Culture and Recreation


When was the first university established in the West?

The first modern western university was established in the Middle Ages—1158 to be exact—in Bologna, Italy. It was in that year that Frederick I (c. 1123–1190), Holy Roman emperor, asserted his authority in Lombardy. He granted the first university charter for the University of Bologna, authorizing its students to organize. The universities that were set up in Europe during the Middle Ages (500–1350) were not necessarily places or groups of buildings; they were more often groups of scholars and students. The University of Paris, which today includes the renowned Sorbonne (the university’s liberal arts and sciences division), soon became the largest and most famous university in Europe. The Sorbonne itself was founded in 1250 as a school of theology. It was reorganized in the 1600s

By 1500 universities had been founded throughout the continent. Of these, the ones that survive today include the universities of Cambridge and Oxford in England; those at Montpellier, Paris, and Toulouse, France; Heidelberg, Germany; Bologna, Florence, Naples, Padua, Rome, and Siena, Italy; and Salamanca, Spain. The methods and techniques developed in these early institutions set standards of academic inquiry that remain part of higher education in the world today.


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