supporting critical thinking and safeguarding the quest for knowledge for future generations.


Which University in the World is the Oldest?

The oldest degree-granting institution in the world is the institution of al-Qarawiyyin in Fez, Morocco, which was established in 859 CE.

When Was the University of Oxford Established?

One of the oldest institutions still in continuous operation, the University of Oxford, has been around since the 12th century, with records of instruction dating back to 1096.

Why the University of Bologna is Important Historically

The institution of Bologna is thought to be the oldest institution in Europe, having been established in 1088. It created the paradigm of university structure that would be emulated by establishments around the globe and introduced the idea of academic freedom.

Which Historic Establishment is Referred to as the “Athens of the West”?

Founded in 1150, the University of Paris gained the moniker “Athens of the West” because of its stature as a hub of study in the Middle Ages, drawing students from all across Europe.

What Academic Impact Has the University of Salamanca Had?

The University of Salamanca in Spain was founded in 1134 and is well known for its contributions to Spanish literature from the Golden Age and its part in the evolution of modern languages. It is still among Spain’s most esteemed institutions.

Oleksandra Mamchii

Working as a academic lead at Best Diplomats.

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