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European Universities Founded before the Discovery of America | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Università di Bologna. – Getty Images

London – Oxford University sources confirm that it’s the oldest Anglo-Saxon university in the U.K., however, the oldest rank among the European universities is Italian, the Bologna University, which was established in 1088, eight years before Oxford. Both universities were established in the 11th century, before the emergence of the Aztec civilization in Latin America in 1325 – they also date before the discovery of the American Continent by Christopher Columbus in 1492 and the discovery of the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa by the Portuguese explorer Bartolomeu Dias in 1488.

These universities along many others were established after the Medieval Eras and before the Renaissance Phase after the fall of the Byzantine Empire and the control of Normans all over Europe. This phase was characterized with population growth in cities, domination of capitalism, and trade growth.

The eleventh century saw Islamic prosperity that led to the development of sciences, philosophy, and literature. At that time, Seljuk Empire prospered in Central Asia after the deterioration of the Abbasid Caliphate. The end of this century witnessed the launch of Crusades campaign over Jerusalem.

The first university in Europe was established in this phase, it comprised many professors who teach students based on determined rules, with a complete managerial independency in selecting curricula, scientific researches, and certificates’ introduction. However, Europe was dominated by the Spiritual Chief of Catholics; the Pope in Rome.

Later, European Universities acquired more independence and replaced all the other educational and religious institutions spread at that time. In the 11th and 12th centuries, universities emerged from Western Europe and then expanded in the Middle East, Central Europe, America, Australia, Africa, Middle East, and Asia within the next five decades.

University of Bologna from Italy to Argentina

The University of Bologna was established in Italy in 1088. Later, in 1158, Emperor Frederic I endorsed its chart including rights, privileges, and regulations that should be adopted by educational universities. In the beginning of its journey, Bologna University hosted around 85,000 students in 11 schools comprising 28 different colleges. It has had many campuses in Italy, and then opened a branch in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Bologna University has provided diplomas in veterinary, economy, management, statistics, engineering, architecture, art, medicine, surgery, political sciences and psychology. Over the history, it graduated many Popes, many eminent Italian officials and diplomats, Inventor Guglielmo Marconi, and Founder of Ferrari Company Enzo Ferrari.

Today, Bologna ranks among the best 208 universities in the world, and the first in Italy.

Oxford, First Anglo-Saxon University in the World

Oxford, the first Anglo-Saxon university in the world was established in 1096, but the growing activity of this university started in 1167 after King Henry II banned British students from receiving their education in France. Since then, Oxford has taught Sciences and literature. Its chart was endorsed by Pope Innocent IV in 1254.

Oxford has included 38 colleges – providing most of scientific and academic materials; the university gave the first and oldest scholarship, and opened the oldest academic museum and the biggest academic publication house in the world – it also comprises the biggest academic library in Britain.

Over centuries, Oxford graduated many eminent figures, with 28 of them received Nobel Prizes, 27 British Prime Ministers, and presidents of many other countries. The first Anglo-Saxon university has ranked among the top ten universities worldwide and was recently classified by “The Times Newspaper” and Forbes Magazine as the best university in the world.

Its most eminent graduates include Robert Merdokh, Bill Clinton, Benazir Bhutto, Edward Hith, Margaret Thatcher, Tony Blair, David Cameron, and the current British PM Theresa May.

University of Salamanca Graduated Writer of Don Quixote

It ranks the third among the oldest European universities and was established in 1134. It is the most ancient in Spain and received its chart from King Alfonso X of Castile and León in 1254.

Many of its graduates worked in governments, but one of its most famous students was Miguel Di Servantes who wrote the Don Quixote novel.

Academic Dispute behind Establishment of Cambridge

The British Cambridge is the fourth oldest university, which was established in 1209 by a number of academics who split from Oxford. Among its famous graduates, Isaac Newton who discovered gravity, and Charles Darwin, who set the theory of evolution. It ranks the fifth in the world and the second in Britain after Oxford.


The fifth in Europe, the University of Padua is located near Venice. It was also established by a group of academics who split from Bologna University in 1222. Padua is specialized in Law Studies, by 2015, its students reached 65,000 studying different majors including agricultural sciences, economy, political sciences, engineering, social sociology, law, medicine, and psychology.