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Early History of Universities in Europe


The early history of universities in europe is one filled with innovation and progress. From the emergence of the first university in Bologna to modern day institutions of higher education, universities have been a cornerstone of research and intellectual growth for centuries.

Through each era, universities in Europe have shaped the course of history by educating generations of students, advancing fields such as medicine and science, and introducing new ways of thinking about the world. The evolution of universities in Europe is an inspiring tale; one that has had a profound impact on society both in Europe and around the globe.

About the early History of Universities in Europe

European higher education took place for hundreds of years in Christian cathedral schools or monastic schools (scholae monasticae), in which monks and nuns taught classes; evidence of these immediate forerunners of the later university at many places dates back to the 6th century.

The earliest universities were developed under the aegis of the Latin Church by papal bull as studia generalia and perhaps from cathedral schools. It is possible, however, that the development of cathedral schools into universities was quite rare, with the University of Paris being an exception.

Later they were also founded by Kings (University of Naples Federico II, Charles University in Prague, Jagiellonian University in Kraków) or municipal administrations (University of Cologne, University of Erfurt).

In the early medieval period, most new universities were founded from pre-existing schools, usually when these schools were deemed to have become primarily sites of higher education. Many historians state that universities and cathedral schools were a continuation of the interest in learning promoted by monasteries.

The first universities in Europe with a form of corporate/guild structure were the University of Bologna (1088), the University of Paris (c.1150, later associated with the Sorbonne), and the University of Oxford (1167).

The University of Bologna began as a law school teaching the ius gentium or Roman law of peoples which was in demand across Europe for those defending the right of incipient nations against empire and church.

Bologna’s special claim to Alma Mater Studiorum[clarification needed] is based on its autonomy, its awarding of degrees, and other structural arrangements, making it the oldest continuously operating institution independent of kings, emperors or any kind of direct religious authority.

Top 10 universities in Europe

Click the link for the full list of best universities in Europe

Europe Rank 2023 World University Ranking 2023 UniversityCountry/region
1 1 University of OxfordUnited Kingdom
2 =3 University of CambridgeUnited Kingdom
3 10 Imperial College LondonUnited Kingdom
4 =11 ETH ZurichSwitzerland
5 22 UCLUnited Kingdom
6 29 University of EdinburghUnited Kingdom
7 30 Technical University of MunichGermany
8 33 LMU MunichGermany
9 35 King’s College LondonUnited Kingdom
10 37 London School of Economics and Political ScienceUnited Kingdom


It is clear that the early history of universities in Europe is an impressive and inspiring one. From their humble beginnings to today’s cutting-edge institutions, these universities have had a profound impact on the academic world. In addition, these universities have served as places of learning for generations of students and have provided the platform for many groundbreaking discoveries. By this legacy, they will continue to shape the world into the future.


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