Top 20 Oldest Universities In the World

Filed in University Reviews by on 2nd March 2021

The  word “University” is an ancient word which has shown the quest of humans for education and learning. existed for a very long time. So read on to know the 20 oldest universities in the world, some of which we’re founded centuries ago. 

oldest universities in the world

Oldest Universities in the world

1.University of Bologna (1088)

Year established: 1088 Location: Bologna, Italy 

First on our list of oldest universities in the world is the  university of Bologna. There are claims that the university did not evolve into a university-standard organisation until the 1150s, yet it gained a fine reputation for law in the medieval period, and still regularly ranked as one of the top 200 schools on the planet. Among the popular names that studied in the university of Bologna during the Renaissance, are Petrarch, Albrecht Dürer and Erasmus.

  1. University of Oxford

Year established: ca 1096 Location: Oxford, United Kingdom 

Oxford is known to be one of the premier academic institutions in the world and also the oldest university in the English-speaking world. For years, Oxford has made varIous significant contributions to human advancement throughout its history. 

  1. University of Salamanca

Year established: 1134 Location: Salamanca, Spain 

University of Salamanca was founded by Alfonso IX in the medieval Kingdom of Leon and is the oldest university in the Hispanic world. During Christopher Columbus’ lifetime, he consulted geographers at the University which played a key part in the discovery (and subsequent colonisation) of the New World. Currently, Salamanca remains one of the top-ranked teaching and research universities in Spain today.

  1. University of Paris

Year established: ca 1150 

Located in Paris, France, the University was divided into 13 autonomous universities, after the national education reforms in 1970. 

University of Paris is a highly influential university known to be a structural model for many other universities as well as humanities programmes. The University of Paris has an overall history as huge as France itself. Closed in 1793 following the French Revolution, it was reopened in 1806 by Napoleon Bonaparte. Among the famous French figures who studied there, are Voltaire, Honoré Balzac, Jean-Paul Sartre and Marie Curie. 

  1. University of Cambridge

Year established: ca 1209

Location: Cambridge, United Kingdom 

The University of Cambridge was founded by scholars from one of its rival universities, just like Padua. It is one of the greatest and oldest universities in the world. The university has contributed a lot to science, art and politics (its alumni list reads like a who’s who of world history), and has also inspired the settlement of Cambridge, Massachusetts, where Cambridge alumnus John Harvard established his Harvard in 1636.

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  1. University of Padua

University of Padua was established in the Year: 1222 which is the oldest origin the university can be traced to despite many historians believing that the University is probably older.) 

Padua is located in Padua, Italy and was founded by a large group of professors and students from the nearby University of Bologna. The university offers courses across 30+ departments and has over the years graduated some of the most influential figures in medieval Europe, particularly within the sciences and the arts. 

  1. University of Naples Federico II (1224)

Year established: 1224 

Location: Naples, Italy 

University of Naples Federico II was created by its namesake, the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II, with an aim to develop an elite class of lawyers and bureaucrats to draft and uphold laws. Over the years, the University of Naples has evolved into one of the largest, powerful and oldest universities in modern Italy and the world in general. 

The bona fide saint, Thomas Aquinas is an alumni, actually was among its first intake of students.

  1. University of Siena

Year established: 1240 

Location: Siena, Italy 

Siena is the best academic centre in Siena with its student population accounting for nearly half of the town’s overall population. The university is currently best known for its programmes in medicine, law, and economics.

  1. University of Valladolid

Year established: 1241

 Location: Valladolid, Spain 

University of Valladolid is a Castilian institution known for the grand Gothic and baroque architecture of its buildings, as well as its strong cultural associations within local music and theatre. Its library system contains nearly a million documents in its possession (many of which are deemed culturally and historically significant) making the library very important and popular. 

  1. University of Coimbra (tie)

Year established: 1290

Location: Coimbra, Portugal 

University of Coimbra is a leading European research university originally established in Lisbon and has since undergone several relocations, settling in Coimbra in 1537 and remaining there ever since. The university has rich histories, traditions and buildings that earned it a place on UNESCO’s World Heritage List in 2013. A number of famous Portuguese (and Brazilian) public figures studied in the University of Coimbra. 

  1. University of Macerata (tie)
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Year established: 1290 

Location: Macerata, Italy 

Macerata is a small institution near the Adriatic coast located within the picturesque medieval walls of the town’s historic centre. They specialise primarily in the humanities and social sciences. A number of courses offered in the university are in English, making it a unique and charming option for those who wish to study abroad.

  1. Complutense University of Madrid

Year established: 1293 

Location: Madrid, Spain 

This university was established by royal decree of King Sancho IV of Castile, one of the most powerful rulers of medieval Europe and is widely regarded as the most prestigious educational institution in Spain.  There are a lot of Nobel Prize recipients and international politicians who have studied in Complutense University of Madrid, and the school also maintains strong links and connections with industry.

  1. Sapienza University of Rome

Year established: 1303 

Location: Rome, Italy 

Sapienza University of Rome makes our list of oldest universities in the world and is often referred to simply as ‘La Sapienza’ or  the University of Rom. It is one of the largest universities in Europe, with a student population of 110,000. The modern-day university campus is regarded as splendour and grandeur and several influential figures, including the filmmakers Federico Fellini and Bernardo Bertolucci, graduated from here. 

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  1. University of Perugia

Year established: 1308 

Location: Perugia, Italy

University of Perugia is among our list of oldest universities in the world because it is one of the first free public universities to be created within the Italian city-states

The University maintains a strong background in the arts, medicine and law discipline.  

 

  1. University of Florence

Year established: 1321

Location: Florence, Italy 

Formally known as the region’s Studium Generale (as implemented by the Florentine Republic), university of florence location in Italy is highlighted by its various connections to the Renaissance. The famous Leonardo da Vinci carried out anatomy studies on the campus, while Dante Alighieri, creator of the Divine Comedy, is among its alumni.

 

  1. University of Pisa

Year established: 1343 

Location: Pisa, Italy 

The city of Pisa is well known for a bell tower that happens to feature a peculiar engineering quirk and is home to one of the world’s oldest universities. The university has graduated two Italian presidents, five Popes and three Nobel Laureates, and it is one of the finest – and most important – academic institutions in modern Italy.

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  1. Charles University

Year established: 1348 

Location: Prague, Czech Republic 

Charles University was built under the direction of Pope Clement VI, within the Kingdom of Bohemia in Czech. Charles University is recognised as one of the most renowned academic institutions in the world. The University suffered greatly under both Nazi occupation and Soviet oppression. However, the demonstrations of the students there in 1989 played a major role in instigating the Velvet Revolution of 1989, after which the Communist ruling party was overthrown.

 

  1. University of Pavia

Year established: 1361 

Location: Pavia, Italy 

University of Pavia in Italy is another one of the oldest universities in the world. It Is the first of many modern-day Italian institutions which originally served as the educational centre of medieval northern Italy and still is. The university has continued to grow despite several enforced closures during this period. There is a student population of  20,000 currently enrolled.

 

  1. Jagiellonian University

Year established: 1364 

Location: Krakow, Poland 

Jagiellonian University was founded by Casimir III the Great and is Poland’s oldest educational institution. The university was built in order to establish an educated class within the Kingdom of Poland. Between 1939 and 1945, the University was closed by Nazi occupiers and its entire staff deported to the Sachsenhausen concentration camp. Among Jagiellonian University alumni is Nicolaus Copernicus, the legendary Renaissance mathematician/astronomer.

  1. University of Vienna

Year established: 1365

Location: Vienna, Austria 

Last on our list of oldest universities in the world is the University of Vienna, founded by Duke Rudolf IV of Austria (under the papal jurisdiction of the Holy Roman Empire)

The University of Vienna claims to be the oldest – and the most resilient – university in the German-speaking world. The university has endured through the Protestant Reformation, the Ottoman sieges of the 16th Century and Nazi annexation since it’s inception. There are over 180 degrees in a wide variety of subjects, split across 15 faculties and 4 centres.

 

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