The list of medieval universities comprises universities (more precisely, studium generale) which existed in Europe during the Middle Ages. It also includes short-lived foundations and European educational institutions whose university status is a matter of debate. The degree-awarding university with its corporate organization and relative autonomy is a product of medieval Christian Europe. Before 1500, more than eighty universities were established in Western and Central Europe. During the subsequent Colonization of the Americas the university was introduced to the New World, marking the beginning of its worldwide spread as the center of higher learning everywhere (see List of oldest universities).
There were many institutions of learning (Studium) in the Middle Ages in Latin Europe—cathedral schools, "schools of rhetoric" (law faculties), etc. Historians generally restrict the term "medieval university" to refer to an institution of learning that was referred to as Studium Generale in the Middle Ages.
There is no official strict definition of a Studium generale, the term having emerged from customary usage. The following properties were common among them, and are often treated as defining criteria:
- It received students from everywhere (not merely the local district or region);
- It engaged in higher learning—i.e., that it went beyond teaching the Arts, and had at least one of the higher faculties (Theology, Law or Medicine).
- A significant part of the teaching was done by Masters (teachers with a higher degree)
- It enjoyed the privilege of jus ubique docendi—i.e., masters of that school were entitled to teach in any other school without a preliminary examination.
- Its teachers and students were allowed to enjoy any clerical benefices they might have elsewhere without meeting the mandatory residency requirements prescribed by Canon Law
- It enjoyed some degree of autonomy from local civil and diocesan authorities.
Charters issued by the Pope or Holy Roman Emperor were often needed to ensure privileges 4–6. The fourth condition (teaching elsewhere without examination) was originally considered by scholars of the time to be the most important criterion, with the result that the appellation Studium Generale was customarily reserved to refer only to the oldest and most prestigious schools—specifically Salerno, Bologna, Paris, and sometimes Oxford—until this oligopoly was broken by papal and imperial charters in the course of the 13th century. The fifth criterion (continued benefices) was the closest there was to an "official" definition of a Studium Generale used by the Church and academics from the 14th century onwards, although there were some notable exceptions (e.g., neither Oxford nor Padua received this right, but they were nonetheless universally considered "Studia Generalia by custom").
Modern historians have tended to focus on the first three requirements (students from everywhere, at least one higher faculty, teaching by masters). This has led to contention in making lists of Medieval universities. Some Italian universities, for instance, were quick to obtain papal charters and thus the privileges and title of a Studium Generale, but their student catchment never went much beyond the local district or they had only a couple of masters engaged in teaching. Other comparable schools (notably the more prestigious cathedral schools of France), may have had wider student catchment and more masters, but neglected or failed to secure the chartered privileges and thus were never referred to as Studium Generale. It is common to include the former and exclude the latter from lists of "Medieval universities", but some historians have disputed this convention as arbitrary and unreflective of the state of higher learning in Europe.
Some historians have discarded the Studium Generale definition, and come up with their own criteria for a definition of a "university"—narrowing it by requiring, for instance, that a university have all three higher faculties (Theology, Law, Medicine) in order to be considered a "Medieval university" (very few had all three), whereas others widen it to include some of the more prestigious cathedral schools, palace schools and universities outside of Latin Europe (notably in the Greek and Islamic world, for example the Pandidakterion founded by the Byzantine emperor Theodosius II in 425 or University of al-Qarawiyyin in Morocco founded by Fatima al-Fihri in 859, which may be the "first university in the world and the oldest existing, and continually operating educational institution in the world").
There is also contention on the founding dates of many universities. Using the date of acquisition of a papal and royal/imperial charter is inadequate, as the older universities, believing their status and reputations sufficient and indisputable, refused or resisted asking for an official charter for a long time. Some historians trace the founding of a university to the first date when evidence of some kind of teaching was done in that locality, even if only local and limited. Others wait until there is evidence of higher learning, a wide student catchment, the emergence of its masters teaching elsewhere or a more definitive mention of it as a Studium generale.
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The list is sorted by the date of recognition. At places where more than one university was established, the name of the institution is given in brackets.
|Ranking||Year||Name||Contemporaneous location||Current location||Notes|
|1||C. 1088 (1158 charter granted)||University of Bologna||Holy Roman Empire||Bologna, Italy||The first university in the sense of a higher-learning, degree-awarding institute, the word universitas having been coined at its foundation. Teaching there started much earlier since for example Gerard Sagredo born in AD 980 learnt liberal arts there and the town already had a corporation of legis doctores and of causidici|
|2||1150 (1200 charter granted)||University of Paris||Kingdom of France||France||The school predates the foundation of the university proper and is attested in 1045 which places its founding before that. The faculty and nation system of the University of Paris (along with that of the University of Bologna) became the model for all later medieval universities. The University of Paris was known as a universitas magistrorum et scholarium (a guild of teachers and scholars), by contrast with the Bolognese universitas scholarium.
The university had four faculties: Arts, Medicine, Law, and Theology. The Faculty of Arts was the lowest in rank, but also the largest as students had to graduate there to be admitted to one of the higher faculties. The students were divided into four nationes according to language or regional origin: France, Normandy, Picardy, and England. The last came to be known as the Alemannian (German) nation. Recruitment to each nation was wider than the names might imply: the English-German nation included students from Scandinavia and Eastern Europe.
|3||1096–1167 (1248 charter granted)||University of Oxford||Kingdom of England||Oxford, United Kingdom||"Claimed to be the oldest university in the English speaking world, there is no clear date of foundation of Oxford University, but teaching existed at Oxford in some form in 1096 and developed rapidly from 1167 when Henry II banned English students from attending the University of Paris." Teaching suspended in 1209 (owing to the town execution of two scholars) and 1355 (owing to the St Scholastica riot), but was continuous during the English Civil War (1642–1651)—the university was Royalist. All Souls College and University College have repeatedly claimed that they own documents proving that teaching in Oxford started in the year 825, but these documents have never been produced (allegedly, John Speed dated his famous 1605 Oxford maps based on these documents). However, it was not until 1254 that Pope Innocent IV granted to Oxford the university charter by papal bull ("Querentes in agro").|
|4||1204||University of Vicenza||Commune of Vicenza||Vicenza, Italy||Laical studium generale, it was closed early, in 1209.|
|5||1209 (1231 charter granted)||University of Cambridge||Kingdom of England||Cambridge, United Kingdom||Founded by scholars leaving Oxford after a dispute caused by the execution of two scholars in 1209, and royal charter was granted in 1231. The university takes 1209 as its official anniversary.|
|6||1212||University of Palencia||Kingdom of León||Palencia, Spain||It was the oldest Studium Generale in the Iberian Peninsula. It disappeared c. 1264, and its remains transferred to University of Valladolid.|
|7||1218 (probably older)||University of Salamanca||Kingdom of León||Salamanca, Spain||It is the oldest university in operation in the Hispanic world. Although there are records of the university granting degrees many years before (James Trager's People's Chronology sets its foundation date in 1134), it received the royal chart of foundation as "Estudio General" only in 1218, making it possibly the fourth or even the third oldest European university in continuous operations. However, it was the first European university to receive the title of "university" as such, granted by king of Castile and León, Alfonso X, and the Pope in 1254. Having been excluded from the university in 1852 by the Spanish government, the Faculties of Theology and Canon Law became the Pontifical University of Salamanca in 1940.|
|8||1222 (probably older)||University of Padua||Commune of Padua||Padua, Italy||Founded by scholars and professors after leaving Bologna.|
|9||1224||University of Naples Federico II||Kingdom of Sicily||Naples, Italy||The first public university, founded by Frederick II, emperor of the Holy Roman Empire.|
|10||1229||University of Toulouse||County of Toulouse||Toulouse, France||Founded by Raymond VII, Count of Toulouse, as a consequence of the Treaty of Paris (1229) ending the Albigensian Crusade against Catharism. The treaty marks an unofficial end to the political autonomy of the County of Toulouse, and because he was suspected of sympathizing with the heretics, Raymond VII was forced to finance the teaching of theology as a mean to dissolve the heretic movement. As a consequence, the teaching was done by members of the Dominican Order, which was founded by Saint Dominic in Toulouse in 1216 to oppose heresy.|
|11||1235 (1306)||University of Orléans||Orléans, Duchy of Orléans, Orléanais, Kingdom of France||Orléans, France||In 1219, Pope Honorius III forbade the teaching of Roman Law in the University of Paris. Then, a number of teachers and disciples took refuge in Orléans. In 1235 Pope Gregory IX, in a bull, affirmed that teaching Roman Law was not forbidden in Orléans. Later, Pope Boniface VIII, in 1298, promulgated the sixth book of the Decretals, he appointed the doctors of Bologna and the doctors of Orléans to comment upon it. Pope Clement V also studied law and letters in Orléans and, by a papal bull published at Lyon, 27 January 1306, he endowed the Orléans institutes with the title and privileges of a university.|
|12||1240||University of Siena||Republic of Siena||Siena, Italy||Originally called Studium Senese, was founded by Commune of Siena in 1240. In 1321, the studium was able to attract a larger number or pupils owing to a mass exodus from the prestigious University of Bologna. Closed temporarily in 1808–1815 when Napoleonic forces occupied Tuscany. On 7 November 1990 the university celebrated its 750th anniversary.|
|13||1241||University of Valladolid||Kingdom of Castile||Valladolid, Spain||One hypothesis is that its foundation is the result of the transfer of Palencia's studium generale between 1208 and 1241 by Alfonso VIII, king of Castile, and Bishop Tello Téllez de Meneses.|
|14||1261||University of Northampton||Kingdom of England||Northampton||The University of Northampton was founded in 1261 by King Henry III. Abolished in 1265.|
|15||1272||University of Murcia||Crown of Castile||Murcia, Spain||The University of Murcia was founded in 1272 by King Alfonso X of Castile. It had no continuity after the 14th century, until it was refounded in 1915.|
|16||1289||University of Montpellier||Lordship of Montpellier, Kingdom of Majorca||Montpellier, France||A bull issued by Pope Nicholas IV in 1289, combined all the long-existing schools, since 1160, into a university.|
|17||1290||University of Macerata||Papal States||Macerata, Italy||The University of Macerata (Italian: Università degli Studi di Macerata) was founded in 1290, organized into seven faculties.|
|18||1290||University of Coimbra||Kingdom of Portugal||Coimbra, Portugal||Began its existence in Lisbon with the name Studium Generale (Portuguese: Estudo Geral). Scientiae thesaurus mirabilis, the royal charter announcing the institution of the university, was dated 1 March of that year, although efforts had been made at least since 1288 to create this first university in Portugal. The papal confirmation was also given in 1290 (on 9 August of that year), during the papacy of Pope Nicholas IV.|
|19||1293||University of Alcalá||Crown of Castile||Alcalá de Henares, Spain||The University of Alcalá was founded by King Sancho IV of Castile as Studium Generale in 1293 in Alcalá de Henares. It was granted university status in a papal bull in 1499, and quickly gained international fame thanks to the patronage of Cardinal Cisneros and the production of the Complutensian Polyglot Bible in 1517, which is the basis for most of the current translations. The university moved to Madrid in 1836 by royal decree. The Moyano Law of 1857 established Complutense as the sole university in Spain authorized to confer the title of doctor on any scholar. This law remained in effect until 1969.|
|20||1300||University of Lleida||Principality of Catalonia||Lleida, Spain||Founded in 1300 as Estudi General, after a 1297 granting papal bull. It was closed down in 1717 along with the banning of the rest of Catalan universities and the original political institutions of Catalonia. Refounded on 12 December 1991.|
|21||1303||La Sapienza University of Rome||Papal States||Rome, Italy||Founded by Pope Boniface VIII, but became a state university in 1935. According to the Catholic Encyclopaedia, the university "remained closed during the entire pontificate of Clement VII".|
|22||1308||University of Perugia||Papal States||Perugia, Italy||Attested by the Bull of Pope Clement V. On 19 May 1355, the Emperor Charles IV, Holy Roman Emperor issued a bull confirming the papal erection and raising it to the rank of an imperial university.|
|23||1320||University of Dublin||Lordship of Ireland||Dublin, Ireland||Papal brief granted by Pope Clement V in 1311 to John de Leche, Archbishop of Dublin, but it was not acted on until his successor, Alexander de Bicknor, issued an instrument establishing the university in 1320. The university had power to confer degrees, and three doctors of theology were appointed. It was based at St Patrick's Cathedral. The university struggled to attract benefactors and disappeared at the time of the Reformation (1530s). It has no relation to the current University of Dublin, which was founded in 1592.|
|24||1321||University of Florence||Republic of Florence||Florence, Italy||The University of Florence evolved from the Studium Generale established by the Florentine Republic in 1321. The studium was recognized by Pope Clement VI in 1349.|
|25||1336||University of Camerino||Papal States||Camerino, Italy||The great poet and jurist Cino da Pistoia, living in Marche in the years 1319–1321, and in Camerino in the spring of 1321, remembers the territory blooming with juridical schools. Camerino had been a center of learning since no later than 1200, offering degrees in civil law, canonical law, medicine, and literary studies. Gregory XI took the decision upon the request of Gentile III da Varano with the papal edict of 29 January 1377, directed to the commune and to the people, authorizing Camerino to confer (after appropriate examination) bachelor and doctoral degrees with apostolic authority.|
|26||1339||University of Grenoble||Dauphiné||Grenoble, France||The university was founded in 1339 by Dauphin Humbert II of Viennois and Pope Benedict XII to teach civil and canon law, medicine, and the liberal arts.|
|27||1343||University of Pisa||Republic of Pisa||Pisa, Italy||It was formally founded on 3 September 1343, by an edict of Pope Clement VI, although there had been lectures on law in Pisa since the 11th century. Today it is one of the most important universities in Italy.|
|28||1348||Charles University of Prague||Kingdom of Bohemia||Prague, Czech Republic||Three of four faculties closed in 1419, joined with Jesuit university and renamed Charles-Ferdinand University in 1652, split into German and Czech parts in 1882. The Czech branch temporarily closed during the Nazi occupation (1939–1945), and the German branch definitively closed in 1945.|
|29||1349||University of Perpignan||Principality of Catalonia||Perpignan, France||Founded in 1349 by Peter IV of Aragon, it was closed in 1794. Refounded in 1971, and in 1979 as independent university with the name Université de Perpignan Via Domicia.|
|30||1356||University of Angers||Charles V of France||Angers, France||Founded in 1356, closed down in 1793, and re-established in 1971. By 1080, the Studium or the School of Angers was already a renowned scholarly institution. It received the title "university" in 1356, and in 1364, Charles V granted the university its autonomy and privileges.|
|31||1361||University of Pavia||House of Visconti||Pavia, Italy||Closed for short periods during the Italian Wars, Napoleonic wars, and Revolutions of 1848.|
|32||1364||Jagiellonian University||Kingdom of Poland||Kraków, Poland||Founded by Casimir the Great under the name Studium Generale, it was commonly referred to as the Kraków Academy. The institution's development stalled upon the king's death in 1370, owing primarily to a lack of funding. The academy lacked a permanent location, so lectures were held across the city at various churches and in the Kraków Cathedral School. Further development again resumed in the 1390s, by the initiative of King Władysław Jagiełło and his wife Jadwiga of Poland; at which point the school became a fully functioning university with a permanent location. The university was forcibly shut down during the German Occupation of Poland (1939–1945). The staff was deported to Nazi concentration camps, and many of its collections were deliberately destroyed by the occupying German authorities. Within a month after the city's liberation, the university again reopened with some of the original pre-war staff who survived the occupation.|
|33||1365||University of Vienna||Holy Roman Empire||Vienna, Austria||Modeled on the University of Paris.|
|34||1367||University of Pécs||Kingdom of Hungary||Pécs, Hungary|
|35||1379||University of Erfurt||Holy Roman Empire||Erfurt, Germany||Disestablished 1816 and reopened 1994. The first universities founded in the German-speaking world were Prague (1348), Vienna (1365), and Erfurt (1379). The University of Erfurt claims to be the oldest university in what is present day Germany, although it was closed for 178 years. Heidelberg University (founded 1386, before actual teaching started in Erfurt) also claims to be Germany's oldest university.|
|36||1380||University of Dyrrachium||Medieval Kingdom of Albania||Durrës, Albania||Established in 1380 it was a theological university (Studium generale) in Durrës (Dyrrhachium), Albania, then Medieval Kingdom of Albania. The university was established around 1380, and then transferred to Zadar in 1396, amid the mounting Turkish threats in south-eastern Europe.|
|37||1386||Ruprecht Karl University of Heidelberg||Holy Roman Empire||Heidelberg, Germany||Founded by Rupert I, Elector Palatine.|
|38||1388||University of Cologne||Holy Roman Empire||Cologne, Germany||Founded by the city council of the Free City of Cologne. Pope Urban VI granted a university charter in the year of foundation. Closed in 1798, refounded in 1919.|
|39||1391||University of Ferrara||House of Este||Ferrara, Italy||Founded by Marquis Alberto d'Este.|
|40||1396||University of Zadar||Kingdom of Croatia and Dalmatia||Zadar, Croatia||Founded by Raimund de Vineis.|
|41||1404||University of Turin||Duchy of Savoy||Turin, Italy||Founded by the Prince Louis of Piedmont during the reign of Amadeus VIII.|
|42||1409||University of Leipzig||Holy Roman Empire||Leipzig, Germany||Founded when German-speaking staff left Prague due to the Jan Hus crisis.|
|43||1413||University of St Andrews||Kingdom of Scotland||St Andrews, United Kingdom||Founded by a papal bull|
|44||1419||University of Rostock||Holy Roman Empire||Rostock, Germany||During the Reformation, "the Catholic university of Rostock closed altogether and the closure was long enough to make the re-founded body feel a new institution".|
|45||1425||University of Leuven||Duchy of Brabant||Leuven, Belgium||Founded by a papal bull.|
|46||1432||University of Caen||Kingdom of England||Caen, France||Founded by John of Lancaster, 1st Duke of Bedford, during the period of English control of Normandy during the Hundred Years' War. When the French regained control of Normandy the university was recognized by French King Charles VII.|
|47||1434||University of Catania||Kingdom of Sicily||Catania, Italy||The oldest in Sicily. Founded by Alfonso V.|
|48||1441||University of Bordeaux||Kingdom of England||Bordeaux, France||Founded by a papal bull.|
|49||1446||University of Girona||Principality of Catalonia||Girona, Spain||Founded by Alfonso V of Aragon (known as King Alfonso the Magnanimous) in 1446, when he granted the privilege of teaching degrees in grammar, rhetoric, philosophy, theology, law and medicine in the city of Girona, which led to the creation of the General Studies ("Estudis Generals").|
|50||1450||University of Barcelona||Principality of Catalonia||Barcelona, Spain||Founded by Alfonso V of Aragon as Estudi general de Barcelona after the unification of all university education. For forty-nine years before that foundation, however, the city had had a fledgling medical school founded by King Martin of Aragon, and in the 13th century Barcelona already possessed several civil and ecclesiastical schools.|
|51||1451||University of Glasgow||Kingdom of Scotland||Glasgow, United Kingdom||Founded by a papal bull.|
|52||1456||University of Greifswald||Holy Roman Empire||Greifswald, Germany||Teaching had started by 1436. Founded by initiative of Heinrich Rubenow, Lord Mayor of Greifswald (and first rector), with approval of Pope Callixtus III and Frederick III, Holy Roman Emperor, under the protection of Wartislaw IX, Duke of Pomerania. Teaching paused temporarily during the Protestant Reformation (1527–39).|
|53||1457||Freiburg (im Breisgau)||Germany||Teaching started in 1460 (three weeks after the opening of the nearby University of Basel with which it was competing at the time.|
|54||1459||Basel||City of Basel, located in the Holy Roman Empire, part of the Swiss Confederation after 1501||Switzerland||Established by papal bull in 1459, the university started teaching in 1460 and has never interrupted its activities since. The Protestant Reformation triggered a crisis during which the university lost part of the students and faculty to its neighbouring rival in Freiburg-im-Breisgau.|
|58||1465||Universitas Istropolitana||Pressburg, Kingdom of Hungary||Bratislava, Slovakia|
|61||1474||Zaragoza||Kingdom of Aragon||Spain|
|66||1483||Palma, Majorca||Kingdom of Majorca||Spain|
|67||1489||Sigüenza||Crown of Castile||Spain|
|68||1495||University of Aberdeen||Kingdom of Scotland||Aberdeen, United Kingdom||Founded by a papal bull.|
|69||1498||Frankfurt on the Oder||Germany|
|70||1499||Valencia||Kingdom of Valencia||Spain|
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- List of universities and colleges in Europe
- List of oldest universities in continuous operation
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