Where was the first university born? Which is the oldest? How many years ago did you go back and what famous students did you have? Where did it all begin?
Who had, and in which country was it born, the idea of creating a place to deepen culture and education? We must really go back many years to discover the origins of that beloved and hated place that every day sees very many of you as protagonists.
There are diatribes about who can boast the title of the oldest university in the world and it seems that the primacy belongs to the University of Nalanda, in the State of Bihar, in India. In fact, it appears to have arisen in the 5th century AD to welcome Buddhist monks in prayer, a few centuries later the university became the reference point for scholars from all over the kingdom, boasting 3,000 teachers and 10,000 registered students. It reached its peak under Harsha (VII) and was almost completely razed in 1200 by a commander of the Sultan of Delhi. They studied here the first monks who brought the Mahayana philosophy to Tibet and are known as the fathers of Buddhism in Tibet.
THE FIVE ANCIENT ANCIENT UNIVERSITIES OF THE WORLD
Al-Qarawiyyin University located within the walls of the medina of Fes (UNESCO World Heritage), in Morocco. It boasts the title of the oldest university in the world still active. It was founded in 859 by a Muslim woman Fatima El Fihria who, together with her sister, inherited a large sum of money that she intended entirely for the construction of a mosque for her community. This university was therefore born as a place of worship but soon became the seat of political, philosophical and religious education, extending the number of subjects studied over time.
Al-Azhar University in Cairo is the oldest religious academic institution in the Islamic world. Founded between 970 and 972, it developed near the mosque of Al Azhar and after a fluctuating period obtained, in 1872 the possibility of conferring titles. In the second half of the last century the scientific faculties were born, including medicine, engineering and agriculture, and women got the opportunity to access the courses; maintaining, however, the separation in classrooms and housing. Subscribers must necessarily be of Islamic faith and are required to attend full-time classes.
The University of Bologna Here it is that Italy peeps out in the rankings giving the University of Bologna the title of the oldest university in Europe! Founded in 1088, the Alma Mater Studiorum was born as an association between students, free and secular, in which the associates were bound together by an oath of belonging with recognized leaders (rectores) and were concerned to recruit teachers who were paid directly from the municipality of Bologna. The first studies were centered on law, later they added logic, astronomy, medicine, philosophy, arithmetic, rhetoric, grammar and later theology, Greek and Hebrew. The fame of the university made Bologna a destination for illustrious guests and scholars. In over nine centuries of history, noteworthy among his students are prominent figures such as Dante Alighieri, Francesco Petrarca, Guido Guinizelli, Cecco d’Ascoli, Salimbene da Parma, Coluccio Salutati, Torquato Tasso and many other illustrious figures. The University of Modern Bologna has adopted a multicampus structure that includes, in addition to the headquarters in Bologna, four campuses in Cesena, Forlì, Ravenna, and Rimini and a headquarters in Buenos Aires.
The University of Paris or better known as Sorbonne is the best known French university and one of the most renowned in Europe. Founded in 1090 with the name of Collège de Sorbonne, a school of theology. During the Renaissance period the Sorbonne became one of the main centers of knowledge diffusion and intellectual debate. In 1606 he enrolled a student who, twenty years later, would become the rector, Armand Jean du Plessis, better known as Cardinal Richelieu one of the most powerful men in French history. To him we owe the first, important enlargement of the university which originally consisted of a small group of buildings; with Richelieu the spaces were enlarged and inner courtyards created, a new library and a chapel that would later become his mausoleum. In 1791 students were no longer allowed to enter the building and during the French Revolution the Sorbonne was suppressed; it was refounded only in 1896, they restructured the old buildings and built new ones, all completed in the early twentieth century. Another important historical period was that of the 1960s, a period of student protest; the university reforms that followed caused the division of the Sorbonne into the different thirteen “plexuses” of today.
Oxford University is the oldest university in the Anglo-Saxon world, always in competition with the University of Cambridge. The founding date of the university seems to be uncertain, but there is evidence of the presence of a study center at least starting from 1096. Like many other universities, Oxford also experienced the unhappy periods of religious wars, but in the XVIII century peace reigned and the university was able to enjoy the period of scientific discoveries becoming its protagonist during the Victorian age and, in 1920, it was also allowed entry to women. Today’s Oxford University does not have a university town; the various colleges and lodgings are scattered in the city center. The only area that can be traced back to the concept of “campus” is the Science Area, or the complex of scientific departments. This university boasts many illustrious students, we report only a few because the list would be endless: Margaret Thatcher, Tony Blair, David Cameron, Bill Clinton, Tim Berners-Lee (inventor of the World Wide Web), Stephen Hawking, Oscar Wilde and many, many others!
Sometimes it is nice to take a dip in the past and see who, in the past, has fought to lay the groundwork creating with difficulty what today allows us to plan and build our future.