These Ancient Universities Were Shining Beacons Of Light In The Past

Some of us attempt to hide our ages as we get older, but not these colleges, which openly flaunt them at every chance, and for good reason. Although the oldest universities looked quite different from current ones – particularly because a few of them typically only accepted males – they represented the origins of education as we know it today. Read through our list of these ancient universities, which were a shining beacon of light in our ancient past!

The University of Bologna

These Ancient Universities Were Shining Beacons Of Light In The Past
Paolo Monti, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Location: Bologna, Italy

Established: 1088

The Institution of Bologna is a public university and the Western world’s oldest continuously operating university. It is made up of 11 schools and was the first place of study to adopt the word universitas for the companies of students and masters, which came to characterize the Bologna-based institution.

The institution may be traced back to organizations of foreign students known as “nations,” who recruited scholars from the city to team them up. They created a broader group, which grew into a universitas. UNIBO is historically significant for its teaching of canon and civil law, and it played an important role in the formation of medieval Roman law.


These Ancient Universities Were Shining Beacons Of Light In The Past
Momed.salhi, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Location: Morocco


It is the world’s oldest continually functioning higher educational institution, located in Fez, Morocco. It was created in 859 by an Arab lady, Fatima Al-Fihri, along with an accompanying madrasa. Initially, this school offered Islamic religious education, Arabic grammar, music, Sufism, medicine, and astronomy. The school was integrated into the state education system in 1947, and disciplines such as physics, chemistry, and foreign languages were included beginning in 1957. The University of Al-Karaouine continues to teach in a traditional manner to its students, who come from Morocco, Islamic West Africa, and Muslim Central Asia.

Nalanda University

These Ancient Universities Were Shining Beacons Of Light In The Past
Hideyuki KAMON, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Location: India

Established: 427

One of the first ancient universities in the world, along with Takshila University, Nalanda was a historic university and Buddhist monastic centre in central Bihar state, northeastern India, southwest of Bihar Sharif. Nalanda’s historic history stretches back to the period of the Buddha and Mahavira, the Jaina religion’s founder. At its heyday, this ancient university drew academics and students from China, Greece, and Persia. In 1193, Turkic Muslim invaders led by Bakhtiyar Khalji destroyed Nalanda, marking a turning point in the collapse of Buddhism in India. The huge library of Nalanda University was so large that it is said to have burnt for three months after the Mughals set fire to it, looted and destroyed the monasteries, and expelled the monks.

Oxford University

Michael D Beckwith, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

Location: UK


Contrary to what you may have learnt, The University of Oxford was a late entrant in the ancient universities list. The University of Oxford, founded between 1096 and 1167, is one of the world’s most prestigious universities of the modern world. Prime ministers, Nobel laureates, and famous people such as Sir Stephen Hawking are among the alumni. The precise date of its beginnings is unknown, however some historical evidence suggests that lessons began as early as 1096.

University of Salamanca

Zarateman, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

Location: Spain


The Institution of Salamanca was the first university established in what would eventually become Spain, and it, too, is located in Castile and León, like the aforementioned University of Valladolid. While its exact roots are unknown, it is believed that teaching began here about 1094 and was officially recognised by King León in 1164. One especially significant debate that took place within the walls of the University of Salamanca concerned Christopher Columbus—first, whether his intended voyage west from Spain was viable, and second, how he and his soldiers should have treated the Native Americans.

University of Paris

Dietmar Rabich / Wikimedia Commons / “Paris, Université Panthéon-Assas, Faculté de droit — 2014 — 1672” / CC BY-SA 4.0

Location: Paris


The Institution of Paris, founded in 1150, is Europe’s second oldest university. During the French Revolution and its aftermath, the institution was closed for a brief period from 1793 until 1806. In 1970, the institution was split into 13 independent divisions. It provides undergraduate, postgraduate, and doctorate programs to students from all around the world. The University of Paris includes 26 departments split into three major faculties: Sciences (5 departments), Health (9 departments), and Humanities and Social Sciences (11 departments) (12 departments).

University of Cambridge

Photos taken for William Winfield; uploaded by Kimberlyblaker, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Location: Cambridge, England


The university’s police force wears traditional cloak and hat uniforms, and students wear sub fusc, gowns with a dark suit and a white shirt or blouse, but the University of Cambridge is most notably a public research university whose history and influence have made it one of the world’s most prestigious universities. It is home to Cambridge University Publisher, the world’s oldest publishing firm and the world’s second-largest university press. The University runs a number of cultural and scientific museums and offers its students with access to over 15 million volumes.

How many of these universities did you know about? If you could take any class in any of these universities, which one would it be?

If you liked reading about these ancient universities, you’d also love to read: 10 Bizarre But Totally Melodious Musical Instruments You Need To Hear Today!

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