List of oldest universities in continuous operation  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

This is a list of the oldest extant universities in the world. To be included in this table, an educational institution must satisfy the definition of a university at the time of its founding. It must have been founded before 1500 (invariably in Europe) or be the oldest university in a region and it must have been operational without a significant interruption ever since.


Medieval origins

The word university is derived from the Latin universitas magistrorum et scholarium, roughly meaning "community of teachers and scholars" in Latin countries such as France. The term was coined by the Italian University of Bologna, which, with a traditional founding date of 1088, is considered the first university.<ref> Hunt Janin: "The university in medieval life, 1179-1499", McFarland, 2008, ISBN 0-7864-3462-7, p. 55f.</ref><ref>de Ridder-Symoens, Hilde: A History of the University in Europe: Volume 1, Universities in the Middle Ages, Cambridge University Press, 1992, ISBN 0-521-36105-2, pp. 47–55</ref> The origin of many medieval universities can be traced to the Christian cathedral schools or monastic schools which appear as early as the 6th century AD and were run for hundreds of years as such before their formal establishment as university in the high medieval period.<ref>Template:Harvnb</ref>

Rooted in medieval society, the university as an institution was intrinsically linked to Christian faith and the medieval lifeworld which it in turn influenced and shaped:


Modern spread

From the early modern period onwards, the university gradually spread from the medieval Latin west across the globe, eventually replacing all other higher-learning institutions and becoming the preeminent institution for higher education everywhere. This process occurred in the following chronological order:<ref>Rüegg, Walter (ed.): Geschichte der Universität in Europa, 3 vols., C.H. Beck, München 1993, ISBN 3-406-36956-1</ref>

Founded before 1500

The earliest and only universities before the colonization of the Americas were established and run in medieval Europe.

Year Contemporaneous location Current location Name Notes
1088 Image:Holy Roman Empire Arms-single head.svg Holy Roman Empire Template:Flagicon Bologna, Italy University of Bologna The first university in the sense of a higher learning, degree awarding institute, the term 'university' being coined at its foundation.<ref>Nuria Sanz, Sjur Bergan: "The heritage of European universities", 2nd edition, Higher Education Series No. 7, Council of Europe, 2006, ISBN , p.136</ref> It is the oldest continually operating university, too.
1096 20px Kingdom of England Template:Flagicon Oxford, England, UK University of Oxford Exact date uncertain, teaching existed since 1096 ("There is no clear date of foundation, 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."<ref>A brief history of the University of Oxford, Oxford University</ref>). 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 in these documents).
1131 (1289) Image:Flag of France (XII-XIII).svg Kingdom of France Template:Flagicon County of Toulouse 22px Lords of Montpellier Template:Flagicon Montpellier, France University of Montpellier The university is considerably older than its formal founding date, associated with a bull («Quia sapientia») issued by Pope Nicholas IV in 1289, combining all the long-existing schools into a university. The oldest school of Medicine of Europe (teaching existed at Montpellier in some form in 1131) The school of law was founded by Placentinus, from the school of law at Bologna, who came to Montpellier in 1160.
1134 (1218) 20px Kingdom of León<ref>Lopez Carreira, A.: O Reino Medieval de Galicia (Medieval Kingdom of Galicia). A Nosa Terra, Vigo, 2005. Page 394</ref> Template:Flagicon Salamanca, Spain University of Salamanca It is the oldest university in operation of 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 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, that it was granted by king 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.
1175 Commune of Modena Template:Flagicon Modena, Italy University of Modena Founded by professor Pillio of Medicina leaving University of Bologna
1209 20px Kingdom of England Template:Flagicon Cambridge, England, UK University of Cambridge Founded by scholars leaving Oxford after a dispute caused by the execution of two scholars in 1209.
1240 Image:Siena-Stemma.png Commune of Siena Template:Flagicon Siena, Italy University of Siena Originally called 'Studium Senese'. Closed in 1402–04 and 1808–14.
1290 Image:Armas portugal 1247.png Kingdom of Portugal
18px| Lisbon
Template:Flagicon Portugal
18px| Coimbra
University of Coimbra<ref>Times Higher Education - QS World University Rankings 2007 - World's oldest universities</ref> Begun its existence in Lisbon with the name Studium Generale (Estudo Geral). Scientiae thesaurus mirabilis, the royal charter announcing the institution of the University was dated 1 March of that year, although efforts had been made at least since 1288 to create this first University in Portugal. The Papal confirmation was also given in 1290 (on 9 August of that year), during the Papacy of the Pope Nicholas IV.
1303 Image:Emblem of the Papacy SE.svg Papal States Template:Flagicon Rome, Italy La Sapienza University of Rome Founded by Pope Boniface VIII, but became a state university in 1935. According to the Catholic Encyclopaedia, the university "remained closed during the entire pontificate of Clement VII".
1308 Commune of Perugia Template:Flagicon Perugia, Italy University of Perugia Attested by the Bull of Pope Clement V.
1339 Image:Flag of France (XII-XIII).svg Kingdom of France Template:Flagicon Grenoble, France University of Grenoble Founded by Pope Benedict XII
1343 Image:Pisa-Stemma.png Republic of Pisa Template:Flagicon Pisa, Italy University of Pisa
1348 22px|Coat of arms of the Kingdom of Bohemia Kingdom of Bohemia

22px|Coat of arms of the Holy Roman Empire Holy Roman Empire

Template:Flagicon Prague, Czech Republic Charles University of Prague Three of four faculties closed in 1419, joined with Jesuit university and renamed Charles-Ferdinand University in 1652, split into German and Czech part in 1882, Czech branch closed during Nazi occupation (1939-1945), German branch closed in 1945<ref>History of CU</ref>.
1361 Lordship of Milan Template:Flagicon Pavia, Italy University of Pavia Closed for short periods during the Italian Wars, Napoleonic wars, and Revolutions of 1848.
1364 Image:PB Piast2 CoA.png Kingdom of Poland Template:Flagicon Kraków, Poland Jagiellonian University Development stalled early, re-established from 1400 onwards. Closed after the German occupation of Poland in 1939 but reopened clandestinely three years later.
1365 Template:Flag Template:Flagicon Vienna, Austria University of Vienna Modelled on the University of Paris.
1409 Template:Flag Template:Flagicon Leipzig, Germany University of Leipzig Founded when German-speaking staff left Prague due to the Jan Hus crisis.
1413 Template:Flag Template:Flagicon St Andrews, Scotland, UK University of St Andrews Founded by a Papal Bull
1419 Template:Flag Template:Flagicon Rostock, Germany University of Rostock During the Reformation, "the Catholic university of Rostock closed altogether and the closure was long enough to make the refounded body feel a new institution".<ref>Quoted from: Chadwick, Owen. The Early Reformation on the Continent. Oxford University Press, 2003. Page 257.</ref>
1425 Template:Flag Template:Flagicon Leuven, Belgium Catholic University of Leuven The oldest university in the Low Countries and oldest still existing Catholic university in the world. Transferred to Brussels in 1788, shut down by the French Republic in 1797, reopened in 1816, reorganized in 1834. Since 1968 split between the Dutch-speaking Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, which remained in Leuven, and the French-speaking Université Catholique de Louvain, based in Louvain-La-Neuve.
1434 Template:Flagicon Kingdom of Sicily Template:Flagicon Catania, Italy University of Catania The oldest in Sicily.
1451 Template:Flag Template:Flagicon Glasgow, Scotland, UK University of Glasgow Founded by a Papal Bull
1453 Template:Flag Template:Flagicon Istanbul, Turkey Istanbul University Istanbul University (Turkish: İstanbul Üniversitesi) was founded immediately after Mehmed II conquered Istanbul (Constantinople) in 1453. The university celebrated its 550th anniversary in 2003. German historian Richard Honig believes that the history of the Istanbul University actually started on 1 March 1321, during the reign of Osman I in Bithynia, the cradle of the Ottoman State.
1456 Template:Flag Template:Flagicon Greifswald, Germany University of Greifswald Teaching had started by 1436. Closed down during the Protestant Reformation (1527–39).
1457 Template:Flag Template:Flagicon Freiburg, Germany Albert Ludwigs University of Freiburg Temporarily transferred to Constance in 1686–98 and 1713–15.
1460 Template:Flag Template:Flagicon Basel, Switzerland University of Basel Founded in 1460 (Schola Basiliensis), the University of Basel is the oldest university in Switzerland. [1]
1472 Template:Flag Template:Flagicon Munich, Germany Ludwig Maximilians University of Munich Founded in Ingolstadt in 1459, transferred to Landshut in 1800, moved to Munich in 1826.
1477 Template:Flag Template:Flagicon Tübingen, Germany Eberhard Karls University of Tübingen
1479 Template:Flag Template:Flagicon Copenhagen, Denmark University of Copenhagen
1495 Template:Flag Template:Flagicon Aberdeen, Scotland, UK University of Aberdeen King's College was founded by Papal Bull in 1495 and Marischal College in 1593; they merged in 1860
1495 Image:Bandeirareinogaliza.svg Kingdom of Galicia Template:Flagicon Santiago de Compostela, Spain University of Santiago de Compostela The university traces its roots to 1495, when a school was opened in Santiago.<ref>Template:Cite news</ref> In 1504, Pope Julius II approved the foundation of a university in Santiago, and the bull for its creation was granted by Clement VII in 1526.
1499 Image:Banner of arms crown of Castille Habsbourg style.svg Crown of Castile Template:Flagicon Madrid, Spain Complutense University of Madrid and University of Alcalá The Complutense University of Madrid claims continuity with Estudio de Escuelas Generales de Alcalá, founded in 1293 in Alcalá de Henares . However, the University was officially founded in 1499 by Cardinal Cisneros and moved to Madrid in 1836. In 1974, the Complutense University of Madrid moved part of its faculties to the historical buildings of the old University of Alcalá de Henares. In 1977, the Complutense University campus in Alcalá split as an entirely independent institution that claims to be the successor to the university founded by Cisneros.
1499 Image:Estandarte de la Corona de Aragon.png Crown of Aragon Template:Flagicon Valencia, Spain University of Valencia

Oldest universities by country or region after 1500

The majority of European countries had universities by 1500. After 1500, universities began to spread to other countries all over the world:

Eastern and rest of Europe

Latin America and the Caribbean

North America



Australia and Oceania

See also

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