Literacy around the globe has for centuries been a key driver for economic success. To pass on education, institutions have been established where scholars meet and share their knowledge with students.
Unknown to many such institutions have existed for centuries with those of higher learning being around in just a few selected countries. Most of these old universities have given in to time and disbanded either due to political instability, war or when the courses they offered were rendered obsolete. However some of these institutions have withstood the test of time either being modernized to cope with the growing global changes or changing into autonomous colleges. The universities that have existed for centuries and are still in existence are among the most prestigious today.
Owing to the changing nature of the institutions the oldest universities around the world in the list below covers among others those that have changed with time to concur with current educational needs of the society they serve.
Here are the most famous & oldest universities in the world
10. Al-Azhar University
Established as a centre for Islamic learning in 790 AD, Al-Azhar University was accorded university status in 1961 in Cairo, Egypt. Being among the institution that have faced numerous political instabilities, the institution today stands as a centre for historic and traditional studies. These are offered alongside modern courses in business, architecture, engineering and technology. The most notable experience was during the 12th century when over 100,000 text books were destroyed by a new dynasty that took over power in the country.
9. University of Coimbra
Established in the Portuguese capital, university of Coimbra was initially started in 1290. Through the centuries, the university faced numerous relocations normally initiated by the different kingdoms reigning in the region. Finally, the institution was set up in Coimbra where it stands to this day. Its high time was in 18th century when it was the only university running in Portugal. Today, the institution is the home to a student population of over 25,000 students. It features historical building and courtyards which court the attention of UNESCO giving it a place as one of the world’s heritage sites. Over the years, the university has seen many change to conform with current learning needs and embrace new technologies though it still maintains its ancient buildings.
8. University of Siena
Established in 1240, University of Siena also join the list of the oldest universities on the planet. The institution stands in the small town of Siena, Italy. With a student population of over 20,000, it has the highest number of the town residents as its students. Ranked by UNESCO as a world heritage site, the institution is a major tourist attraction with an approximated 160,000 tourists visiting each year. It has a large collection of historic artifacts earning its place as a historic site and a centre for ancient art. To cater for the large number of tourists, the university offers a variety of traditional dishes that act as one of the driving engines of the tourism.
7. University of Naples Federico II
Among the most prestigious institutions that have passed the test of time is University of Naples Federico II. Naples, the 3rd largest city in Italy is the home to this prestigious university. It was founded by the Italian emperor of the time known by the name of Frederick II. It is home to a student community that with a population of over 100,000 currently. The world’s famous theologian and philosopher Thomas Aquinas is among the known alumni of the institution. Currently, the university has a wide range of professional programs that the current crop of students follow to enrich their minds.
6. University of Padua
Otherwise known as Univasita de Padova, the University of Padua is another prestigious and historic institution in Italy. It was founded in 1222 and is home to the world’s oldest academic gardens known as the Botanical Garden of Padova established in 1545. This is alongside running nine museums that offer an extensive historic experience to visitors. Considered to be among the leading institution in researching law, philosophy. Medicine and astronomy, the institution is braved as the grounds for a number of scientific findings used in shaping the modern education system and understanding of nature. The setting of one of the worlds greatest writers play William Shakespeare’s famous play was done at the university.
5. University of Cambridge
After the University of Oxford was rocked by political conflicts in 1209, a group of scholars joined hands and established the University of Cambridge. Located in the UK, the university shares most traditions with Oxford University and also maintains a healthy rivalry that include performance in academic and sports. The university is located in the United Kingdom and is the home to approximately 19,000 students. Around 25% of the students who attend courses at the university are from countries outside the European Countries making it one of the biggest university with global representation of different cultures and nationalities.
4. University of Paris
Despite the actual dates of its establishment are not clear, the University of Paris is also among the oldest on the planet. It is estimated that it began its operations in the years between 1160 and 1250. It is believed to be among the oldest institution in Europe. During the French revolution, the university was suspended during the period between 1793 and 1896. It opened its doors and ran effectively until 1970. In this year, the university was divided into different institutions which currently stands at 13 scattered around the city of Paris. Despite the division, the university and its colleges maintained high standards of education a tradition that prevails to this day.
3. University of Salamanca
Having been established in 1134, university of Salamanca was awarded a Royal Charter in 1218 making it a full-fledged university. The university offers education to over 30,000 students who are spread across its nine campuses within Spain. The main campus of the university is located to the west of Madrid. To spice up the history of the institution it was here that Christopher Columbus made his case to be accorded royal support that enabled him to make his expedition to the Indies.
2. University of Oxford
Located in the United Kingdom, the exact dates of university of Oxford’s establishment remains vague. History indicates that as early as 1096, the university was teaching students making this as the earliest recorded dates of its history. It boasts of an alumni of high ranking global leaders among them 27 of the UK prime ministers. Currently it is home to over 22,600 students from across the globe. Its still maintains a position among the most prestigious institutions in the world.
1. University of Bologna
Considered the oldest university in Italy, University of Bologna is also the worlds oldest having managed to run continuously to modern times. Initially, the university offered only post-graduate studies but has in the recent time changed its tradition to cover a wide range of subjects in different levels of university education. The university’s current population stands at 84,200 students of which 30,000 are undertaking postgraduate studies. The universities alumni includes high ranking church officials and leading global entrepreneurs and politicians.
Through the centuries, numerous universities have emerged in different parts of the globe. However only a few of these institutions have managed to stand the test of time. Political instability and change in educational needs are among the factors that have seen most of these institutions fall down the drain. The above top 10 oldest universities around the world only includes those who not only managed to stand the test of time but still maintains their history and prestige.