Top 10 Oldest Universities of World

Man has been hungry for knowledge, to engage his mental faculties in ways to unravel the mysteries of the universe. Somewhere down the line, human being started coming together to discuss the sciences and the logic behind everything. A way life started to emerge. There was glaring need to have one place to record the findings, one place to gather the bright minds and one place to groom the future. Thus the universities emerged. True? Your guess is as good as mine! But evidence does support this line of thought. Here is a list of 10 oldest universities of the world. Some of them are still operating; others are included to celebrate their rich history. It is an eye opener for the USA is not part of the list and Islamic culture boasts to have their name in top 4 oldest universities two of which are operating even today, and the top position ? Read on! It is not that tough to guess.


1. Nalanda University (India)

Founded: 600BC

Nalanda University

This is the clear winner. Notice that this is the only one to be established in BC. The history of this is a strong example of the Indian culture and the importance associated to education since early days. It saw students from Babylon, Greece, Syria, and China. The subjects taught included  Vedas, languages, grammar, philosophy, medicine, surgery, archery among many other fields.Founded by Śakrāditya ( King at that time), the university was said to entertain over 10,5000 students at a time. The passing rate was just 3 out of 10. The entry was granted only after 16 years of age. The glorious history was only for 800 year.  It was destroyed thrice in history with first two destruction rectified. The third one(1300) was permanent till 2006. It is now rebuilt and rearing to achieve its old days of Glory under the eyes of Amartya sen. Indians ought to be super Proud!


2. University of Al-Karaouine (Morocco)

Founded: 859

University of Al-Karaouine

The second  oldest, and still operating university of the world. It was founded by Fatima al-Fihri, a woman. In the beginning it only has natural science as its offering. It wasn’t until 1957 that other mainstream science was added to the portfolio. This was built as a mosque to begin with and slowly expanded to become the largest in Africa. The university has statues as old as university itself.


3. Al-Azhar University (Egypt)

Founded: 970-972

Al-Azhar University

The second oldest institute of Islamic world.which is still in operation! It started as center for studying Arabic literature, Sunni Islamic learning and religious focus. Today it teaches Quaranic sciences and traditions along with learnings from Prophet Muhammad on one hand and all modern fields of science on other.  The library of Al-Azhar is considered treasure for the Islamic world and efforts are on to preserve them online. The conversion of seven Million pages of library into online material is proving to be a mammoth task for the university. It was established by the Fatimid empire era of Egypt. This dynasty is the linage of Prophet Muhammad’s daughter Fatimah and His son-in Law, Ali. The university is named after Fatimah Al-Zahara.


4. Al Nizamiyya Of Baghdad (Iran)

Founded: 1065

Al Nizamiyya Of Baghdad

Founded by Khwaja Nizam al-Mulk in early eleventh century, this was a part of series of universities started by al-Mulk. Al Nizamiyya remains the most successful and popular one. These universities combined to create ‘Largest University of Medieval world’.  It saw the then poets, knowledgeable learned men coming in to share and teach. Al-Ghazali was a professor at this place. The education offered was for free. The Sack of Baghdad in 1258 saw the end of the university. The city was attacked and the place was destroyed. Persian poet Sa’di was among the few people who witnessed this destruction. Nonetheless, Al-Nizamiyya did manage to eclipse all other institutes in the surrounding regions by its sheer brilliance.


5. University of Bologna (Italy)

Founded: 1088

University of Bologna

The first higher learning institute of the western world and the leading innovator in field of learning till the world wars. The University of Bologna has a wonderful history and is seen as the official step of western world in field of higher education institutes. Incidentally the world ‘university ‘was coined during its creation. This was the mediator for the western world with more educationally sound institutes around the world. Under this process, slowly the university developed, creating various universities along the way. Today Bologna is seen as leading example of European education and is among top 200 schools of the world, has 23 schools and over 85,000 students.


6. University of Paris (France)

Founded: 1096

University of Paris

The exact dates are unavailable but tentative date is accepted to be 1096. It is no longer functioning in this name; it was reorganized into 13 different universities in 1970.  These are popularly referred to as College de Sorbonne. It came up around the famous Notre Dame Cathedral. It had four main departments, Arts, Medicine, Law and theology to begin with. The university was direct under the command of the church and not the government, this created trouble. In its course of existence, the university was shut down thrice. In 1968 due to Cultural Revolution by students which led to splitting up of the ancient college.  In 1229, and later in 1940 due to invasion by Germen Army.


7. University of Oxford (England)

Founded: 1096

University of Oxford

This is not the exact date but evidence suggests that the university was in operation in 1906. The student inflow increased considerably in 1167, when Henry II banned the English students from attending University of Paris. During the reign of Henry III, the university gained royal approval. Seeing as Cambridge resulted after dispute in Oxford, it was natural for other university to erupt due to dissatisfaction. But joint appeal by the two universities to King Edward III stopped this, giving the two universities a free run until 1820. This university was shut twice in the time, once due to execution of two scholars and next due to Scholastic riots. Currently is ranked among the top universities of the world, has 38 colleges and 58 Nobel Prize winners associated with the institute.


8. University of Montpelier (France)

Founded: 1150

University of Montpelier

The university is said to be older than the stated date, the reason is that there was an order by Pope Nicholas IV to combine all old universities into one. Thus some parts of this center of knowledge could be older. The university was shut down during French Revolution in 1793. It was reinstated in 1810 but only faculties of Science and letter survived. To keep up with changing time, the university was ‘re-founded ‘in 1969 with major focus on science and Technology. Today the Montpelier University exists in form of University of Montpellier1, University of Montpellier 2 and Paul Valéry University.


9. University of Cambridge (England)

Founded: 1209

University of Cambridge

Consistently ranked among top 5 universities of the world, this is the second oldest university of the English speaking world. This was formed as a result of a dispute of Oxford scholars with the town people. Till date, oxford and Cambridge are rivals. It has 85 Nobel Prize Winners as alumina, consists of 31 colleges under its domain. As expected from a university as old as this, Cambridge has some long standing traditions. Popular are the handing of wooden spoon to the lowest scorer of the term, the broadcasting of carols by Choir of Kings’ College on Christmas Eve.  Some are myth and some are still followed. The tourists get a heavy bout of these stories when they visit Cambridge.


10. University of Salamanca (Spain)

Founded: 1218

University of Salamanca

When Christopher Columbus took the epic voyage to find the western route to Indies, he consulted with the Geography department of this esteemed university. Currently gearing up to celebrate its 8th Centennial, the university has quite a history. Established in 1218, it got the official title of university in 1225.  Leonese King Alfonso IX built this place to give the Leonese people a place to study without having to move to a different city. Today the university is known for its language and humanitarian courses, it is touted to be a fine place to learn Spanish, especially for non-natives.

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