List of oldest universities in continuous operation

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Map of medieval universities in Europe

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[Note 1] although it may have existed as a different kind of institute before that time.[1] 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. 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 suspended from 1793 to 1896, are excluded.

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,[citation needed] which, with a traditional founding date of 1088, is considered to be the first university.[2][3] The origin of many medieval universities can be traced back to the Christian 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.[4]

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 juristic dissimilarities from the medieval European university from which the modern university evolved.[Note 2][Note 3][7]

Medieval origins[edit]

The university as an institution was historically rooted in medieval society, which it in turn influenced and shaped:[7]

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 realisation of curricula (courses of study) and of the objectives of research as well as the award of publicly recognised degrees, it is a creation of medieval Europe, which was the Europe of papal Christianity [...].

Modern spread[edit]

From the early modern period onwards, the university gradually spread from the medieval Latin West across the globe, eventually replacing all other higher-learning institutions and becoming the preeminent institution for higher education everywhere. This process occurred in the following chronological order:[8]

  • Western Europe (from the 11th or 12th century)
  • Central and Eastern Europe (from the 14th or 15th century)
  • Americas (from the 16th century)
  • Australia (from the 19th century)
  • Asia and Africa (from the 19th or 20th century), with the exception of the Philippines, where the University of Santo Tomas was established in the 17th century.

Founded before 1500[edit]

Year University Location Notes
Original Current
1088 University of Bologna Corona ferrea monza (heraldry).svg Kingdom of Italy,
 Holy Roman Empire
Italy Bologna, Italy The oldest university in the world. A university in the sense of a higher-learning, degree-awarding institute, the word university (Latin: universitas) having been coined at its foundation. It received, in 1158, from Emperor Frederick I Barbarossa the "Authentica habita", which settled the rules, rights and privileges of universities.[9]
1096–1167 (charter granted in 1248)[10] University of Oxford  Kingdom of England United Kingdom Oxford, United Kingdom The oldest university in the English speaking world. Claims to have been founded between 1096 and 1167.[11] Rashdall takes 1167 as the date when Oxford became a studium generale.[12] Teaching was suspended in 1209 (due to the town's execution of two scholars) and in 1355 (due to the St. Scholastica Day riot), but was continuous during the English Civil War (1642–1651), when the University was Royalist. It was not until 1254 that Pope Innocent IV granted to Oxford a university charter by papal bull ("Querentes in agro").
1209 (charter granted in 1231)[13] University of Cambridge  Kingdom of England United Kingdom Cambridge, United Kingdom Founded by scholars leaving Oxford after a dispute caused by the execution of two scholars in 1209. Its royal charter was granted in 1231.[14] The University takes 1209 as its official anniversary.[15] Inspired the establishment of Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States, with the first college in the United States, Harvard University named after one of Cambridge University's alumni, John Harvard.
1218 University of Salamanca Pennant of the Kingdom of León Kingdom of León Spain Salamanca, Spain The oldest university in operation in Spain. The university claims to have been founded by Alfonso IX of León in 1218 (although James Trager's People's Chronology sets its foundation date as 1134), making it the third or fourth oldest university in continuous operation.[16] It was the first European university to receive the title of "University" as such, which was granted by the King of Castile and León, Alfonso X, and the Pope in 1254. After been excluded from the University in 1852 by the Spanish government, the Faculties of Theology and Canon Law became the Pontifical University of Salamanca in 1940.
1222 (probably older) University of Padua Lombard League arms.svg Lombard League Italy Padua, Italy Founded by scholars and professors after leaving Bologna.[17]
1224 (1258) University of Naples Federico II King Manfred of Sicily Arms.svg Kingdom of Sicily Italy Naples, Italy The first public university,[18] founded by Frederick II, Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire. The university moved to Salerno in 1253, and its return to Naples in 1258 is sometimes considered as a refoundation.
1290 University of Coimbra[19] Armas portugal 1247.png Kingdom of Portugal
Portugal Coimbra, Portugal It began its existence in Lisbon with the name Studium Generale (Estudo Geral). Scientiae thesaurus mirabilis ("the admirable treasure of knowledge"), the royal charter announcing the institution of the University, was dated 1 March 1290, although efforts had been made since at least 1288 to create this first university in Portugal. Papal confirmation was also given in 1290 (on 9 August of that year), during the papacy of Pope Nicholas IV.
1290 University of Macerata[19] Coat of arms of the Papal States Papal States Italy Macerata, Italy Founded in 1290, possibly as a private law school rather than a university. Unknown whether this was in continuous operation, but there is evidence for a school (without degree awarding powers) in 1518. After petitions from the commune to the Pope from 1534, bull establishing a studium generale issued in 1540.[20]
By 1293 University of Valladolid Escudo de la Corona de Castilla.svg Kingdom of Castile Spain Valladolid, Spain Founded in the late 13th century (first documentary evidence 1293), probably by the city.[21][22]
1293 University of Alcalá Pennant of the Crown of Castile Crown of Castile Spain Alcalá de Henares, Spain The University of Alcalá was founded by King Sancho IV of Castile as Studium Generale in 1293 in Alcalá de Henares. It was granted a papal bull in 1499, and quickly gained international fame thanks to the patronage of Cardinal Cisneros and the production of the Complutensian Polyglot Bible in 1517, which is the basis for most current translations. The University moved to Madrid in 1836 by royal decree as Universidad Central. The Moyano Law of 1857 established Central as the sole university in Spain authorized to confer the title of Doctor on any scholar. This law remained in effect until 1969. In 1970, Universidad Central de Madrid changed its name to Universidad Complutense de Madrid, its present name. On the other side, the Universidad de Alcalá was restored in Alcalá de Henares in 1977.
1303 Sapienza University of Rome Coat of arms of the Papal States Papal States Italy Rome, Italy Founded by Pope Boniface VIII, but became a state university in 1935.
1308 University of Perugia Coat of arms of the Papal States Papal States Italy Perugia, Italy Attested by the Bull of Pope Clement V.
1321 University of Florence Coat of arms of the Republic of Florence Republic of Florence Italy Florence, Italy The University of Florence evolved from the Studium Generale, which was established by the Florentine Republic in 1321. The Studium was recognized by Pope Clement VI in 1349.
1343 University of Pisa Coat of arms of the Republic of Pisa Republic of Pisa Italy Pisa, Italy It was formally founded on September 3, 1343 by an edict of Pope Clement VI, although there had been lectures on law in Pisa since the 11th century. Nowadays is one of the most important universities in Italy.
1348 Charles University of Prague Coat of arms of the Kingdom of Bohemia Kingdom of Bohemia Czech Republic Prague, Czech Republic Three of four faculties closed in 1419, joined with Jesuit university and renamed Charles-Ferdinand University in 1652, split into German and Czech part in 1882, Czech branch closed during Nazi occupation (1939–1945), German branch closed in 1945.[23]
1357 University of Siena Coat of arms of Siena Republic of Siena Italy Siena, Italy Claims to have been founded in 1240 by the Commune of Siena,[24] although Rashdall dates the proclamation of the Studium to 1246, when Frederick II tried to place a ban on scholars travelling to Bologna. Was granted some exemptions from taxes by Pope Innocent II in 1252, but closed shortly after when the scholars returned to Bologna. Attempted revivals in 1275 and (fed by further short-lived migrations of scholars from Bologna) in 1321 and 1338 were unsuccessful. Gained an Imperial Bull in 1357 "granting it de novo the 'privileges of a Studium Generale.'", but was not firmly established until "[i]n 1408 a fresh grant of privileges was obtained from Pope Gregory XII".[25] Closed temporarily in 1808–1815 when Napoleonic forces occupied Tuscany.[24] On November 7, 2015 the University celebrated its 775th anniversary.
1361 University of Pavia House of ViscontiDomain of the House of Visconti Italy Pavia, Italy Closed for short periods during the Italian Wars, Napoleonic wars, and Revolutions of 1848.
1364 Jagiellonian University Coat of arms of Poland Kingdom of Poland Poland Kraków, Poland Founded by Casimir the Great under the name Studium Generale, and was commonly referred to as the Kraków Academy. The institution's development stalled upon the king's death in 1370; primarily due to a lack of funding. Without a permanent location; lectures were held across the city at various churches and in the Kraków Cathedral School. Further development again resumed in the 1390s, by the initiative of King Władysław Jagiełło and his wife Jadwiga of Poland; at which point the school became a fully functioning university with a permanent location. The university was forcibly shut down during the German Occupation of Poland (1939–1945). The staff was deported to Nazi concentration camps, and many of its collections were deliberately destroyed by the occupying German authorities. Within a month after the liberation of the city, the university again re-opened; with some of the original pre-war staff who survived the occupation.
1365 University of Vienna  Holy Roman Empire Austria Vienna, Austria Modelled on the University of Paris.
1386 Ruprecht Karl University of Heidelberg  Holy Roman Empire Germany Heidelberg, Germany Founded by Rupert I, Elector Palatine. The oldest in contemporary Germany and third oldest Germanophone university.
1391 University of Ferrara House of EsteHouse of Este Italy Ferrara, Italy Founded by Marquis Alberto d'Este.
1404 University of Turin  Duchy of Savoy Italy Turin, Italy Founded by the prince "Louis of Piedmont" during the reign of Amadeus VIII.
1409 University of Leipzig  Holy Roman Empire Germany Leipzig, Germany Founded when German-speaking staff left Prague due to the Jan Hus crisis.
1413 University of St. Andrews  Kingdom of Scotland United Kingdom St. Andrews, United Kingdom A school of higher studies was founded in 1410 and became a full university by the issue of a Papal bull in 1413.[26]
1419 University of Rostock  Holy Roman Empire Germany Rostock, Germany During the Reformation, "the Catholic university of Rostock closed altogether and the closure was long enough to make the refounded body feel a new institution".[27] The university closed in 1523,[28] but would appear to have reopened by 1551, when there are records of a number of professors being appointed, including Johannes Aurifaber, David Chytraeus, and Johann Draconites (de).[29][30]
1434 University of Catania Kingdom of the Two Sicilies Kingdom of Sicily Italy Catania, Italy The oldest in Sicily. Founded by Alfonso V of Aragon.
1450[31] University of Barcelona Standard of the Crown of Aragon Crown of Aragon Spain Barcelona, Spain Founded by Alfonso V of Aragon as Estudi general de Barcelona after the unification of all university education. For forty-nine years prior to that foundation, however, the city had had a fledgling medical school founded by King Martin of Aragon, and in the 13th century Barcelona already possessed several civil and ecclesiastical schools.
1451 University of Glasgow  Kingdom of Scotland United Kingdom Glasgow, United Kingdom Founded by a Papal bull.
1456 University of Greifswald  Holy Roman Empire Germany Greifswald, Germany Teaching had started by 1436. Founded by initiative of Heinrich Rubenow, Lord Mayor of Greifswald (and first rector), with approval of Pope Callixtus III and Frederick III, Holy Roman Emperor, under the protection of Wartislaw IX, Duke of Pomerania. Teaching paused temporarily during the Protestant Reformation (1527–39).
1457 Albert Ludwigs University of Freiburg  Holy Roman Empire Germany Freiburg, Germany Temporarily transferred to Constance in 1686–98 and 1713–15.
1460 University of Basel  Holy Roman Empire Switzerland Basel, Switzerland Founded in 1460 (Schola Basiliensis), the University of Basel is the oldest university in Switzerland.[32]
1472 Ludwig Maximilians University of Munich  Holy Roman Empire Germany Munich, Germany Founded in Ingolstadt in 1472; with a Papal Bull obtained in 1459 from Pope Pius II by Louis the Rich,[33] transferred to Landshut in 1800, moved to Munich in 1826.
1477 Eberhard Karls University of Tübingen  Holy Roman Empire Germany Tübingen, Germany
1477 Uppsala University  Kingdom of Sweden within the
 Kalmar Union
Sweden Uppsala, Sweden Uppsala's bull, which granted the university its corporate rights, was issued by Pope Sixtus IV in 1477, and established a number of provisions. Among the most important of these was that the university was officially given the same freedoms and privileges as the University of Bologna.
1479 University of Copenhagen  Kingdom of Denmark within the
 Kalmar Union
Denmark Copenhagen, Denmark The University of Copenhagen is the oldest university in Denmark, and the second oldest in Scandinavia after Uppsala University in Sweden
1481 University of Genoa  Republic of Genoa Italy Genoa, Italy Founded in 1481 (Genuense Athenaeum).
1495 University of Aberdeen  Kingdom of Scotland United Kingdom Aberdeen, United Kingdom King's College was founded by a Papal bull in 1495 and then Marischal College in 1593; they merged in 1860.
1495 University of Santiago de Compostela Pennant of the Crown of Castile Galicia, Crown of Castile Spain Santiago de Compostela, Spain The university traces its roots to 1495, when a school was opened in Santiago.[34] In 1504, Pope Julius II approved the foundation of a university in Santiago, and the bull for its creation was granted by Clement VII in 1526.
1499 University of Valencia Standard of the Crown of Aragon Crown of Aragon Spain Valencia, Spain

Oldest universities by country or region after 1500 still in operation[edit]

The majority of European countries had universities by 1500. After 1500, universities began to spread to other countries all over the world. Note that many universities were established at institutes of learning such as schools and colleges that may have been founded significantly earlier but were not classed as universities upon their foundation; this is normally described in the notes for that institution.


List of Institutions
Current Name Country Founded Previous Name(s) Notes
University of Algiers Algeria Algeria 1909
Agostinho Neto University Angola Angola 1962 founded as Estudos Gerais Universitários de Angola
University of Yaoundé Cameroon Cameroon 1962
Jean Piaget University of Cape Verde Cape Verde Cape Verde 2001
University of Cape Verde Cape Verde Cape Verde 2006 as a result of the merger of the two previously existing higher education establishments (ISE and ISECMAR)
Cairo University Egypt Egypt 1908 The oldest university in Africa
University of Addis Ababa Ethiopia Ethiopia 1950
University of Ghana Ghana Ghana 1948[35]
University of Nairobi Kenya Kenya 1970 Royal College Nairobi,
University College Nairobi
Oldest in Kenya. Established 1956 as a technical college, university college affiliated to the University of London 1961, constituent college of the University of East Africa 1963, independent university 1970.[36]
Egerton University Kenya Kenya 1939 (university 1987) Egerton Farm School,
Egerton Agricultural College
Claims to be "the oldest institution of higher learning in Kenya". Founded as a farm school 1939, upgraded to agricultural college in 1950 then a college of the University of Nairobi in 1986 before becoming an independent university by Act of Parliament in 1987.[37]
University of Liberia Liberia Liberia 1951 building on Liberia College founded in 1863
University of Libya Libya Libya 1956 later divided to University of Benghazi and University of Tripoli, the names were changed again during Gaddafi's era, but now they have reinstated their original names
University of Antananarivo Madagascar Madagascar 1965
University of Mauritius Mauritius Mauritius 1965
The University of al-Qarawiyyin Morocco Morocco 1965 traces its origins back to the al-Qarawiyyin mosque and associated madrasa founded by Fatima al-Fihri in 859, but only became a university in 1965
University of Rabat Morocco Morocco 1957
University of Hassan II Casablanca Ain Chok Morocco Morocco 1975
Eduardo Mondlane University Mozambique Mozambique 1962 Estudos Gerais Universitários de Moçambique
University of Ibadan Nigeria Nigeria 1948 (university 1962) Yaba College,
University College of Ibadan
Founded as a college in 1922, university college associated with the University of London from 1948, university 1962[38]
University of Nigeria, Nsukka Nigeria Nigeria 1960[39] First university in Nigeria.
Fourah Bay College Sierra Leone Sierra Leone 1967 Oldest university-level institution in Africa. Founded as a school in 1827. Became an affiliated college of Durham University in 1876 and awarded first degrees in Africa in 1878. Became part of the federal University of Sierra Leone in 1967.[40][41]
Somali National University Somalia Somalia 1954
University of Cape Town South Africa South Africa 1918 founded as a school in 1829 (university status: 2 April 1918)[42]
Stellenbosch University South Africa South Africa 1918 founded as a secondary education institute in 1866 (University status: 2 April 1918)
University of Khartoum Sudan Sudan 1956[43] Renamed from Gordon Memorial College, founded 1902, when it gained full university status in 1956
The University of Ez-Zitouna Tunisia Tunisia 1961 traces its origins back to the Al-Zaytuna madrassa founded around 737 AH (1300-1350 CE) (university status in 1961)
Makerere University Uganda Uganda 1922
University of Zimbabwe Zimbabwe Zimbabwe 1952


List of Institutions
Current Name Country Founded Previous Name(s) Notes
Kabul University Afghanistan Afghanistan 1931 Founded in 1931, formally opened 1932.
University of Bahrain Bahrain Bahrain 1986
University of Dhaka Bangladesh Bangladesh 1921 First university in Bangladesh, opened 1 July 1921.[44]
Royal University of Fine Arts Cambodia Cambodia 1918
Nanking University China People's Republic of China[Note 4] 1888 Jinling University


Private university later merged with the public University of Nanjing (南京大学). First institution in China to use the English term "university".
Wuhan University China People's Republic of China[Note 4] 1893 Ziqiang Institute
Tianjin University China People's Republic of China[Note 4] 1895 Imperial Tientsin University
Peking University China People's Republic of China[Note 4] 1898 founded in 1898 as Imperial Capital University or Imperial University of Peking
The University of Hong Kong Hong Kong Hong Kong 1911 founded as the Hong Kong College of Medicine for Chinese in 1887, incorporated as a university in 1911
Serampore College India India 1818 Incorporated and granted university status and the right to award degrees by royal charter of Frederick VI of Denmark on 23 February 1827, endorsed by the Bengal Government Act 1918.[46]
University of Calcutta India India 1857 first full-fledged multi-disciplinary university in South Asia. The University of Bombay and the University of Madras were subsequently established in the same year
University of Indonesia Indonesia Indonesia 1947 founded as the School of Javanese Doctor in 1851
Bandung Institute of Technology Indonesia Indonesia 1959 founded as Technische Hogeschool in 1920
University of Baghdad Iraq Iraq 1956 the Iraqi Royal College of Medicine was established in 1928
University of Tehran Iran Iran 1934 founded by Rezā Shāh, incorporating portions of the Dar ul-Funun Polytechnic Institute (1851) and the Tehran School of Political Sciences (1899)
Hebrew University of Jerusalem Israel Israel 1918
Technion - Israel Institute of Technology Israel Israel 1912 founded in 1912, but formal teaching began in 1924
Keio University Japan Japan 1920 Founded as a "school for Dutch studies" in 1858. College with three university departments (literature, law and economics) established 1890. Accredited as a university by the Japanese government in1920.[47] (To be noted, Japan's oldest academic institution is Ashikaga Gakko)[citation needed]
University of Tokyo Japan Japan 1877 University of Tokyo (1877–1886)
Imperial University (1886–1897)
Tokyo Imperial University (1897–1947)
Its origins include a private college of Confucian studies founded by Hayashi Razan in 1630,[48] Tenmonkata (The Observatory, 1684)[49] and Shutōsho (Smallpox Vaccination Centre, 1849).[50]
The university was established in 1877 by the merger of three institutions: Shoheiko (Japanese and Chinese Literature, established 1789), Yogakusho (Occidental Studies, established 1855) and Shutosho (Vaccinations, established 1860), originally as Tokyo University before becoming the Imperial University and then Tokyo Imperial University before reverting to its original name after World War II.[51]
Ryukoku University Japan Japan 1922 Traces its origins to a school for Buddhist monks of the Nishi Hongan-ji denomination founded in 1639. Assumed its current name and became a university under the University Ordinance in 1922.[52]
University of Jordan Jordan Jordan 1962
Al-Farabi Kazakh National University Kazakhstan Kazakhstan 1933
American University of Beirut Lebanon Lebanon 1866
Saint Joseph University Lebanon Lebanon 1872 Universite Saint Joseph
Université La Sagesse Lebanon Lebanon 1875
University of Macau Macau Macau 1981 University of East Asia established as University of East Asia in 1981, renamed 1991
University of Malaya Malaysia Malaysia 1981 Straits and Federated Malay States Government Medical School established as Straits and Federated Malay States Government Medical School in 1905 in Singapore
Mongolian Academy of Sciences Mongolia Mongolia 1921 Institute of Literature and Script
Institute of finance and economics of Mongolia Mongolia Mongolia 1924 School of Custom's Officers in Ulaanbaatar
National University of Mongolia Mongolia Mongolia 1942
Rangoon University Myanmar Myanmar 1878[53]
Tribhuvan University Nepal Nepal 1959[54]
Kim Il-sung University North Korea North Korea 1946
University of the Punjab Pakistan Pakistan 1882 Established by British colonial authorities in 1882 as the first university in what would become Pakistan.[55]
King Edward Medical University, Lahore Pakistan Pakistan 1860 Established as King Edward Medical College, Lahore in 1860. Became an independent university in 2005.[56]
Government College University, Lahore Pakistan Pakistan 1864 Established as Government College, Lahore, 1864. Became an independent university in 2002.[57]
University of Santo Tomas Philippines Philippines 1611 Founded on 28 April 1611 by the Order of Preachers, it is the oldest extant university in Asia. Receiving the Royal Charter from King Phillip III of Spain in 1611, it was elevated by Pope Innocent X as a Pontifical University on November 20, 1645. The university celebrated its 400th anniversary in 2011.
Ateneo de Manila University Philippines Philippines 1859 First established as the Escuela Municipal de Manila by the Society of Jesus.
King Saud University Saudi Arabia Saudi Arabia 1957
National University of Singapore Singapore Singapore 1905 Founded as Straits and Federated Malay States Government Medical School
Ewha Womans University South Korea South Korea 1946 started higher education in 1910, and was reorganized as Ewha Womans University in 1946. It was established in 1886 as the first mission school to educate women in Korea
Korea University South Korea South Korea 1946 then Boseong School, was established in 1905, and was restructured as Korea University in 1946
Sungkyunkwan University South Korea South Korea 1946 reorganized as Sungkyunkwan University in 1946. Sungkyunkwan, its origin, was established in 1398 as the royal institution for higher education of the Joseon Dynasty
Yonsei University South Korea South Korea 1946 Yonhi College The Yonsei University Medical School was established in 1886 at Chejungwon Hospital (established the previous year as Gwanghyewon Hospital). The medical school was renamed Severance Medical College in 1909, following a donation from Louis Severance. Yonhi College was established in Chosun Christian College in 1915 and became Yonhi College in 1917. Yonhi College was recognised as a university in August 1946. Yonsei University was formed by the merger of the college and medical school in 1957.[58]
University of Colombo Sri Lanka Sri Lanka 1942 University College Colombo (1921-1942)
University of Ceylon (1942-1972)
Colombo Campus of the University of Sri Lanka (1972-1978)
Formed in 1942 as the University of Ceylon by the amalgamation of University College Colombo (established 1921) and Ceylon Medical College (established in 1870). Was part of the University of Sri Lanka 1972-1978.[59]
University of Damascus Syria Syria 1923 founded in 1923 through the merger of the School of Medicine (established 1903) and the Institute of Law (established 1913)
National Taiwan University Taiwan Taiwan 1928 Taihoku (Taipei) Imperial University
National Taipei University of Technology Taiwan Taiwan 1912 School of Industrial Instruction
Chulalongkorn University Thailand Thailand 1917
Thammasat University Thailand Thailand 1939
National University of East Timor East Timor Timor Leste 2000
Hanoi Medical University Vietnam Vietnam 1902
Vietnam National University, Hanoi Vietnam Vietnam 1904


While Europe had 143 universities in 1789, the Napoleonic wars took a heavy toll, reducing the number to 83 by 1815. The universities of France were abolished and over half of the universities in both Germany and Spain were destroyed. By the mid 19th century, Europe had recovered to 98 universities.[60]

List of Institutions
Current Name Country Founded Previous Name(s) Notes
University of Tirana Albania Albania 1957
Luigj Gurakuqi University Albania Albania 1957
Yerevan State University Armenia Armenia 1919
University of Graz Austria Austria 1585
University of Salzburg Austria Austria 1622
University of Innsbruck Austria Austria 1669
Baku State University Azerbaijan Azerbaijan 1919
Ghent University Belgium Belgium 1817
University of Liège Belgium Belgium 1817
Catholic University of Mechlin Belgium Belgium 1834 called Catholic University of Louvain,[Note 5] 1835, and then split into Dutch-speaking Katholieke Universiteit Leuven and French-speaking Université catholique de Louvain, 1968
Free University of Brussels Belgium Belgium 1834
University of Sarajevo Bosnia and Herzegovina Bosnia and Herzegovina 1949
University of Sofia Bulgaria Bulgaria 1888
University of National and World Economy Bulgaria Bulgaria 1920
University of Economics Varna Bulgaria Bulgaria 1920
University of Zagreb Croatia Croatia 1669
Palacký University of Olomouc Czech Republic Czech Republic 1573 Olomouc Jesuit University
Czech Technical University Czech Republic Czech Republic 1707 the oldest non-military technical university in Europe
Technical University of Denmark Denmark Denmark 1829
University of Tartu Estonia Estonia 1802 Established 1632, closed from 1710 to 1802
University of Helsinki Finland Finland 1828 The first university in Finland was the Royal Academy of Turku, founded in 1640, and shut down by the Great Fire of Turku in 1827. The University of Helsinki was founded the next year, in 1828, and it started operating in 1829. The University of Helsinki sees itself as continuation of the Royal Academy of Turku, but due to the two-year gap in operations, the new founding year is listed here
University of Paris (Sorbonne) France France between 1160 and 1250 All French universities were suspended in 1793 and so do not meet the criteria for inclusion in the pre-1500 list above. However many modern French universities, which were re-created in 1896, trace their origins to earlier foundations
University of Toulouse France France 1229 All French universities were suspended in 1793 and so do not meet the criteria for inclusion in the pre-1500 list above. However many modern French universities, which were re-created in 1896, trace their origins to earlier foundations
University of Montpellier France France 1289 All French universities were suspended in 1793 and so do not meet the criteria for inclusion in the pre-1500 list above. However many modern French universities, which were re-created in 1896, trace their origins to earlier foundations.
The world's oldest medicine faculty still in operation.
Faculty of Medicine established before 1137 and operated continuously through the French Revolution. University by Papal Bull in 1289. French Government announced re-establishment of the university 1889.[61]
University of Caen France France 1432 (continuous operation from 1894) All French universities were suspended in 1793 and so do not meet the criteria for inclusion in the pre-1500 list above. However many modern French universities, which were re-created in 1896, trace their origins to earlier foundations
Established 1432 by Henry VII of England, Papal Bull 1437. Following French re-conquest in 1450, was refounded in 1452 by Charles VII of France. Modern university opened in 1894.[62]
University of Wittenberg Germany Germany 1502
Philipps-Universität Marburg Germany Germany 1527
University of Jena Germany Germany 1558
Tbilisi State University Georgia (country) Georgia 1918
University of Gibraltar Gibraltar Gibraltar 2015
Ionian Academy Greece Greece 1824
National Technical University of Athens Greece Greece 1836
National and Kapodistrian University of Athens Greece Greece 1837
Eötvös Loránd University Hungary Hungary 1635 Formely known as the Royal University of Pest until 1873, then University of Budapest until 1921
Semmelweis University Hungary Hungary 1769
Budapest University of Technology and Economics Hungary Hungary 1782
University of Iceland Iceland Iceland 1911
University of Dublin Republic of Ireland Ireland 1592 Effectively synonymous with Trinity College, Dublin
University of Urbino Italy Italy 1506
University of Messina Italy Italy 1548
University of L'Aquila Italy Italy 1596
Riga Technical University Latvia Latvia 1862
Hochschule Liechtenstein Liechtenstein Liechtenstein 1992 successory to the Abendtechnikum Vaduz established in 1961
University of Vilnius Lithuania Lithuania 1579 successory to the Vilnius Academy 1570, although its operation was not continuous: the university was closed from 1832 to 1919 and again in 1943-44
University of Luxembourg Luxembourg Luxembourg 2003
Ss. Cyril and Methodius University of Skopje Republic of Macedonia Macedonia 1946
St. Clement of Ohrid University of Bitola Republic of Macedonia Macedonia 1979
University of Malta Malta Malta 1768 first established as the Collegium Melitense by the Jesuits 1592
University of Leiden Netherlands Netherlands 1575
University of Groningen Netherlands Netherlands 1614
University of Amsterdam Netherlands Netherlands 1632 Athenaeum Illustre
Utrecht University Netherlands Netherlands 1636
University of Oslo Norway Norway 1811
University of Wrocław Poland Poland 1701 re-founded 1811
University of Warsaw Poland Poland 1816
University of Évora Portugal Portugal 1973 second oldest university in Portugal, 1559–1759, resumed work in 1973
University of Lisbon Portugal Portugal 1911
University of Porto Portugal Portugal 1911
Alexandru Ioan Cuza University Iaşi Romania Romania:[63][64][65][66] 1860 successor to Vasilian College, 1640, Princely Academy, 1707, and Academia Mihăileană, 1834
University of Bucharest, Bucharest Romania Romania:[63][64][65][66] 1864 successor to the Princely Academy, 1694, and Saint Sava College, 1822
Babeș-Bolyai University, Cluj-Napoca Romania Romania:[63][64][65][66] 1918 teaching existed in Cluj-Napoca since the Jesuits College, 1581, and the Jesuits Academy, 1688
Moscow State University Russia Russia 1755
Kazan Federal University Russia Russia 1804
Saint Petersburg State University Russia Russia 1724–1803, 1819
Immanuel Kant Baltic Federal University Russia Russia 1967 claims continuity from University of Königsberg, 1544
Belgrade University Serbia Serbia 1905 founded in 1808 as the Belgrade Higher School, by 1838 it merged with the Kragujevac-based departments into a single university, under current name from 1905; Orthodox Christian Lyceum in 1794; Teacher's college in 1778
Comenius University in Bratislava Slovakia Slovakia 1919
University of Ljubljana Slovenia Slovenia 1919
University of Seville Spain Spain 1505
University of Granada Spain Spain 1531
University of Zaragoza Spain Spain 1542
University of Oviedo Spain Spain 1608
Lund University Sweden Sweden 1666 a Franciscan Studium Generale was founded in Lund in 1425, as the first university in Northern Europe, but as a result of the Protestant Reformation the operations of the catholic university were suspended
University of Zürich Switzerland Switzerland 1833 origin 1525; est. 1833
University of Lausanne Switzerland Switzerland 1537
University of Geneva Switzerland Switzerland 1559 founded by John Calvin
Istanbul Technical University Turkey Turkey 1928 Founded in 1773 as Imperial School of Naval Engineering by Mustafa III, but became a state university in 1928.[67]
Istanbul University Turkey Turkey 1933 The current state university was founded in 1933, but traces its origins back to the House of Multiple Sciences founded in 1846. Its ultimate origins lie in a madrasa founded by Mehmed II in 1453, itself built upon a previous Byzantine school dating back to 1321
University of Lviv Ukraine Ukraine 1850 operated from 1661-1773, 1784-1805, 1817–1848, 1850-
University of Kharkiv Ukraine Ukraine 1804
University of Edinburgh United Kingdom United Kingdom
(Scotland Scotland)
1582/3[68] First post-1500 university in Scotland and in the modern United Kingdom
Durham University United Kingdom United Kingdom
(England England)
1832[69] Claims to be the third oldest university in England.[70][71]

Listed by Rüegg in A History of the University in Europe as meeting standard criteria for recognition as a university from 1832[69]
Established under the authority of the University of Durham Act 1832.[72] Recognised as a university in the Municipal Corporations Act 1835 and the Established Church Act 1836.[73][74] Incorporated and confirmed by Royal Charter in 1837 and degrees granted equal privileges with those of Oxford and Cambridge by the Attorneys and Solicitors Act 1837.[75][76]

University of London United Kingdom United Kingdom
(England England)
1836[69] Claims to be the third oldest university in England.[77]

Listed by Rüegg as meeting standard criteria for recognition as a university from 1836[69]
Established by Royal Charter as degree awarding examining body for King's College London and University College London (see below), the London medical schools, and other institutions.[78] Degrees granted equal privileges with those of Oxford and Cambridge by the Attorneys and Solicitors Act 1837.[76]

University College London United Kingdom United Kingdom
(England England)
1826[69] London University Claims to be the third oldest university in England and "the first university to be founded in London".[79][80]

Listed by Rüegg as a college of the University of London rather than as a university.[69]
Legally a college of the University of London but generally recognised as a university. Established by deed of settlement as an unincorporated joint stock company under the name of London University in 1826.[81] Unsuccessful in attempts to gain recognition as a university, but accepted charter of incorporation "not as a University but as a College" in 1836, and was affiliated to the University of London.[82][83] Gained its own degree awarding powers in 2005.[84]

King's College London United Kingdom United Kingdom
(England England)
1829[69] Claims to be the fourth oldest university in England.[85]

Listed by Rüegg as a college of the University of London rather than as a university.[69]
Legally a college of the University of London but generally recognised as a university. Established by royal charter as a college in 1829.[86] Gained its own degree awarding powers in 2006.[87]

Queen's University Belfast United Kingdom United Kingdom
(Northern Ireland Northern Ireland)
1845[69] Oldest university in Northern Ireland.

Listed by Rüegg as meeting standard criteria for recognition as a university from 1845.[69]
Founded 1845, as a university college, gained university status in 1908.[88]

University of Wales United Kingdom United Kingdom
(Wales Wales)
1893[89] First institution recognised legally as a university in Wales.

Listed by Rüegg as meeting standard criteria for recognition as a university from 1893[89]

University of Wales, Trinity Saint David United Kingdom United Kingdom
(Wales Wales)
1822 St David's College, Lampeter Described by newspapers as the oldest university in Wales.[90][91]

Not listed by Rüegg as meeting standard critera for a university.[92]
Founded as a college in 1822 "to provide a liberal education to members of the clergy" and incorporated by royal charter in 1828.[93] Lost a court case in 1951 against the Ministry of Education seeking to receive recognition as a university.[94] Became a college of the University of Wales in 1971. Merged with Trinity University College to form the University of Wales, Trinity Saint David in 2010.[95]

Aberystwyth University United Kingdom United Kingdom
(Wales Wales)
1872[89] University College Wales Claims to be "Wales's oldest university".[96]

Listed by Rüegg as a college of the University of Wales rather than as a university.[89]
First college established by the Welsh University committee and a founding college of the University of Wales in 1893.[97] Became an independent university (as Aberystwyth University) in 2007.[98]

Latin America and the Caribbean[edit]

List of Institutions
Current Name Country Founded Previous Name(s) Notes
National University of Córdoba Argentina Argentina 1613
University of Buenos Aires Argentina Argentina 1821
University of Belize Belize Belize 2000
Royal and Pontificial Major University of St. Francis Xavier of Chuquisaca Bolivia Bolivia 1624
Federal University of Amazonas Brazil Brazil 1909
Federal University of Paraná Brazil Brazil 1912
Federal University of Rio de Janeiro Brazil Brazil 1920 successor to the Royal Academy of Artillery, Fortification and Design, 1792
Universidad de Chile Chile Chile 1842 successor to the "Real Universidad de San Felipe", created in 1738 and installated in 1747
Saint Thomas Aquinas University Colombia Colombia 1580
Pontifical Xavierian University Colombia Colombia 1623
Colegio Mayor de Nuestra Señora del Rosario - Universidad del Rosario Colombia Colombia 1653
Universidad de Costa Rica Costa Rica Costa Rica 1940
Universidad de La Habana Cuba Cuba 1728
Ross University School of Medicine Dominica Dominica 1978
Universidad Autónoma de Santo Domingo Dominican Republic Dominican Republic 1914 successor to the Universidad Santo Tomás de Aquino, 1558, which disappeared in 1823
Central University of Ecuador Ecuador Ecuador 1622 Real y Pontificia Universidad de San Gregorio Magno
Universidad de El Salvador El Salvador El Salvador 1841
St. George's University Grenada Grenada 1976
Universidad de San Carlos de Guatemala Guatemala Guatemala 1676
University of Guyana Guyana Guyana 1963
Universite d'Etat d'Haiti Haiti Haiti 1820
Université Adventiste d'Haïti Haiti Haiti 1921
Universidad Nacional Autónoma de Honduras Honduras Honduras 1847
University of the West Indies Anguilla Anguilla; Antigua and Barbuda Antigua and Barbuda; The Bahamas Bahamas; Barbados Barbados; Belize Belize; British Virgin Islands British Virgin Islands; Cayman Islands Cayman Islands; Dominica Dominica; Grenada Grenada; Jamaica Jamaica; Montserrat Montserrat; Saint Kitts and Nevis St Kitts and Nevis; Saint Lucia St Lucia; Saint Vincent and the Grenadines St Vincent and the Grenadines; Trinidad and Tobago Trinidad and Tobago; Turks and Caicos Islands Turks and Caicos 1948 (university 1962) University College of the West Indies Regional university. First campus opened in Jamaica in 1948 as the University College of the West Indies, associated with the University of London.
University of Technology, Jamaica Jamaica Jamaica 1958 (university 1995) Jamaica Institute of Technology (1958); College of Arts, Science and Technology (1959–1995) Degree awarding powers from 1986
Universidad Michoacana de San Nicolás de Hidalgo Mexico Mexico 1917 Colegio de San Nicolás Obispo (St. Nicholas Bishop College)
Real Colegio de San Nicolás Obispo (Royal St. Nicholas Bishop College)
founded in 1540 as Colegio de San Nicolás Obispo (St. Nicholas Bishop College) and later in 1543 was appointed Real Colegio de San Nicolás Obispo (Royal St. Nicholas Bishop College) by King Carlos I of Spain; it was converted into a university on October 15, 1917.[99]
Universidad de Guadalajara Mexico Mexico 1925 founded October 12, 1791; legally established October 12, 1925
Benemérita Universidad Autónoma de Puebla Mexico Mexico 1937 Colegio del Espíritu Santo founded 1587 as Colegio del Espíritu Santo. Converted into a public college in 1825, then a public university in 1937.[100]
Universidad de Panamá Panama Panama 1935
Universidad Nacional de Asunción, Lima Paraguay Paraguay 1889
National University of San Marcos Peru Peru 1551 Royal and Pontifical University of the City of the Kings Also known as the "Dean university of the Americas"; This is the first officially established (privilege by Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor) and the longest continuously operating university in the Americas
National University of San Antonio Abad in Cuzco Peru Peru 1692 Universidad Nacional de San Antonio Abad del Cusco
National University of Saint Augustine, Arequipa Peru Peru 1828
University of Puerto Rico, Rio Piedras Puerto Rico Puerto Rico 1903
Anton de Kom University Suriname Surinam 1968
Universidad de la República Uruguay Uruguay 1849
Central University of Venezuela Venezuela Venezuela 1721

Canada, Greenland and the United States[edit]

In the United States, the colonial colleges awarded degrees from their foundation, but none were formally named as universities prior to the American Revolution, leading to various claims to be the first university in the United States. The earliest Canadian institutions were founded as colleges, without degree awarding powers, and gained degree granting authority and university status later.

List of Institutions
Current Name Country Founded Previous Name(s) Notes
Université Laval Canada Canada 1663 (university 1852) Séminaire de Québec Founded in 1663 as a seminary, making it the oldest post-secondary institution in Canada; extended to teach the liberal arts after the British Conquest of 1760. Gained university status and the power to award degrees by royal charter in 1852.[101]
University of New Brunswick Canada Canada 1785 (university 1828) Provincial Academy of Arts and Sciences
College of New Brunswick
King's College
Oldest English-language post-secondary institution in Canada. Founded in 1785, provincial charter as a college 1800, royal charter "to be deemed and taken as an University" 1828, reorganised as the University of New Brunswick 1859.[102][103]
University of King's College Canada Canada 1789 (university 1802) King's College Founded as a college by an act of the Nova Scotia legislature in 1789. Received a royal charter in 1802 establishing it (after the model of Trinity College, Dublin) as "The Mother of an University", making it the oldest chartered university in Canada.[104][105]
University of Greenland Greenland Greenland 1989 Established 1983, took name University of Greenland 1987, formal university status by legislation from 1 September 1989.[106]
Harvard University United States United States of America 1636 Founded in 1636, named Harvard College in 1639, chartered in 1650. Claims to be "the oldest institution of higher education in the United States". Officially recognised as a university by the Massachusetts Constitution of 1780.[107][108]
The College of William & Mary United States United States of America 1693 chartered in 1693. Claims to be the"[f]irst college to become a university" in the US, in 1779.[109]
University of Pennsylvania United States United States of America 1755 Traces its roots to a charity school founded in 1740. Collegiate charter 1755. Claims to be "the first American institution of higher education to be named a university" (in 1779).[110]


List of Institutions
Current Name Country Founded Previous Name(s) Notes
University of Sydney Australia Australia
(New South Wales New South Wales)
1850 oldest in New South Wales, Australia and Oceania
University of Melbourne Australia Australia
(Victoria (Australia) Victoria)
1853 oldest in Victoria
University of Adelaide Australia Australia
(South Australia South Australia)
1874 oldest in South Australia
University of Tasmania Australia Australia
(Tasmania Tasmania)
1890 oldest in Tasmania
University of Queensland Australia Australia
(Queensland Queensland)
1909 oldest in Queensland
University of Western Australia Australia Australia
(Western Australia Western Australia)
1911 oldest in Western Australia
Australian National University Australia Australia
(Australian Capital Territory Australian Capital Territory)
1946 oldest in Australian Capital Territory
University of New England Australia Australia
(New South Wales New South Wales)
1954 first established outside of a state capital
Northern Territory University Australia Australia
(Northern Territory Northern Territory)
1989 oldest in Northern Territory, amalgamated as part of Charles Darwin University in 2004
University of the South Pacific Cook Islands Cook Islands; Fiji Fiji; Kiribati Kiribati; Marshall Islands Marshall Islands; Nauru Nauru; Niue Niue; Samoa Samoa; Solomon Islands Solomon Islands; Tokelau Tokelau; Tonga Tonga; Tuvalu Tuvalu; Vanuatu Vanuatu 1968 Regional university, operating in (and owned by the governments of) 12 Pacific island nations. Main campus in Fiji.
University of Otago New Zealand New Zealand 1869 oldest in New Zealand and the South Island
University of Canterbury New Zealand New Zealand 1873 oldest in Christchurch
University of Auckland New Zealand New Zealand 1883 oldest in Auckland and the North Island
Victoria University of Wellington New Zealand New Zealand 1899 oldest in Wellington

See also[edit]



  1. ^ 'The statement that all universities are descended either directly or by migration from these three prototypes [Oxford, Paris, and Bologna] depends, of course, on one's definition of a university. And I must define a university very strictly here. A university is something more than a center of higher education and study. One must reserve the term university for—and I'm quoting Rashdall here—"a scholastic guild, whether of masters or students, engaged in higher education and study," which was later defined, after the emergence of universities, as "studium generale".'[1]
  2. ^ "No one today would dispute the fact that universities, in the sense in which the term is now generally understood, were a creation of the Middle Ages, appearing for the first time between the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. It is no doubt true that other civilizations, prior to, or wholly alien to, the medieval West, such as the Roman Empire, Byzantium, Islam, or China, were familiar with forms of higher education which a number of historians, for the sake of convenience, have sometimes described as universities.Yet a closer look makes it plain that the institutional reality was altogether different and, no matter what has been said on the subject, there is no real link such as would justify us in associating them with medieval universities in the West. Until there is definite proof to the contrary, these latter must be regarded as the sole source of the model which gradually spread through the whole of Europe and then to the whole world. We are therefore concerned with what is indisputably an original institution, which can only be defined in terms of a historical analysis of its emergence and its mode of operation in concrete circumstances."[5]
  3. ^ "Thus the university, as a form of social organization, was peculiar to medieval Europe. Later, it was exported to all parts of the world, including the Muslim East; and it has remained with us down to the present day. But back in the Middle Ages, outside of Europe, there was nothing anything quite like it anywhere."[6]
  4. ^ a b c d Educational institutions were closed in China on June 13, 1966 due to the Cultural Revolution, reopening in July 1967.[45]
  5. ^ Note that the Court of Cassation of Belgium ruled 26 November 1846, that this new Catholic University of Louvain founded in Mechlin in 1834 does not have any links with the Old University of Louvain founded in 1425 and abolished in 1797 and can not be regarded as continuing it: "The Catholic University of Louvain can not be regarded as continuing the old University of Louvain", in, Table générale alphabétique et chronologique de la Pasicrisie Belge contenant la jurisprudence du Royaume de 1814 à 1850, Brussels, 1855, p. 585, column 1, alinea 2. See also: Bulletin Usuel des Lois et Arrêtés, 1861, p.166. To see also this rule of the Cour d'Appel of 1844: La Belgique Judiciaire, 28 july 1844 n° 69, p. 1 : "Cour d’Appel de Bruxelles. Deuxième chambre. L'université libre de Louvain ne représente pas légalement l’antique université de cette ville. Attendu que cette université (l’ancienne Université de Louvain), instituée par une bulle papale, de concert avec l'autorité souveraine, formait un corps reconnu dans l'État, ayant différentes attributions, dont plusieurs même lui étaient déléguées par le pouvoir civil; Attendu que ce corps a été supprimé par les lois de la république française; Attendu que l'université existant actuellement à Louvain ne peut être considérée comme continuant celle qui existait en 1457, ces deux établissemens ayant un caractère bien distinct, puisque l'université actuelle, non reconnue comme personne civile, n'est qu'un établissement tout-à-fait privé, résultat de la liberté d'enseignement , en dehors de toute action du pouvoir et sans autorité dans l'État...". "Court of Appeal of Brussels. Second Chamber. The Free University of Louvain is not legally representend the old university in that city. Whereas this University (formerly University of Louvain), established by a papal bull, together with the sovereign authority, formed a body recognized by the State, with different functions, many of which even he was delegated by the civil power. And whereas this body was removed by the laws of the French Republic; Whereas the currently existing university in Leuven can not be regarded as continuing that which existed in 1457, these two establishments with a distinct character, since the currently university is not recognized as legal person, and is institution is entirely private, the result of academic freedom, apart from any action without authority and power in the state."


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