A short definition of the university and its defining characteristics as they evolved in the medieval and early modern era is offered by the multi-volume History of the University in Europe of the European University Association:
The university is a European institution; indeed, it is the European institution par excellence. There are various reasons for this assertion. As a community of teachers and taught, accorded certain rights, such as administrative autonomy and the determination and realization of curricula (courses of study) and of the objectives of research as well as the award of publicly recognized degrees, it is a creation of medieval Europe, which was the Europe of papalChristianity...
No other European institution has spread over the entire world in the way in which the traditional form of the European university has done. The degrees awarded by European universities – the bachelor's degree, the licentiate, the master's degree, and the doctorate – have been adopted in the most diverse societies throughout the world. The four medieval faculties of artes – variously called philosophy, letters, arts, arts and sciences, and humanities –, law, medicine, and theology have survived and have been supplemented by numerous disciplines, particularly the social sciences and technological studies, but they remain none the less at the heart of universities throughout the world.
Even the name of the universitas, which in the Middle Ages was applied to corporate bodies of the most diverse sorts and was accordingly applied to the corporate organization of teachers and students, has in the course of centuries been given a more particular focus: the university, as a universitas litterarum, has since the 18th century been the intellectual institution which cultivates and transmits the entire corpus of methodically studied intellectual disciplines.
^London: Newman, Cardinal Henry; The Rise and Progress of Universities, Chapter 17 (The Ancient University of Dublin), 207-212
^Pécsi Tudományegyetem: University of Pécs, 1367. Eds.: Harka, Glass. Pécs: UP, (2007); Fényes, Miklós: Középkori egyetemek Magyarországon, A Pécsi Egyetem története, in: Bibliographie internationale l'histoire des Universités II, Genève, Librairie Droz, (1976).
Pécsi Tudományegyetem: University of Pécs, 1367, Eds.: Harka, Glass. Pécs: UP, (2007).
Fényes, Miklós: Középkori egyetemek Magyarországon, A Pécsi Egyetem története, in: Bibliographie internationale l'histoire des Universités, II, Genève, Librairie Droz, (1976).
Jílek, Jubor (ed.): "Historical Compendium of European Universities/Répertoire Historique des Universités Européennes", Standing Conference of Rectors, Presidents and Vice-Chancellors of the European Universities (CRE), Geneva 1984
Roberts, John; Rodriguez Cruz, Agueda M.; Herbst, Jürgen: "Exporting Models", in: Ridder-Symoens, Hilde de (ed.): A History of the University in Europe. Vol. II: Universities in Early Modern Europe (1500–1800), Cambridge University Press, 1996, ISBN 0-521-36106-0, pp. 256–284