The Oldest University in Europe

Founded in the year 1088, the oldest continuously operating university in Europe is located in which city?

And the answer: Bologna, Italy.    

Located in northern Italy, the University of Bologna is the oldest university in the Western world that's still in operation. Known in Italy as Alma Mater Studiorum Università di Bologna ("the mother of all universities"), the school counts the poet Dante as one of its alumni. Today it welcomes 85,000 students across five campuses.

Photo credit: uceap.universityofcalifornia.edu

While most every college or university tends to have their own claim to fame, few can proudly boast a longevity quite like that of University of Bologna. In 1088, traditions of studying Roman law began to revive, and with it came the Western world's first university. Yet University of Bologna hardly resembled any conventional institution of higher learning in the beginning – professors taught from home, in rented spaces, and often in city squares. It wasn't until 1154 that the Holy Roman Emperor Friedrich Barbarossa recognized the university as such, giving way to a more formalized education.

Photo credit: public domain. 

Its longevity isn't the only thing that makes the University of Bologna unique, though. Upon its creation, the school was created and controlled by the students. Rather than internally-elected professors, lecturers, or rectors, students were in charge of choosing their educators. In time, the various universitates scholarium (student mutual aid societies) decided to form a larger association, or Studium —thus, the university was created.

In the 12th century, the University of Bologna began to take the shape of what we think of as a university today. Latin and Greek literature, medicine, and philosophical science were all taught to eager students. Throughout the 13th century, the famous professors lectured on philosophy, the liberal arts, and jurisprudence.

The University of Bologna continues to thrive today in numbers. Learn more about the Western world's oldest university here.


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