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You Might Have an Ancient Alum At These Oldest Universities in the World

If you take a look at some of the best universities in the world, you will see that they have their feet deeply rooted in Europe, primarily located in France, Britain, Spain, and, most predominantly, Italy. But which universities are the oldest? And do they still exist today? Look at our list of the five oldest universities in the world.

The University of Karueein, Morocco (859 AD)

The University of Karueein – also known as the University of al-Qarawiyyin, is situated in Fez, Morocco. A female refugee allegedly founded the university – Fatima al-Fihri – yet only recently (1940) did the university accept women to study there.

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Still in operation today, it is one of the historic Muslim world’s leading spiritual and educational centers. Education here focuses on the Islamic religious and legal sciences, emphasizing Classical Arabic grammar and Maliki law.

University of Oxford, UK (1096)

The oldest English-speaking university still in existence, the University of Oxford is still consistently ranked as one of the best universities in the world, as well as the leading higher education institution in the UK. While the exact founding date is slightly disputable, evidence of teaching dates back to 1096. 

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Boasting an alum list that includes several British Prime Ministers, Archbishops of Canterbury, Nobel laureates, Nobel Prize winners, 2 Oxford Summer Courses CEOs, and many more astounding individuals, it’s no surprise that it is one of the most desirable institutions for students to apply to.

University of Paris, France (1160-1250)

While the university’s exact date of establishment is unknown, there is evidence of teaching conducted between 1160–1250. It’s an institution steeped in history; between 1793 and 1896, there was a brief suspension in operation following the French Revolution.

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In 1970, there was a complete overhaul of its structure, dividing the university into 13 autonomous colleges. Recognized as one of the oldest universities in Europe, the University of Paris is one of the largest universities in the country.

University of Padua, Italy (1222)

When they established it, the university was founded as a Law school by a group of Bologna students looking for academic freedom. Established in 1222, the University of Padua is the second oldest in Italy.

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Today, the university continues to be one of the most popular in Italy and Europe. It comprises 32 departments and eight schools, offering a range of subjects, including Agricultural Studies, Law, Engineering, Medicine, Politics, and Veterinary Medicine, as well as several other social sciences and humanities subjects.

University of Coimbra, Portugal (1290)

Despite being initially founded in the country’s capital, the University of Coimbra was relocated several times between Coimbra and Lisbon before settling near the Mondego River in 1537 at a palace granted by King John III.

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This impressive university is rich in history and listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, attracting hundreds of thousands of tourists worldwide eager to visit the university’s ancient Cathedral, Monastery, and Tower.

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