First Universities?

Discussion in 'History' started by Crimson_Scribe, Sep 20, 2005.

  1. Crimson_Scribe Thespian Registered Senior Member

    I read somewhere that West Africa (i think the city of Fez) had the first universities. Is there a historian out there who could verify (or correct) this for me?
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  3. Arcane Guest

    Yeah, the first university was the philosopher Plato's Academy.

    He taught mostly philosophy, science, and mathematics. But there were other subjects of less importance such as art, poetry, ethics...

    Arcane the God
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  5. Baron Max Registered Senior Member

    I don't know what you'd consider a "university", but even the cavemen probably had a system in place to teach their young how to hunt, kill game, skin the game, cook the meat, and how to act in the society. University? Perhaps.

    Baron Max
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  7. River Ape Valued Senior Member

    My guess is that Paris, Bologna or Padua might be in contention for the claim of "first university". Early thirteenth century? But centres of learning date back to antiquity, so it does all depend what you are prepared to call a university.

    England had scholars and students at Salisbury in Anglo-Saxon times (well before Oxford or Cambridge), but did they constitute a university? Fez is an ancient city, and may well have at least as good a claim as Salisbury to be an ancient centre of learning.

    And who knows what claims the Chinese might have?
  8. SpyMoose Secret double agent deer Registered Senior Member

    Doesn’t the phrase "Classical education" imply a connection to the classical period, hence giving credibility to the idea that the Greek philosophers set the pattern for the first universities?
  9. Prince_James Plutarch (Mickey's Dog) Registered Senior Member

    Did not Charlemagne form a university of sorts?
  10. Facial Valued Senior Member

    Hunan University in Changsha is the oldest university in China, originally called the "Yuelu Academy." It was founded in 976 and has been up and running since then. It's about 2.5 times older than Harvard, and 1.25 times as old as Cambridge, also continuous old timers.
  11. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    From Wikipedia:

    The awarding of academic degrees for advanced studies was historically a European custom, and the modern definition of a university includes the ability to grant degrees. The oldest institutions of higher learning that have always satisfied the modern definition of a university were in Europe. If, however, the definition is broadened to include ancient institutions that did not originally grant degrees but now do, then some non-European institutes predate the early European ones (for example, Nanjing University founded in 258 in China, and Al-Azhar University founded in 988 in Egypt).

    Oldest Universities (the list is much longer but this is the beginning):

    Bologna, Italy, founded 1088
    Paris, France, founded 1150 (now split between several autonomous universities)
    Oxford, England, founded before 1167
    Modena, Italy, founded 1175
    Cambridge, England, founded about 1209
    Salamanca, Spain, founded 1218
    Padua, Italy, founded in 1222
    Naples, Italy, founded 1224
    Toulouse, France, founded 1229

    From Discover Magazine:

    Archeologists believe they have unearthed the university of Alexandria, the alma mater of Archimedes. The article doesn't give any more info. I suspect that the one in China and the one in Egypt are probably the only ones that predate European universities and are still in operation.
    Last edited: Sep 24, 2005
  12. Arcane Guest

    Plato's Academy was made in 300's BC. Thats older than all of those.
  13. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    Depends on your definition of "university." Today it has to meet some formal requirements, primarily the granting of degrees. There were "institutions of higher learning" before degrees were given, no one is arguing that. You have to draw the line somewhere. I think that counting institutions that now give degrees but didn't originally is a good compromise. Plato's academy is not still in existence so they don't grant degrees.

    But okay, what the hell. Does anybody have one older than Plato's?
  14. Miemets Registered Member

    Well, it wasn't called a university back then, and it wasn't Platos either. But a rich senate member named Academus, who had a vast land in northern Athenes (now, the capital of Greece) gave his land to the best scholars to build the first educational facility, which then called Academia to his honor approximately 300 BC. Plato, and many well known ancient greek philosophers, scientists, had the honor to share their knowledge with their youth.
  15. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    Okay. But what distinguishes a "university" from a "school"?
  16. guthrie paradox generator Registered Senior Member

    And a school from a "Think tank". Actually, thats not the right words to use, I just cant think of them. What went on a lot of the time, in Europe and elsewhere, was that a rich person, in order to bost their prestige, and perhaps because they liked dispuations themselves, would pay for people considered prestigious in the area of philosophy or rhetoric or suchlike, to come to their court and form a nucleus of culture. This is somewhat like thesuggested Academy above, but in my opinion, such a place or set up does not really fit the idea of a university. Although universities are about educaiton and research, expanding knowledge, I think that their attempts at independence have to be taken into consideration, as well as their structure and the idea that you had to come up to a certain standard. Did this Greek academy have set standards?
  17. Facial Valued Senior Member

    Does Plato's academy still exist?
  18. ecclesiastes Registered Senior Member

  19. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    According to the first Google hit on the subject, it was closed by Emperor Justinian in 529CE.
  20. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    It's Wikipedia that says a "university" must "grant degrees." This article doesn't make clear how the decision was made that Takshashila satisfied that criterion. I wonder how it even defines a "degree." The word has too many meanings for me to trace at the moment.

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