Did you know that the oldest university was a mosque founded way back in 859 AD in Fes, Morocco and that it was established by a woman? The institution still exists, and as of 1957, it has added all the mainstream subjects to its curriculum to remain the oldest continuously operating degree-granting university in the world, according to the Guinness Book of World Records.
The oldest institutions of learning that were not mosques or madrasas were established in Europe, starting with:
- 1. University of Bologna: This institution is not only the oldest university in Europe; having been established in 1088 in Bologna, Italy, it still remains one of the top 50 universities in the world. It started out teaching canon and civil law before branching out to offer other subjects as well.
2. University of Paris: Established in 1150, this institution focused on providing an education in the fields of arts, medicine, law and theology. In 1970, the university was reorganized into 13 autonomous colleges under the University of Paris.
3. University of Oxford: This famous university was established in 1167 in Oxford, England; currently ranked among the top 10 universities in the world, Oxford governs 38 independent colleges.
4. University of Cambridge: Founded in 1209 in Cambridge, England, the University of Cambridge is currently ranked among the top 5 universities in the world. It has produced many academic geniuses, 80 of whom went on to win the Nobel Prize in various categories.
5. University of Salamanca: Established in 1218 in the town of Salamanca in Madrid, Spain, this educational institution still remains a famed center for studies in humanities and languages.
Coming to the US of A, the five oldest universities are collectively known as the Colonial Colleges and date only as far back as 1636. We kick off this list with the most prestigious of them all:
- 1. Harvard University: Initially known as New College when it was started in 1636, Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, is renowned for its high standard of education. It is also one of the most expensive universities in the world; it has produced 7 American presidents and over 40 Nobel laureates.
2. The College of William and Mary: This is the only college in the oldest top-five list that is not an Ivy League institution. It’s a small college in Williamsburg, Virginia with less than 8,000 students; it was set up in 1693 and it holds the distinction of having established the country’s first college honor code and the first academic Greek society, the Phi Beta Kappa in 1776. It also houses the nation’s oldest college building in continuous use since 1700.
3. Yale University: Another Ivy League college, this institution was established in 1701 in New Haven, Connecticut. It is now divided into 12 colleges. Yale was originally known as the Collegiate School. It is a popular choice with international students, with over 16 percent of its student body having overseas roots.
4. Princeton University: Coming into the picture much later in 1976, Princeton today can claim credit for the highest per-student endowment of any university in the world. It is set Princeton, New Jersey, and was formerly known as the College of New Jersey.
5. Columbia University: Originally established as King’s College in New York City in 1754, it has a diverse student body, over half of which is non-Caucasian. It moved campus in 1897, and now takes up six blocks of the Morningside Heights area of New York City.