List of oldest universities in continuous operation
This article contains a list of the oldest existing universities in continuous operation in the world. Inclusion in this list is determined by the date at which the educational institute met the traditional definition of a university used by academic historians[specify] although it may have existed as a different kind of institution before that time. This definition limits the term "university" to institutions with distinctive structural and legal features that developed in Europe, and which make the university form different from other institutions of higher learning in the pre-modern world, even though these may sometimes now be referred to popularly as universities. Thus, for the list below, the university must have been founded before 1500 in Europe or be the oldest university derived from the medieval European model in a country or region. It must also be still in operation, with institutional continuity retained throughout its history, and so some early universities, most notably the University of Paris, which was abolished by the Revolution in 1793, are excluded. Some institutions re-emerge, but with new foundations, such as the modern University of Paris, which came into existence in 1896 after the Louis Liard law disbanded Napoleon's University of France system.
Universities are dated from when, according to scholars, they met the definition of a university. In cases such as the universities of Bologna and Oxford which trace their history back to teaching in individual schools prior to their formation into a university, or which existed in another form prior to being a university, the date in the list below is thus later than the date given by the institutions for their foundation.
The word university is derived from the Latin: universitas magistrorum et scholarium, which approximately means "community of teachers and scholars". The term was coined by the Italian University of Bologna, which is considered to be the first university with a traditional founding date of 1088. The origin of many medieval universities can be traced back to the Catholic cathedral schools or monastic schools, which appeared as early as the 6th century and were run for hundreds of years as such before their formal establishment as universities in the high medieval period.
Other institutions of higher learning, such as those of ancient Greece, ancient Persia, ancient Rome, Byzantium, ancient China, ancient India and the Islamic world, are not included in this list owing to their cultural, historical, structural and legal differences from the medieval European university from which the modern university evolved.