Talk:List of oldest universities in continuous operation/Archive 3

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I very strongly support Eraserhead1's suggestion (in the previous section) to take this to mediation. I have tried discussion on multiple pages, tried discussion at a noticeboard, but still there is no agreement. What I don't understand is why users would be reluctant to enter a method of dispute resolution that is sanctioned by wikipedia?VR talk 03:30, 2 March 2012 (UTC)

To be fair nobody really seemed interested in mediation when I proposed it before. -- Eraserhead1 <talk> 21:55, 3 March 2012 (UTC)

Wikipedia is not God and therefore it's mediation could not be considered final. The arguments here stand for themselves and for what they are. Let rationale be the authority, rather than a body providing a forum for the dissemination of information (not necessarily facts). Only people desperate for European knowledge to be recognized as at the forefront of World knowledge need some sort of authority to permit or sanction them to think out of the box. Listen to your inner voice, that is your ultimate authority. Boris Johnson in his documentary: After Rome Holy War and Conquest, refers to "Al-Azhar University (Cairo) founded in 975 at a time when Oxford was still a place where an Ox forded by a river". Look at the world around us and it is self evident that European descended knowledge is not at the forefront, in fact it is constantly losing ground since gaining ground in the middle ages. Great Empires on the cutting edge come and go, this is the narrative of world history, why should it be different now. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 00:47, 14 March 2012 (UTC)

Poland omitted or removed as a country from the list of oldest universities by country

Poland has been omitted or removed from the list of countries. Poland has one of the oldest universities in the world as is noted in the article above: the Jagiellonian University of Krakow, 1364 as well as the University of Lwow 1661. Other Polish universities came later.```` — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 13:40, 26 April 2012 (UTC)

Krakow is already there in the pre-1500 list. Jonathan A Jones (talk) 17:33, 26 April 2012 (UTC)

The Problem With This Article

Simply put, it is far too eurocentric. Institutions from various other parts of the world meet the definition of university as laid out in Wikipedia and yet they are excluded from the category, why? Up until very recently, a madrasa was simply an educational institution of some sort. The word itself told you almost nothing, it was the context and any qualifying words that gave the full picture. So to use the current Western understanding of the word to categorise a Cairo surgical college 1,000 years ago is problematic. As for the Chinese and Indian academies, they both had communities of scholars teaching, testing, sharing knowledge and issuing qualifications, yet they are excluded as well. In truth it seems that the problem lies in the editors' lack of knowledge of academic traditions outside the West. A contributory factor would be the lack of freely available English language studies of historic academic institutions outside Europe. Doc Meroe (talk) 01:08, 21 February 2012 (UTC)

Actually this list uses very much the same definition of university as found in the main page (see University#History). There is plenty of scope for arguing whether the definition used there should be changed, but the discussion should be held there; this page should simply use whatever definition is adopted there, as it does now. Jonathan A Jones (talk) 08:33, 21 February 2012 (UTC)
To be blunt, it does not. If you read that article, you'll see that not only does the definition not exclude non-western institutions, it explicitly mentions historic non-western universities. Doc Meroe (talk) 09:15, 21 February 2012 (UTC)
Let's take a look. Start with the definition section: "The original Latin word referred to degree-granting institutions of learning in Western Europe, where this form of legal organisation was prevalent, and from where the institution spread around the world. For non-related educational institutions of antiquity which did not stand in the tradition of the university and to which the term is only loosely and retrospectively applied, see ancient higher-learning institutions." Then in "Medieval Universities" we get two sentences which are wildly out of line with the rest of the article, "Prominent Universities outside the west existed long before European Universities began, Ancient universities like Nalanda which was founded in 4th century BC housed students from Greece, Persia and China.However Nalanda did not raise to prominence till the 5th century AD and at its peak, Nalanda held some 10,000 students when it was visited by the Chinese scholar Xuanzang who had given numerous accounts in his book "Journey to the west".", and which are also completely ungrammatical (I'm amazed these have survived). After that everything is consistent, with 8 solid paragraphs on the development of universities in Europe. Finally we get two paragraphs discussing supposed links to madrassahs and noting that there is no consensus on these links, which may well be "overstated". In other words the idea that these madrassahs were universities is presented as a minority view, which is a perfectly proper approach, reflecting the weight of sources cited.The section on "Early modern universities" is entirely about institutions on European lines, though noting the influence of Arabic scholars (not universities). With the exception of the two ungrammatical sentences about Nalanda, which are specifically contradicted immediately above, there is nothing about non-western institutions before the modern period. Jonathan A Jones (talk) 12:41, 21 February 2012 (UTC)

So the fact is that the university article does mention historical universities in non-western civilisations. At the moment this article essentially says ancient universities were all European because only European institutions were European. Of course a Chinese higher education institution differed from one in England in certain ways because they were the product of vastly differing cultural environments. In the same way, Northern and Southern European universities were extremely dissimilar and all of them differ wildly from their modern descendants. The actual university article at least mentions the fact that a "university" is a different thing depending on when and where it existed, this one totally ignores that fact. Under the definition given in the university article, any number of ancient institutions qualify as universities. They are then disqualified from consideration because of sources that say unless the structure, purpose and ethos of both the institution and the society in which it operated matched those that applied somewhere in mediaeval Europe, it wasn't a university. If that isn't Eurocentric, then I'll eat my hat.Doc Meroe (talk) 14:09, 21 February 2012 (UTC)

As I said, there's a perfectly plausible argument that the definition at university is eurocentric, but if that is the case it should be fixed there not here. If it gets changed there then this list should of course change to follow. Jonathan A Jones (talk) 14:43, 21 February 2012 (UTC)

That article does not say universities only existed in Europe, this one does. The fact that the preponderance of the information in that article is about the history of European institutions does not preclude the existence of such institutions outside Europe. As with many articles in this wiki it simply shows that the project tends towards a certain systemic bias due to the contributors' origins. The university article needs more information about institutions outside the west, but that is a somewhat different thing. Doc Meroe (talk) 15:40, 21 February 2012 (UTC)

The article says that ancient higher-learning institutions existed outside Europe, but that these were not universities. Unless and until that position is changed on the main page then we should not change the definition used on this list page. Jonathan A Jones (talk) 18:49, 21 February 2012 (UTC)

The article says that now because you edited it to say so. You unilaterally decided to remove the reference to institutions outside the West because you "felt it was inconsistent with the rest of the article". Then you're now saying until the edit that you yourself made and that did not exist at the time of my initial statement, is altered, I should not criticise this page, even though at the time of my initial criticism, the page said something different. The mind boggles (talk) 19:41, 21 February 2012 (UTC)

No, the article always said that in the definition section. I just removed two sentences that (1) contradicted the rest of the article, (2) were ungrammatical, and (3) contradicted the main article on Nalanda. You are, of course, free to edit university just as anyone else is. Jonathan A Jones (talk) 20:40, 21 February 2012 (UTC)
  • This was discussed previously and consensus is reached, as is now. Doc Meroe, please, read this talk page.--Yopie (talk) 21:17, 21 February 2012 (UTC)

Your peremptory tone aside, before I wrote on this page I read this talk page, the university article, talk page and the primary sources. Furthermore, the fact that a consensus was reached has nothing to do with discussing issues with the article on the talk page. Since it amounts to "universities were European therefore institutions outside Europe were not universities" the consensus is...problematic. A university can be many things (according to the main article), and no nation has a set definition of what a university is (again according to the main article). For the consensus to demonstrate anything other than an ignorance of non-western societies and institutions, it would need to say what a university was, what a madrasa/academy/whatever was and then show why the categories were mutually exclusive. Doc Meroe (talk) 22:26, 21 February 2012 (UTC)

Take it to mediation if you care. -- Eraserhead1 <talk> 23:18, 21 February 2012 (UTC)
Take what to mediation? Modern universities are essentially descended from a European (more accurately German) model. For some reason, this has then been taken to mean that non-european institutions whatever their function can't be called universities. Cordova, not a university, Sevila founde based on the same model is a university. Why? One was founded by Muslims and the other by Christians. If no one sees any difficulty with that, then there's no point making extra work for myself. Doc Meroe (talk) 23:59, 21 February 2012 (UTC)
You should take how we should represent institutions of higher learning in the article to mediation. This matter has been discussed here to death, either follow our dispute resolution process properly and escalate it to mediation, or walk away. -- Eraserhead1 <talk> 20:15, 22 February 2012 (UTC)
Doc Meroe, there is a crucial difference in your comparison that I believe you're not considering. Unlike Seville, Cordova did not issue degrees. -- (talk) 02:41, 20 May 2012 (UTC)

Actually, I do not need to do any such thing. The fact that people from or with knowledge of non-western cultures express their dissent often enough for it to "have been talked to death" is sufficient. The warning at the top of the article lets people know that this article does not represent a worldwide view and is regarded as controversial. As that is the case then any discerning reader knows that outside the West, this article would be regarded as...dubious. It is an article written by westerners for westerners and that's perfectly fine as long as everyone knows the situation. If the article simply stated that it was about the oldest university based on the mediaeval European model and does not consider other institutions regardless of age, function or purpose, then I wouldn't really have a problem with it. If someone attempts to mischaracterise it as being uncontroversial or anything but parochial in outlook, then I'll take advantage of "our dispute resolution procedure". Doc Meroe (talk) 21:10, 22 February 2012 (UTC)

If you want to actually achieve anything, yes you do need to take it to mediation. I actually agree with your position, but writing here and just complaining about the status quo is unproductive and won't achieve anything.
I'm sorry if I've been overly blunt, but this ground has been covered before. -- Eraserhead1 <talk> 21:17, 22 February 2012 (UTC)

My goal isn't necessarily to alter the article particularly not if it will result in edit-warring etc. I'll settle for ensuring that at the very least no one can pretend that it isn't based on a non-representative viewpoint. Having said that, I will alter it so that any readers know that it only considers medieval European institutions to be universities. Doc Meroe (talk) 22:03, 22 February 2012 (UTC)

I think making a clarification of what the article covers is a good idea. It could be tweaked slightly to mention that it employs a widely accepted distinction. SteveMcCluskey (talk) 05:06, 23 February 2012 (UTC)
Definitely a useful approach pending a wider resolution. Jonathan A Jones (talk) 07:34, 23 February 2012 (UTC)
I'm happy with that. -- Eraserhead1 <talk> 08:04, 23 February 2012 (UTC)

The definition is from those who subscribe to a particular research model. To assert that this view is widely held by humans (as opposed to the human subset westerners) would be false. An analogy: I examined my father, brother and myself, detailing our height, weight, blood group, shoe size, gender, ethnicity etc., in an attempt to define the term "human". Since I know that we are human, any deviation from our template means that the individual being examined is not human. That is in effect what the current university definition does with educational institutions. If you look at the discussion on the university talk page you'll see part of the reason why such a strange situation arose. Doc Meroe (talk) 09:56, 23 February 2012 (UTC)

I should add that to avoid edit warring, I did not revert or alter the last edit by Jonathan A Jones, but I strenuously disagree with it. To use Rushdall as justification for a Europe centred definition of university is unsound. Imagine Rushdall was a cartographer who mapped only Europe and nowhere else. Would we then conclude that Elbrus was the worlds tallest mountain and that Everest wasn't a mountain at all since it isn't an inactive volcano? So why would we use his model of what a university was/wasn't, as it's based on precisely that logic. Doc Meroe (talk) 10:40, 23 February 2012 (UTC)

For the avoidance of doubt I would have no in-principle objection to the addition of institutions such as Al-Karaouine if the definition used here is changed, and I would have no objection to changing the definition used here if the definition is first changed at university. Jonathan A Jones (talk) 18:42, 23 February 2012 (UTC)
Jonathan: University#Medieval_universities already notes that there are at least some scholars who support the argument that madrasas were universities, whilst others oppose this argument. Just as WP:NPOV requires us to present all significant viewpoints at university, it can be argued that we should present all significant viewpoints here, but make it clear that the entry of some universities is not disputed amongst scholars.VR talk 03:34, 2 March 2012 (UTC)
That's an argument for explaining why certain institutions are not included, while noting that there is difference of opinion on this point. In other words it's an argument for improving the introduction section as discussed above. It's not an argument for including instututions which are not universities according to university in the main lists. Arguments of that kind should be made, as I have said all along, at university. Jonathan A Jones (talk) 07:34, 2 March 2012 (UTC)
But again, that only includes one POV, while totally excluding another. If you feel one POV has more weight, the other "universities" can be included under a title "disputed", or simply be mentioned in a paragraph format, without being put into any formal table. Yet the article currently lacks any mention of institutions cited as universities by perhaps a dozen sources that meet WP:RS. I feel that is a violation of WP:NPOV.VR talk 14:41, 3 March 2012 (UTC)

If we are dealing with universities that "must have been founded before 1500 in Europe", as the first paragraph stipulates, then the title of the article must be changed to reflect exactly that. The title in its present form is misleading because when I type 'oldest university in the world', this page comes to the top of the list and it doesn't include, or rather, intentionally excludes, institutions like Al Azhar or Al Karaouine (they are not even present in the secondary list below the European highlights). ailamos 01:16, 1 March 2012 (UTC)

The paragraph cited above goes on to include universities in other parts of the world. The "before 1500 in Europe" clause merely rules out later European universities; there is no such chronological restriction on non-European universities. The only stipulation is that all institutions listed here must meet the accepted definition of a university. --SteveMcCluskey (talk) 21:11, 1 March 2012 (UTC)

Maybe this article might seem Eurocentric, but Al Karaouine and Al Azhar only became universities as such in the 20th century. This is meant to be a list of the oldest continuously operated *universities* - not the oldest continuously operated educational institutions. There are continuously operated European educational institutions that are far older than Al Karaouine or Al Azhar, such as The King's School in Canterbury founded in 597 - in fact almost two dozen educational institutions founded in Europe before the oldest university on this list that are in operation today (see ) - but none of those institutions appear on the list because they are not universities. They are schools of other types (mostly secondary schools now). N0thingbetter (talk) 19:10, 19 April 2012 (UTC)

I think we have to include universities such as University of Al-Karaouine and Al-Azhar University or Chinese and ancient Greece academic institutions, that were "universities" at that time and in that place. Otherwise we have not to include a lot of medieval European university, simply because they were not like modern universities (you have to consider that today we don't study alchemy and magic at university, but in Medieval age was normal) --AlexanderFreud (talk) 18:05, 20 April 2012 (UTC)
I think you would struggle to demonstrate that either alchemy or magic formed part of the syllabus of early universities, but in any event this article simply follows the definition of university used in the main article, and as discussed repeatedly any attempt to redefine university should be carried out there. Jonathan A Jones (talk) 18:19, 20 April 2012 (UTC)

The Euro-centric bias shown in this article is preposterous ! If the fact that "university" is an european word is used to discriminate all non-european universities from being called universities -- all discoveries of the world should be called indian discoveries -- since they use the indian/arabic numerical system for representation. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 03:06, 29 May 2012 (UTC)

Please correct the title of the page. It should say specifically that this list is for Europe. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 09:12, 4 July 2012 (UTC)

Some universities not continuous

There's a bunch of universities that state they were not in continuous operation but the title of the article has the word continuous in it. How do you reconcile? (talk) 12:44, 2 May 2012 (UTC)

It is a bit arbitrary, reflecting the problem of deciding whether a short gap really breaks continuity (for example the University of Cambridge was effectively closed for two years due to plague, but no one would seriously claim that it hasn't been in continuous operation since 1209). But some should clearly go: Arezzo is the most obvious example. Jonathan A Jones (talk) 13:45, 2 May 2012 (UTC)
I presume you're referring to the closure of Cambridge around 1665-7. I suspect the criterion for including Cambridge is that although teaching was suspended, the major officers of the university continued to hold their posts (e.g., Isaac Barrow was Lucasian Professor of Mathematics from 1663 or 64 to 1669), the institutional structure continued to exist, and the university resumed teaching in the former pattern after the suspension. Continuity of officers and institutional structure seems a useful criterion to resolve the question of continuous operation. --SteveMcCluskey (talk) 02:35, 30 May 2012 (UTC)
That's pretty much how I have been thinking about the issues. I suspect that it would be tricky to come up with a good formal definition of "institutional continuity", but that in most cases it would be reasonably obvious which side of the line a particular example falls. I took out Arezzo as a trivial case, but it seems to me that Modena, Murcia, and Lleida should also go. Beyond that there's the problem of institutions which have broken up so badly that the original university no longer really exists: Paris and Toulouse leap to mind, but it would be a brave man who cut Paris from the list (if we do cut it then we shoudl say something about it in the opening paragraph of the section). Jonathan A Jones (talk) 13:46, 30 May 2012 (UTC)

POV content/title

This list is being used to claim that no non-Christian medieval university can be called a university, regardless of what reliable sources say on the topic. That al-Azhar and al-Karioune are systematically excluded from even being mentioned on this page is a gross violation of WP:NPOV. There is an arbitrary criteria put forth not by the sources but by Wikipedia editors that such and such must be satisfied for something to be called a university. Sorry, but no, that is simply untrue. What must be satisfied for a place to be on this list is that reliable sources must say that it is, and was founded as, a university. Anything beyond that is unsupported by Wikipedia policy. I see in the archives that users feel that they can ignore the wider community, as represented in such forums as NPOV/N. No, you cannot. There are a large number of sources for both al-Azhar and al-Karioune as being founded as universities prior to most of those listed. That other sources dispute that is fine, we should say that, as WP:NPOV demands. What cannot be done is that a collection of users determines that their view is the only POV that matters. NPOV, a core policy of this website, says otherwise. I request the reasons why non-Christian universities are excluded from this list, or that this list be appropriately titled as List of oldest European (or Christian) universities in continuous operation. You cant claim a monopoly over the term and ignore the large number of eminently reliable sources that dispute your view. nableezy - 21:03, 24 July 2012 (UTC)

We have discussed this many times before. I don't know why you are refusing to read the archive first, although I have pointed you to it. The basis of what an university is the scope and definition as given in the main article university. Your so-called sources nearly all use the term "university" merely as a general term, as generic term, as a synonym for institution of higher learning. No source of yours really presents an argument why a Muslim madrasa should be viewed as a Christian medieval university. But a lot of expert literature cited in this list and elsewhere painfully described why the university was an institution peculiar to Europe. So, once again, in a nutshell: both madrasas and universities were institutions of higher learning, but madrasas were not universities and universities not madrasa. You also should mention that you have started an edit-war at University of Al-Karaouine. Gun Powder Ma (talk) 21:37, 24 July 2012 (UTC)
I started an edit war????? I am the one that, after multiple failed attempts, made an astonishing POV-push and made three reverts there? Get off it. There are several eminent sources that say al-Azhar was founded as a university. Several more say the same for al-Karioune. Wikipedia demands that all POVs be properly presented, not whatever one you agree with. If this article were titled List of Christian medieval universities then you would have a leg to stand on. But it isnt, and because it isnt you do not get to ignore the reliable sources that dispute your European Christian-only POV. nableezy - 21:40, 24 July 2012 (UTC)
Have you read now the past discussions in the archive? I find it disrespectful to the efforts of others user when you just storm in and ignore everything that was said about the subject. Gun Powder Ma (talk) 21:53, 24 July 2012 (UTC)
And I find it disrespectful that you think you can ignore the discussions that didn't turn out in your favor. You know, like this one. Editors cannot form a "consensus" to violate WP:NPOV. That is a core, non-negotiable, policy. That policy demands that all relevant views be given their due weight. That does not mean removing a view that you dislike. nableezy - 22:29, 24 July 2012 (UTC)

Jacques Verger, an internationally leading historian on the subject, makes it plain clear why the use of the term "university" with regard to non-European institutions of higher education is anachronistic and just careless terminology:

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 describes 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. (Verger, Jacques: "Patterns", in: Ridder-Symoens, Hilde de (ed.): A History of the University in Europe. Vol. I: Universities in the Middle Ages, Cambridge University Press, 2003, ISBN 978-0-521-54113-8, pp. 35–76 (35))

This means the POV and the OR rather lies with those who coin madrasas as "universities" even though both are historically and conceptually unrelated. Gun Powder Ma (talk) 13:21, 25 July 2012 (UTC)

I only watch this article, but I must say the lede makes explicit that it is about European universities before 1500. Gun Powder Ma is right. Yopienso (talk) 16:45, 25 July 2012 (UTC)
If you want to have this article cover European universities before 1500, then name this article appropriately. Gun Powder Ma ignores whatever source disputes his view, and there are a plethora of sources for al-Karioune and al-Azhar being established as universities. You cannot name this article List of oldest universities and then disregard what sources say are the oldest universities. nableezy - 16:58, 25 July 2012 (UTC)
You keep mentioning a plethora of sources. Can you provide them? Let's see them. Athenean (talk) 17:17, 25 July 2012 (UTC)
As numerous scholarly studies make explicitly clear, the university is a product of medieval Europe. Those claiming otherwise should provide citations of serious historical studies demonstrating that universities existed anywhere in the world before the twelfth century.
There were earlier higher education institutions of various kinds in Europe and elsewhere. For example, in the ninth century Rabanus Maurus directed a monastic school at Fulda which was important enough that Rabanus was called the praeceptor Germaniae (teacher of Germany). Yet no one claims his school was a university because it wasn't organized like one. SteveMcCluskey (talk) 17:22, 25 July 2012 (UTC)

@ Athenean, sure, here are sources for al-Azhar:

  • Stevens, Michael; Wedding, Danny, eds. (2004). The Handbook of International Psychology. Psychology Press. p. 392. ISBN 9780415946124. Al-Azhar University in Cairo, the oldest continuously operating institution of higher religous learning in the world, is not considered a state university though it is piblic. Al-Azhar University was established in 970 C.E. as a school of Islamic studies 
  • Janin, Hunt (2006). The Pursuit of Learning in the Islamic World, 610-2003. McFarland. p. 67. ISBN 9780786429042. Situated in Cairo and formerly also located with the great al-Azhar Mosque, this is the oldest and still the most important Islamic university in the world. Al-Azhar University has taught Islamic law, theology, and Arabic for more than 1,000 years. The first recorded seminar was held in 975, when chief justice Abu El-Hassan sat in the courtyard of the university and, reading from a book on jurisprudence written by his father, instructed students in the intricacies of Shiite law. 
  • Behrens-Abouseif, Doris (1992). Islamic Architecture in Cairo (2nd ed.). Brill. p. 58. ISBN 978-90-04-09626-4. The first prayers were held in the mosque in 972, and in 989 it acquired the stats of a college with the appointment of thirty-five scholars to teach the Isma'ili Shi'a theology to which the Fatimids adhered. 

I have some more (I wrote (largely) al-Azhar Mosque) but I'll have to go through them to see which deals with the university and which deal with the history of the mosque exclusively. That will take some time. nableezy - 18:07, 25 July 2012 (UTC)

And for the record, nobody would call al-Azhar a madrassa. It is a jam3a (جامعة). madrassa is used for secondary and lower level schools. Al-Azhar, for example, manages for the state the religious primary and secondary schools in Egypt. Those are madrassas (schools). nableezy - 18:10, 25 July 2012 (UTC)
None of these sources are really relevant. What we need are scholarly sources which actually make a case for this or that madrasa (or the madrasa in general) being an university, sources which present arguments. Yours just use the term "university" passingly which is small wonder since today university is the generic term for any institution of higher education. I can also show you lots of sources which refer in this way to far older Greek, Roman or Indian centres of higher learning as "universities". I am sorry to say but your argument shows that one year of discussion have done nothing to heighten insight into this question on the side of the madrasa fetishists. So, please read again Verger from above:

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 describes 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.

Gun Powder Ma (talk) 18:59, 25 July 2012 (UTC)

No, I am sorry, but you miss the point. On Wikipedia, what a reliable source says is a university is a "university". I have yet to actually say what I think of this effort to cleanse any non-Christian institution from this page, so kindly keep your opinions on "fetishes" to yourself. My sources aren't using the term "passingly", and your pre-determined criteria on what is acceptable (only those that agree with you) is not Wikipedia policy. Again, WP:NPOV demands that all significant views that have been published by reliable sources be given their due weight. Not only those that exclude any non-European Christian institution, but all significant views. You do not get to decide that one view is right and any other must be banished. nableezy - 19:12, 25 July 2012 (UTC)
You still don't understand that "university" has become a general term today (and this was exactly because this European institution became so globally successful)? Do you even know what a general term is? Gun Powder Ma (talk) 19:17, 25 July 2012 (UTC)
I can do that too, watch. You still dont understand that this article is titled List of oldest universities in continuous operation and that this list ignores what several sources say are among the oldest universities in continuous operation. Do you even know what all significant views means? nableezy - 19:42, 25 July 2012 (UTC)

Thy topic has been discussed to death and well beyond (see the very extensive archive); Gun Powder Ma is entirely correct. Jonathan A Jones (talk) 19:37, 25 July 2012 (UTC)

Users cant decide to ignore sources, sorry. nableezy - 19:42, 25 July 2012 (UTC)
Intransigence is no position. At the very least, if you still don't want to even consider the arguments laid out to you, you should realize that you are wasting everybody's time, including yours. Gun Powder Ma (talk) 19:56, 25 July 2012 (UTC)
Ive had quite enough of your condescending tone. The argument that I have provided, backed entirely by Wikipedia policy, is that this article, in contravention of core Wikipedia policy, disregards significant viewpoints put forward by reliable sources. nableezy - 20:14, 25 July 2012 (UTC)
It's a question of source quality. Sources like the "Handbook of International Psychology" and "Islamic Architecture in Cairo" cannot be accorded the same weight as the scholarly sources that delve in depth into the history and nature of the university that GPM has presented below. They might be fine sources for international psychology and Islamic architecture, but not all sources are equally reliable in all subjects. As far as consensus, I already see five users siding with the current version of the article (including myself), versus one. Athenean (talk) 19:56, 25 July 2012 (UTC)
I will assemble a list of peer-reviewed journal articles on the history al-Azhar that say that the university was established in the last 900s. But acting like users on this page can trump core "non-negotiable" policies such as NPOV, or ignore wider community involvement (eg [[this) isnt based on any Wikipedia policy, including WP:CONSENSUS. nableezy - 20:14, 25 July 2012 (UTC)
Not only are the sources of poor quality, but the quotes from the first and third authors don't even support the interpretation that Nableezy is putting forward. Jonathan A Jones (talk) 20:05, 25 July 2012 (UTC)
Really? Reallly!?!? nableezy - 20:14, 25 July 2012 (UTC)
I noticed it too. And imagine if we would start to list all the sources which refer to the Al-Azhar in the same off-hand manner as a madrasa or mosque or mosque school. And then those which date its founding as a university correctly into the mid-20th century. And on top of them all the quality sources from below which explicitly make the case against the identification of the madrasa with the university. Each of these three groups of sources would directly contradict the university claim. Gun Powder Ma (talk) 20:12, 25 July 2012 (UTC)
It wasnt "founded" as a university in the 1950s, it was designated as a university and brought under the Ministry of Education in the 1950s. And no, "mosque school" does not "directly contradict" the "claim". nableezy - 20:20, 25 July 2012 (UTC)
Forgot to add: also all those sources which maintain that the earliest universities were Bologna, Paris etc. all refute your claim directly. And the designation of Al-Azhar as a university in the 1950s was far more than a simple renaming scheme: it was a complete reorganization of a medieval institution, a jump into modernity which brought along modern subjects, structures, facilities, teaching methods etc. Everything changed but the name Al-Azhar itself. Gun Powder Ma (talk) 21:35, 25 July 2012 (UTC)
And all those sources which hold that <insert true university> was the first in Egypt (fifth category), Africa (sixth category) or the Muslim world (seventh category) also would directly contradict any assertion that medieval Al-Azhar was a university. Gun Powder Ma (talk) 22:04, 25 July 2012 (UTC)
See, this is where a proclivity to speak without knowing what you are talking about gets in your way. Al-Azhar was "reorganized" under Muhammad Ali, and secular subjects, like math and modern science, added at that time. European philosophy was added in the 1800s. The 1961 law that officially separated the mosque and the school was not a "complete reorganization of a medieval institution, a jump into modernity which brought along modern subjects, structures, facilities, teaching methods etc." You say these things with such confidence that somebody who has not read anything about al-Azhar might believe you, but guess what, I have actually read something about this, and your bluster is just that. Uninformed opinion masquerading as a learned view. Yes, sources that say Bologna, Paris, etc. are the first universities do contradict sources that say al-Karioune and al-Azhar were. The problem is that I am not the one saying that those sources must be ignored. I am the one saying that all significant views that have been published by reliable sources should be included. If sources disagree then we spell out that disagreement. You dont just decide that one source is right and the other is not. nableezy - 21:57, 25 July 2012 (UTC)
The view that a few authors consider madrasas to be similar or equal to universities has long been included in university as a minority view, so you tilt against windmills, Quichote. What you don't get, however, is that this list is not to be styled after a small minority view because this would be a classical case of giving it WP:Undue weight. Gun Powder Ma (talk) 22:04, 25 July 2012 (UTC)
I see you are not backing away from the completely made up nonsense you were earlier saying. Ah well, guess thats to be expected on the internets. nableezy - 00:43, 26 July 2012 (UTC)

Some additional sources:

Ednan Aslan is a University Professor at the University of Vienna in the Institute for Islamic Religious Education

  • Aslam, Ednan, ed. (2009), Islamic Education in Europe, Wiener islamisch-religionspädagogische Studien, 1, Böhlau Verlag Wien, pp. 220–221, ISBN 9783205783107, The Muslim community maintained, favoured, and organized the institutions for higher education that became the new centres for the diffusion of Islamic knowledge. These centres were places where teachers and students of that time would meet and also where all intellectuals would gather and take part in extremely important scientific debates. It is not a coincidence that around the 9th centurey the first university in the world, the Qarawiyyin University in Fez, was established in the Muslim world followed by az-Zaytuna in Tunis and Al-Azhar in Cairo. The university model, that in the West was widespread starting only from the 12th century, had an extraordinary fortune and was spread throughout the Muslim world at least until the colonial period. 

Jack Goldstone is a professor in the School of Public Policy at George Mason University

  • Goldstone, Jack (2008), Title Why Europe?: the rise of the West in world history, 1500-1850, McGraw-Hill Higher Education, p. 140, ISBN 9780072848014, Islamic scientists and scholars developed the first universities as centers for scholarship in North Africa and Egypt; the universities of Al-Azhar in Cairo, founded in AD 988, and of Al-Karaouine in Fez (Morocco), founded in 859, are the world's oldest ongoing universities  horizontal tab character in |title= at position 6 (help)

I again ask if anybody can honestly claim that the view that al-Karaouine and al-Azhar were not founded as universities, and are among the "oldest universities in continuous operation" is not a significant view that [has] been published in reliable source? nableezy - 15:12, 26 July 2012 (UTC)

It's a question of due weight. These sources cannot be compared in quantity and quality to the ones presented by GPM. By including Karaouine and Al-Azhar in the table, you are giving a minority viewpoint equal weight. Also interesting that no one is interested in included madrasas founded post-1088 (i.e. after Bologna), only in adding the madrassas founded before 1088. In other words, it's not about including medieval Islamic "universities", but only about claiming "the Muslims did this first!". By the way, there are reliable sources that describe the Platonic Academy (4th century BC) as the "first European University" [1], but you don't see me jumping up and down demanding its inclusion in the table. Athenean (talk) 17:46, 26 July 2012 (UTC)
Due weight does not mean complete suppression of views you dislike. The sources I brought are specifically about the content of this article. They are reliable and deserve to be included. You cannot simply suppress reliably sourced material. It is a straight forward violation of WP:NPOV to do so. Pretending like this is just me saying this is not going to fly, especially if anybody just looks at the first section of this page. Include whatever reliable sources say. Include the Platonic Academy. I do not care. What I do care about is a set of users deciding that they can completely disregard whatever sources that hold a different viewpoint to the one that they hold. Wikipedia does not allow for such actions. This was found to be the case at NPOV/N, and that finding was simply ignored. Other people may be willing to give up in the face of such opposition, but I'll be taking this back to NPOV/N shortly. And if whatever happens there is again disregarded, then WP:DR will be followed, all the way up to arbitration if necessary. nableezy - 17:53, 26 July 2012 (UTC)

Wikipedia:Neutral_point_of_view/Noticeboard#List_of_oldest_universities nableezy - 18:00, 26 July 2012 (UTC)

Again, while there are some sources that consider Karaouine the oldest functioning university, they are beneath the caliber and scope of those sources that consider the medieval Christian university to be a European innovation, thus excluding Karaouine from the list. Unfortunately, the problem with the table is that if we were to include Karaouine in the table we would be giving equal weight to the minority viewpoint. On the other hand I am open to some kind of creative solution that includes Karaouine and Al-Azhar somewhere in the article, just not the table. Athenean (talk) 21:14, 26 July 2012 (UTC)
No, that isn't true. You could include in the comments that the view that it was founded as a university is disputed by X, Y, and Z. I am not saying that this article should only include one POV. GPM is, you at least were. We should include that the founding date of the university is disputed. What cant happen is that one "significant viewpoint" be completely discarded. nableezy - 22:05, 26 July 2012 (UTC)
By the way, I'd like to ask, how come your interest ends at including only Islamic institutions founded prior to 1088? Athenean (talk) 21:19, 26 July 2012 (UTC)
It isn't. My interest is in what I know about, and that is mostly al-Azhar. I have done a considerable amount of reading about the mosque and the school, as, like I said, most of al-Azhar Mosque is my work. It expanded to al-Karaouine as a result of my readings on al-Azhar. Like I said earlier, add whatever reliable sources say was founded as a university during the time period covered in this article. The ones that I know about are al-Azhar and al-Karaouine. My interest here is applying core Wikipedia policy. nableezy - 21:40, 26 July 2012 (UTC)


I dont think anybody has disputed that there are several sources that say that the university is a uniquely European innovation. What you do not seem to get however is that other reliable sources take a different view, and that per NPOV Wikipedia must include that view as well. Here are two:

  • Aslan, Ednan, ed. (2009), Islamic Education in Europe, Wiener islamisch-religionspädagogische Studien, 1, Böhlau Verlag Wien, pp. 220–221, ISBN 9783205783107, The Muslim community maintained, favoured, and organized the institutions for higher education that became the new centres for the diffusion of Islamic knowledge. These centres were places where teachers and students of that time would meet and also where all intellectuals would gather and take part in extremely important scientific debates. It is not a coincidence that around the 9th centurey the first university in the world, the Qarawiyyin University in Fez, was established in the Muslim world followed by az-Zaytuna in Tunis and Al-Azhar in Cairo. The university model, that in the West was widespread starting only from the 12th century, had an extraordinary fortune and was spread throughout the Muslim world at least until the colonial period. 
  • Foskett, Nick (2011), Molesworth, Mike; Scullion, Richard; Nixon, Elizabeth, eds., The Marketisation of Higher Education and The Student As Consumer, Routeledge, p. 26, ISBN 9780415584456, Universities operate in the world of post-compulsory educaiton. While educating young people has never been their only function it has, for almsot every university, been the most significant of their activities, providing progression from schoold to, for most student, their final stage of formal education. But while school education is compulsory to some level in every country of the world, progression to university has never been compulsory. The first university was established in Fez, Morocco in the night century AD, and the oldest university in the UK is the University of Oxford whose origins can be traced back to 1167. 

nableezy - 23:54, 26 July 2012 (UTC)

Gun Powder Ma, you do not own this page, and you have several times inserted comments in to the middle of a discussion. Do not move this subsection to a completely unrelated area of the talk page, these are specifically brought in response to your list in this section. nableezy - 00:45, 27 July 2012 (UTC)

Suggestion from uninvolved editor to resolve dispute

This is really a simple black-and-white answer: the university is a distinctly European institution. Al-Azhar is a venerable, ancient institution of higher learning, but was not designated a university until the 1950s. Therefore, it does not belong in this article.

My suggestion, then, is twofold:

  • Nableezy should stop trying to insert it here and that he respect the qualifiers in the lede. They are based on the opinions of the best experts. There is an "See also" that takes the reader to the oldest madrasahs. Other editors should ignore any future arguments from him on the talk page, and if he inserts Al-Azhar into the article, you all should take it to mediation.
  • As a gesture of goodwill, Gun Powder Ma should redact the pointy summary of Al-Azhar here. I would be happy to assist in drafting a neutrally-worded, informative summary. Yopienso (talk) 22:23, 25 July 2012 (UTC)
If you want a list of European universities, call this List of oldest European universities in continuous operation. You cannot however ignore those sources that disagree with the notion that only white people count. nableezy - 00:45, 26 July 2012 (UTC)
And telling people to ignore me is, well, I'm not sure how I can reply in a civil way. Try not to be so disrespectful. It may work on the internet, but you may find that the real world isnt the internet. nableezy - 02:30, 26 July 2012 (UTC)

Not about "white people" or "brown people". If you're gonna include Madrassas, then you'd also have to include Plato's Academy, Taoist and Hindu monasteries in China and India, etc.... — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 01:37, 26 July 2012 (UTC)

Wise comment, dear IP. Exactly. As soon as you open up the definition of a university to Muslim mosque schools, there is nothing to bar the inclusion of all other kinds of ancient centres of higher learning. Since most of these are much older as the madrasa, its "first university" claim would be thus immediately nullified. Madrasa claimants would then have to argue not only that a) the Muslim mosque school complies to the definition of a university but at the same time also that the earlier b) Buddhist monasteries, Confucian state schools, Christian cathedral schools and Greek academies do not. A hopeless impasse which will never ever reach consensus anywhere as long as there is still IQ present in Wikipedia. Gun Powder Ma (talk) 10:02, 26 July 2012 (UTC)
Include whatever reliable sources say are the oldest universities. If other reliable sources dispute them, include that as well. That is how things are done on Wikipedia, at least the last time I checked. nableezy - 02:01, 26 July 2012 (UTC)
Hi, Nableezy, I feel it's appropriate to respond to you once. After this, I'll take my own good advice and not engage in pointless argument.
I'm sorry you're seeing racial discrimination where there is none. Please take a little break and then read the lede and the talk page again and you'll see the specific definition of "university" as used in this article.
Gun Powder Ma has provided numerous RSs, so that's what we'll go by. The Encyclopedia Britannica says, "The format of education at al-Azhar remained relatively informal for much of its early history: initially there were no entrance requirements, no formal curriculum, and no degrees." That does not describe a university.
Regrettably, I do not read Arabic, but the Google translation of the university's own site (the one in Cairo) claims it is the oldest Islamic university in the world. It goes on to say its business, medicine, engineering, agriculture schools were not opened until 1961.
Few Italians, I would guess, are miffed that Tarquin the Proud is not included in List of Pharaohs. Even so, Muslims have a long and proud heritage that is distinct from the Western heritage, though they have touched and shared. Al-Azhar is an excellent university with an extraordinary history. It just doesn't belong on this particular list.
Best wishes, Yopienso (talk) 03:04, 26 July 2012 (UTC)
This isnt about Muslim heritage, or Western heritage, or anything other than what reliable sources say. That is what counts on Wikipedia. I am not disputing that there are several sources that say a university originated purely in Europe. I am not saying that an article should not include that. What I am saying is that if other reliable sources disagree with that view and identify non-European universities, yes even those Moslem ones, as being among the first universities then Wikipedia should also reflect that reliably sourced view. It should acknowledge that many other scholars dispute the notion, but it cannot simply ignore it. Can anybody honestly say that it is not a significant view that [has] been published by reliable sources? Anybody? Finally, if you want to ignore me feel free. Im not so immodest to think that I cant learn anything from somebody else or that my opinion is the final say in the matter, but by all means, feel free. But dont ask others to do so. Thank you, and best wishes. nableezy - 04:48, 26 July 2012 (UTC)
Hm. Business? Engineering? Agriculture? You do realize that no university anywhere taught anything approaching this until the late 19th C./20th C.? As for entrance requirements, to my knowledge there have been none anywhere, save for religious tests. As for curriculums, not much to write home about. Papal edicts and parliamentary statutes tried to introduce them, but there were no controls and varied enormously in application, for the most part blithely ignored. Keep in mind students were not examined on the curriculum until quite late - e.g. in Oxford, a final oral examination for a degree was only introduced in the mid-17th C., if only to pretend to meet some sort of curriculum (prior to that, there was only a final Latin disquisition). And that exam was a farce. To give you an example from 18th C. Oxford, the examined student selected three masters students (only a couple of years older than he was - usually his friends & drinking buddies), to go through the motions. They plucked one question for each curriculum topic, usually from a pre-set book of questions passed around for generations, well-familiar to students, e.g.
* "Who founded the University of Oxford?" Answer: Alfred the Great. History requirement met.
* "How do you say "Hill of the Skull" in Hebrew?" Answer: Golgotha. Hebrew requirement met.
* "Where was Jesus born?" Answer: Bethlehem. Theology requirement met.
and so on, going through the required "curriculum" point by point. Oh, by the way - these examinations had no grade, so it didn't matter if you answered it well or poorly, right or wrong. The point was the question was asked, and thus the curriculum requirement met. Practically the only way to fail was to show up drunk and assault the examiners. Then comes the "logic" part of the exam, which involves construing a small passage from a Greek or Latin classic - not disussing its meaning, mind you, but merely your correct enunciation and pronunciation of it (and frankly, the examiners had no idea if it was or wasn't - they themselves had taken the exam only a couple of years prior, and knew no better). Then came the real test: translating a single English phrase into Latin. Hardest part of the exam. Masters often had a laugh with this, giving the kid a ribald phrase, watching him struggle embarassingly much to their collective giggles. Finally, some proof of some familiarity of the Thirty-Nine articles of the Angican faith - essentially reciting a couple of them from memory. Then round it off with a quick summary of a couple of Bible stories. Congratulations. You are now a Bachelor of Arts. Then off to the customary dinner, paid for by the student, for his examiners. That was it. That was all of it. That was the beginning, middle and end of academic achievement at Oxford university until the 19th C. There were no other examinations in their entire scholarly careers. No other controls of curriculum, no other means of ensuring that a student went anywhere near a classroom or even opened a book throughout his entire university career.
And, oh, to receive a masters degree there were no requirements at all. Just as long as you stayed out of jail and the scandal sheets for a couple of years, you were automatically given your masters degree.
So I'd be a little careful with estimating the importance of curriculums. Don't imagine there was a whole lot of learning going on in universities prior to the 19th C. Walrasiad (talk) 05:50, 26 July 2012 (UTC)
If you're seriously interested in the curriculum of the medieval universities, you should look at any of the many modern studies of the history of learning in medieval Europe. There are also a large number of edited and translated teaching texts from the medieval universities that go beyond your silly caricature. I study history of science and have several shelves in my personal library full of textbooks from the Middle Ages; they're not easy reading. There is much more in any serious academic library. Please read the sources if you want to contribute meaningfully to this discussion. SteveMcCluskey (talk) 15:27, 26 July 2012 (UTC)
The existence of texts have little to do with actual practice. My "caricature", as you put it, is taken directly from the statutes of the universities, the memoirs and depositions of university alumni and dons of the time, as well as the reports of inquiry and reform commissions. Please don't try to pull rank on me. Walrasiad (talk) 16:05, 26 July 2012 (UTC)
I haven't heard that story, but I know a reasonable number of people who went to Oxford and Cambridge and that story sounds about right from before the 19th/20th century.
Lets not also forget the fact that until comparatively recently Oxford and Cambridge only taught about four courses.
And obviously both Oxford and Cambridge still give out Masters 4 years after graduation to every student. -- Eraserhead1 <talk> 07:30, 11 August 2012 (UTC)
I've just taken a look at Issac Newton and apparently all fellows were required to become ordained priests. How does that not make Cambridge (and presumably Oxford) not just religious schools? -- Eraserhead1 <talk> 09:34, 11 August 2012 (UTC)
Haven't looked at this recently, but I think it's helpful to disentangle several points about Universities,
  • Walrasiad's point apparently refers to the nineteenth century state of Oxford and Cambridge, which their critics saw as one of severe decline. It does not address the medieval universities, which were considered leading intellectual centers. Sorry my comment came across as snide, but Walrasiad hasn't addressed the state of the medieval universities.
  • Only taught about four courses. What do you mean by courses? Certainly not a course in the American sense of a small unit like French literature or organic chemistry (the British call them modules as I recall). The 1255 statutes of the University of Paris list about 20 books to be taught in the Arts curriculum (most of them in Aristotle's Natural Philosophy which we would classify as science). I presume the four courses you mean are Arts, Law, Medicine, and Theology, which modern American universities would describe as Schools (or at least Departments).
  • Most important to the general discussion, ties to religion (the requirement that Professors must to be clergy -- and hence independent of the jurisdiction of civil law) is different from a school that is controlled by the Church. Oxford and Cambridge were not controlled by the local bishops; it was that independence from control by religious institutions that characterized the medieval university.
--SteveMcCluskey (talk) 18:47, 11 August 2012 (UTC)
  • If they were leading intellectual centres which discoveries (that hadn't already been discovered by the Chinese, Arabs or Indians) did the medieval European Universities make?
If they are described as being leading intellectual centres without discovering new knowledge then it seems that the sources describing them as such are taking a much smaller geographical area as their focus than the entire world. This means they are then not making the point that madrasas or other schools of higher learning didn't meet the same standard.
  • If they thought they were more than courses why wouldn't the University of Oxford or Cambridge not want to big that up? I really don't think it is controversial to say that until recently the number of courses taught was very small. You base one module on about a books work in a modern science degree, so 20 books sounds like a reasonable degree course, possibly with a few options.
  • Requiring your fellows to be clergy hardly shows their great independence from the church. The entire argument presented by Gun is that Islamic madrasa's were super different, given the clergy situation that doesn't really pass the bullshit test. -- Eraserhead1 <talk> 09:26, 12 August 2012 (UTC)
Yes, please get serious and contribute meaningfully to this discussion (see how that sounds when directed at you?). I brought two other sources in the section above, and I again ask a simple question. Are you, or anyone else, going to seriously argue that the view that al-Azhar and al-Karioune are the oldest universities in continuous operation is not a significant view that [has] been published in reliable sources? Somebody, anybody, please answer that. nableezy - 15:31, 26 July 2012 (UTC)
You forget to cite the rest of the guideline (Wikipedia:DUE) which runs in full: Neutrality requires that each article or other page in the mainspace fairly represents all significant viewpoints that have been published by reliable sources, in proportion to the prominence of each viewpoint. Giving due weight and avoiding giving undue weight means that articles should not give minority views as much of, or as detailed, a description as more widely held views. This has already been done years ago in the main article on the university and even in medieval university. What you are asking though is nothing less than to overturn the entire list and the definition on which it is based and put your pet entry on top of the list. Gun Powder Ma (talk) 17:27, 26 July 2012 (UTC)
Of course, give it its due weight. That does not however mean that the weight is 0. Yes or no, is the view that al-Karaouine is the oldest continuously running university in the world a significant viewpoint that has been published in reliable sources? nableezy - 17:36, 26 July 2012 (UTC)
And if you keep running your mouth with the bs about my "pet entry" or some truly idiotic ranting about fetishes, then we will have a bigger problem. nableezy - 17:37, 26 July 2012 (UTC)

Catholic University of Louvain not continuous with the Old abolished University of Louvain

The Catholic University of Louvain, founded in Mechlin (Malines - Mechelen) in 1834 by the bisshops of Belgium don't have any historical links with the old abolished university of Louvain. Several rules of the Belgian Courts, of Cassation and Appel of Belgium, forbide the identification of the Catholic University with the Old University : "L'université catholique de Louvain ne peut être considérée comme continuant l'ancienne université de Louvain; et lorsqu'un acte de fondation a désigné pour collateur un professeur de cette ancienne université, il y a lieu d'y pourvoir par le gouvernement", (Table générale alphabétique et chronologique de la Pasicrisie Belge contenant la jurisprudence du Royaume de 1814 à 1850, Bruxelles, 1855, p. 585, colonne 1, alinea 2. And : 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...".-- (talk) 22:47, 22 October 2012 (UTC)

University of Paris should be removed

There is no University of Paris in continuous operation. Why, then, is it on this list? The University of Paris was disbanded by Napoleon. It was only re-established decades after Napoleon, and then it was dissolved in the 1960s/70s. It should be removed from the list. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 04:21, 29 October 2012 (UTC)

This has been suggested before [2]. If Paris is removed from the list it should certainly be mentioned in the descriptive text because of its historical centrality to early universities. Jonathan A Jones (talk) 20:57, 30 October 2012 (UTC)
I don't agree at all. Many universities have periods where they closed due to wars or other events. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 05:46, 31 January 2013 (UTC)
Obviously many universities have had closed periods of varying length, and clearly short closed periods do not affect the essential continuity. But beyond a certain point it is hard to argue that there is any real continuity of officers and institutional structure: see the discussion at [3]. Paris was closed for more than a century (1793-1896) which is clearly long enough to break continuity. Furthermore it is highly questionable whether the University of Paris actually exists at the moment, as it was completely broken up in 1970: note that the University of Paris wiki page starts off "The University of Paris (French: Université de Paris) was a university in Paris" and continues "it ceased to exist in 1970". Jonathan A Jones (talk) 08:27, 31 January 2013 (UTC)
Huh? The idea of an article on the oldest universities with no mention of the University of Paris -- the early model for all subsequent northern universities and the second oldest after Bologna -- is positively bizarre! The fact that there was a break in operations during the French Revolution is not relevant; virtually all old universities have had periods of suspension. And the idea that there was no University of Paris for nearly a century is a distortion of historical reality. The University of Paris was reestablished by Napoleon in 1808, to be sure under a slightly different name -- the Academie de Paris, consisting of various Facultes (law, medicine, sciences, etc.). Other French universities, such as Toulouse and Montpellier, also were known by the same terminology, i.e., Academie de Toulouse, Academie de Montpellier, etc. And the article mentions these provincial French universities, with no weird quibbles about continuous operation. No historian of European universities would think that excluding Paris from this article makes any sense at all, for the hyper-technical (and historically unconvincing) reasons given. And the statement that the University of Paris ceased to exist in 1970 is only true in (again) a very technical bureaucratic sense. Look at the French Wikipedia article again: the 13 successor campuses all have names like "Universite Paris I - Pantheon Sorbonne." Let's put Paris back.Ajrocke (talk) 17:20, 25 May 2013 (UTC)
But this isn't an article on the oldest universities: we have such an article at medieval university. It's just a list of universities meeting certain criteria. There is a reasonable argument that these criteria are arbitrary and irrational and the article should just be deleted or merged with list of medieval universities, but if we are going to have such an article it should follow the definition in its name. To clarify the meaning of the definition we follow the main articles on which this list is based; thus the definition of university follows that at university. Smilarly, founding dates and continuity questions are taken from the corresponding articles. Of course these may be wrong, but then the right thing to do is to first change the main article, and then propagate the change here.
Examining University of Paris we find that it "was a famous university", that it suffered "a century of suspension (from 1793 to 1896)", and that "it ceased to exist in 1970". As such it does not meet the criteria for inclusion in this list, and was removed. Jonathan A Jones (talk) 11:39, 27 May 2013 (UTC)
Just took a look at the parallel articles in the French, German, and Spanish Wikipedias. All include the University of Paris, but with diverse qualifications.
  • The French Wikipedia notes that although founded in the thirteenth century there were informal precursors in the twelfth century.
  • The German and Spanish Wikipeidas note that the University was divided into various independent universities during the reforms of 1968-71.
  • None mention the interruption during the Revolutionary period.
A source of the difference may be that the English Wikipedia is unique in including the phrase "in continuous operation" in its title for its list. The other three are simply "lists of the oldest universities". Maybe we should consider the merits (and problems) of deleting that phrase. It certainly raises an anomaly in dealing with Paris. --SteveMcCluskey (talk) 20:37, 27 May 2013 (UTC)

Suggest Name Update

It is stated in the introduction "Other institutions of higher learning, like those of ancient Greece, ancient Rome, Byzantium, ancient China, ancient India, the Arab World, are not included in this list due to their cultural, historical and structual dissimilarities from the medieval European university from which the modern university evolved.[5][6][7]"

Therefore, I think it is better to update the topic name for a better representation. For example, List of oldest christian universities in continuous operation or List of oldest universities in Medieval Europe continuous operation or any suitable clarification. — Preceding unsigned comment added by Abudy8 (talkcontribs) 18:33, 12 November 2012 (UTC)

This has been discussed to death on many occasions. We follow the definition at university. Jonathan A Jones (talk) 19:15, 12 November 2012 (UTC)
The same definition which effectively insists universities descend from cathedral schools? Well now I'm convinced they're so different from Al-Azhar. Any definition of the university that claims continuity of any university across a thousand years is flawed to begin with. Scholastics were an essential part of the medieval university in the catholic and muslim worlds. (talk) 23:49, 21 December 2012 (UTC)

I hope the title can accurately reflect the content and be changed to "List of oldest modern European universities in continuos operation. It is subtly hostile (see micro-aggression) to dismiss real universities as illegitimate based off of ONE extraordinary nationalistic and biased definition of what a university is. Just because the italians put a word the current day english term for university "a community of teachers and scholars," it may have just been their view of already established universities. That Italian university never intended nor claimed to be the first ever enlightened community of teachers and scholars, but instead, built their foundation on the example of previous established universities. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 15:23, 17 February 2013 (UTC)

As discussed repeatedly and exhaustively, this article follows the definition at university and debates of this kind should be held there. Jonathan A Jones (talk) 16:23, 17 February 2013 (UTC)

Lack of non European Universities

I'm not so much puzzled as appalled by the lack of arabic universities. A lot of the criteria for considering the university a university only refer to the peculiar political status of christianity in medieval Europe and the dual legal system: this could not exist in countries which had a singular legal system to begin with. Medieval european universities also lacked standards of examination (this has been touched already), and a lot of the universities listed on this list were only theological schools when they were founded, which makes them no different from a madrassah. Both the muslim and catholic academic systems were largely mired in the same sterile scholastics anyway, there's no real continuity between the modern, post enlightenment university and the medieval scholae, aside from the fact that a handful are in the same buildings. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 23:31, 21 December 2012 (UTC)

Note that the Rüegg quote is about enlightenment academia and the 18th century. Until the 17th-18th century, universities in the west were no different from the medieval muslim madrassah, probably even less intellectually engaging. There is a major breaking point brought about by the expansion of natural philosophy and the creation of the french and prussian schools which would inspire the modern academy. The university of Berlin was modelled after the french grandes écoles and the Polytechnique, not after the sterile aristocratic finishing schools that were Oxbridge. - Still the same IP — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 23:36, 21 December 2012 (UTC)

Also Al-Azhar's list of teaching subjects, caricaturally summed up as religious law, included everything that was taught in medieval universities except medicine, which only a few universities taught anyway. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 23:40, 21 December 2012 (UTC)

Both schools were removed for nonsensical, catholic centric understandings of the medieval west. It's very clear, when reading the blurbs on both these schools, that what they taught is the same thing taught in catholic universities (theology, law, rhetoric, philosophy, etc) but in a muslim context. The argument that they shouldn't be considered universities because there were multiple academic centers in a city like Baghdad is specious, but completely ignores that Baghdad was four times the size of the catholic world's largest cities, Venice and Paris. It also ignores the fact that some cities did have multiple universities: the modern university of Aberdeen results from the fusion of no less than three ancient universities (15th and 16th century foundations), for a city of maybe 5000 to 10000 souls at most at the end of the middle ages. - This is the last point of my rant and a repost of what I said in the ridiculous POV fork this article engendered. (talk) 23:46, 21 December 2012 (UTC)

The article is preposterous and conveniently prescribes the divisive western narrative, Al Azhar was the first university that has continuously functioned since AD 927 to this date and even to this day awards its degrees. Going further, Indian Nalanda can be regarded as the oldest but extant university. See Harvard Uni's President Speech:

→″In India, dedication to global collaboration and to the breadth of the liberal arts has deep roots. The ancient university of Nalanda, which Harvard economist Amartya Sen is helping to revive, was a model center for the exchange of ideas and international collaboration 600 years before any similar institution appeared in the west. By the 7th century, Nalanda drew students from all parts of Asia, combining innovation in math, science, philosophy, and the arts with Buddhist studies and applied fields that included health care, medicine, engineering, and architecture. We might say that India, in an earlier globalizing era, invented the kind of higher education we still aspire to.″ (talk) —Preceding undated comment added 01:01, 15 January 2013 (UTC)

As discussed repeatedly and exhaustively, this article follows the definition at university and debates of this kind should be held there. Jonathan A Jones (talk) 07:22, 15 January 2013 (UTC)

This article is insanely POV, people can try and hide behind some definition of a university that basically ignores anything that isn't European, but its pretty clear someone has an agenda to push. Disgraceful. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 12:15, 15 April 2013 (UTC)

So start a discussion at Talk:University; that's the place to try to change the definition, not here. Jonathan A Jones (talk) 19:54, 15 April 2013 (UTC)


Just pointing out that the view of universities as being exclusively European was recently criticized by an article published on the United Nations website as "narrow" and "Eurocentric":

  • If a university is considered to be a degree-granting institution, all of the world’s oldest are located in Europe where the practice of granting certification was widespread by the 1100s. These quotes reflect a narrow, Eurocentric view of the university: “The university is a European institution”, or “No other institution has spread over the entire world in the way in which the traditional form of the European university has done”...In fact, it was the countries of the Mediterranean region that created the oldest universities in the world.

Also, UNESCO seems to recognize that the world's oldest university is found in Morocco. Dont bash me for trying to change the definition of "university", Im just highlighting what the U.N. seems to say. The Washington Post says that the University of Karueein is the oldest existing, and continually operating university in the world. Even Guinness World Records doesn't recognize the University of Bologna as the world's oldest university in the world, only oldest in Europe:

  • The oldest existing, and continually operating educational institution in the world is the University of Karueein, founded in 859 AD in Fez, Morocco. The University of Bologna, Italy, was founded in 1088 and is the oldest one in Europe (Source.

-A1candidate (talk) 23:24, 21 May 2013 (UTC)

So start a discussion at Talk:University; that's the place to try to change the definition, not here. Jonathan A Jones (talk) 06:32, 22 May 2013 (UTC)
Im not trying to change any definitions, but I do hope regular editors here are willing to actually discuss this instead of brushing it off -A1candidate (talk) 18:18, 28 May 2013 (UTC)
Discussion is fine, but this is the wrong place for it. Take it to Talk:University please. If the definition there changes then the definition here will change to follow it. Jonathan A Jones (talk) 18:55, 28 May 2013 (UTC)
The reason why Im not doing it there is because this issuse has nothing to do with definitions. Its more about whether its fair to ignore a whole plethora of sources supporting the University of al-Karaouine's status as the oldest university. If there is doubt that al-Karaouine is a university, then that's a totally different matter and all further discussions should take place at Talk:University of al-Karaouine instead. I hope you see the difference here-A1candidate (talk) 19:05, 28 May 2013 (UTC)
It has everything to do with definition. This is a list of universities in continuous operation, and to be included in the list any institution must be a university, and must have been in continuous operation since the date used as its founding date as a university (many institutions were not universities at their foundation but are now, and we date them from when they became universities, so the University of Oxford is dated from 1167 and not 1096 when it was just a school). Now it is obvious even from its own page that the University of Al-Karaouine was not a university at the time of its foundation, but rather a combination of a mosque and a madrasa, neither of which is a university.
There is then an interesting subsidiary question of what we should do with instutions such as Al-Karaouine which do not meet the essential definition but are sometimes believed to do so. In many cases we simply ignore that fact, but in particularly notable cases we remark on the exclusion in the covering paragraphs. For example the University of Paris does not meet the criteria, despite being probably the single most important and influential university in history, and so its exclusion is specifically discussed. Personally I believe that Al-Karaouine merits similar treatment, and I have supported such additions, though not all editors agree with this. Jonathan A Jones (talk) 20:27, 28 May 2013 (UTC)

See the views of experts. Gun Powder Ma (talk) 15:03, 30 May 2013 (UTC)

  • I dont think those "experts" that you quote, some with questionable notability and most without a Wikipedia article, can be used to support your edit -A1candidate (talk) 15:30, 30 May 2013 (UTC)
Are you sure you followed the link? Most do have links (these are the blue ones..) and almost all of them are leading authors and encyclopedias in their field. Gun Powder Ma (talk) 15:56, 30 May 2013 (UTC)
@Gun Powder Ma: Oh yes I did click on the first name which took me to the German Wikipedia and I saw a "biography" that's barely 2 paragraphs long and it contains not a single sourced statement. -A1candidate (talk) 16:17, 30 May 2013 (UTC)
There is no basis for excluding a properly explained mention of al-Karaouine and noting that, in some definitions, it would be included. Whatever academic weight a publication such as the Guinness Book of Records might lack, I cannot see any value – quite the opposite in fact – in excluding the fact that it appears there, in UNESCO documents and other non-trivial sources. However many sources you bring that do, or would, exclude Karaouine and other similar places, we can't just bar any other, dissenting, sources or authorities on the basis that they are "wrong" or that there is only one, fixed, "correct" meaning of the word "university". There isn't, even if there is a predominant one in certain contexts. And even experts don't all agree on everything. A brief mention at least can be included without endorsing the view that it is among the oldest universities in the world. Indeed, the WP:DUE part of our NPOV policy would seem to require it. N-HH talk/edits 16:11, 30 May 2013 (UTC)

Since you cite WP:DUE, why should an institition which is not accepted as an university by the vast majority of sources, and the more scholarly at that, be included right up in the lead? Isn't this rather very much a case of WP:undue then?

Aside, singling out an institution which is not treated in the article does not comply with WP:Lead which clearly specifies that the lead only summarizes contents. There is no Lex Al-Karaouinensis in the guidelines which warrants an exception. On this basis alone Al-Karaouine has to be removed from the lead.

The reality is the university of Al-Karaouine was founded as late as 1963. I have provided reliable, neutral sources stating this below. Furthermore, education at the Al-Karaouine mosque school was discontinued for three decades until its reopening in 1988, so it can be argued that the institution did not operate continuously since the 9th century, the exclusion criteria for this list. In fact, Al-Karaouine's claim can be refuted from multiple more angles, each of them as viable as the other, which I present below. Most of the quotes are taken from internationally recognized authorities in the field plus renowned specialist encyclopedias, so source quality is very high indeed.

As a compromise though, to show goodwill and make people happy so that we can move on, I move its mention to a footnote. Best Gun Powder Ma (talk) 21:08, 31 May 2013 (UTC)

North American list

Either Washington and Jefferson College should be removed from the list, as every reference I can find still refers to it as a college, or Hampden-Sydney College should be added because it is five years older, 1776. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 12:52, 28 May 2013 (UTC)

The US list is far too long, so I have given it a major trim. Jonathan A Jones (talk) 13:56, 28 May 2013 (UTC)

University of Pec should be removed

The present-day University of Pec does not belong on this list, as it has only been in continuous operation since 1912, and in its present location since 1921. The original University of Pecs (founded 1367) was disbanded after the Ottoman conquest of Hungary in 1526; it was arguably revived in 1785 when Joseph II moved the Royal Academy from Gyor to Pec - although this was not technically a re-founding of Pec, but rather a relocation of an existing institute to the city of Pec, marking no institutional continuity with the medieval university. Moreover, the Royal Academy was returned to Gyor in 1802. The current University of Pec began as the University of Pozsony in 1912, and only moved to Pec in 1921, in the aftermath of the partition of Austria-Hungary. See the University of Pécs page for more on this. It is clear that the University of Pec has not been in "continuous operation" since 1367. Moreover, there is no evidence of official, institutional, or even geographical continuity between the original University and its modern namesake; the only thing they have in common is the name itself. Thus the University of Pec does not meet the criteria for inclusion on this list. Barring any substantive objections, I intend to remove Pec from this list in the near future. (talk) 21:24, 13 July 2013 (UTC)

I was thinking along the same lines; yes it should be removed. Jonathan A Jones (talk) 06:57, 14 July 2013 (UTC)
Second that. It seems to have been discontinued. Gun Powder Ma (talk) 19:47, 19 August 2013 (UTC)
I deleted it in July. Jonathan A Jones (talk) 06:31, 20 August 2013 (UTC)

Sources on European origin of the university and the difference to the Islamic madrasa

The following scholarly sources, most of them expert historians and specialized encyclopedias, demonstrate that

  1. the university was peculiar to medieval Europe and an European creation
  2. individual European universities like Bologna, Paris etc. are considered the oldest universities
  3. Al Karaouine was actually a mosque school or madrasa, not a university
  4. the mosque school of Al Karaouine became a university only after World War II

Gun Powder Ma (talk) 21:08, 31 May 2013 (UTC)

Views of Expert historians and specialized encyclopedias

Expert historians and specialized encyclopedias

The medieval Christian origin of the university

Walter Rüegg

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 papal Christianity...

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 eighteenth century been the intellectual institution which cultivates and transmits the entire corpus of methodically studied intellectual disciplines. (Rüegg, Walter: "Foreword. The University as a European Institution", in: Ridder-Symoens, Hilde de (ed.): A History of the University in Europe. Vol. I: Universities in the Middle Ages, Cambridge University Press, 1992, ISBN 0-521-36105-2, pp. XIX–XX)

Jacques Verger

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. (Verger, Jacques: "Patterns", in: Ridder-Symoens, Hilde de (ed.): A History of the University in Europe. Vol. I: Universities in the Middle Ages, Cambridge University Press, 2003, ISBN 978-0-521-54113-8, pp. 35–76 (35))

The Heritage of European Universities

In many respects, if there is any institution that Europe can most justifiably claim as one of its inventions, it is the university. As proof thereof and without wishing here to recount the whole history of the birth of universities, it will suffice to describe briefly how the invention of universities took the form of a polycentric process of specifically European origin. (Sanz, Nuria; Bergan, Sjur (eds.): The Heritage of European Universities, Council of Europe, 2002, ISBN 978-92-871-4960-2, p. 119)

Encyclopedia of the Middle Ages

The university came into being in the 12th century. On a general level, it was certainly a manifestation of the great transformations that characterised European society during the centuries following the year 1000. The debate begins when we seek to fix its origin more precisely: was the university an evolution of the 11th- and 12th-c. cathedral schools or, on the contrary, of lay municipal schools (of grammar, notariate, law)? Did it have antecedents in the higher legal schools of late Roman Antiquity? Does it show analogies with the teaching institutions of the Islamic world? In reality, the university was an original creation of the central centuries of the Middle Ages, both from the point of view of its organisation and from the cultural point of view, notwithstanding what it owed, in the latter aspect, to the cathedral schools (especially for philosophy and theology). (Vauchez, André; Dobson, Richard Barrie; Lapidge, Michael (eds.): Encyclopedia of the Middle Ages, Vol. 1, Routledge, 2000, ISBN 978-1-57958-282-1, p. 1484 (entry "university"))

Thomas Bender

The origin and persistence of the university, Professor J. K. Hyde reminds us, is a remarkable fact. Within a decade of the year 1200, universities were created, apparently independently, at Bologna, Paris, and Oxford. There have been important changes in the subsequent eight centuries of the European university's history, most notably the incorporation of the research ideal and the adoption of a bureaucratic style. Yet no one can mistake the institutional continuity. No institution in the West, save the Roman Catholic church, has persisted longer. From small medieval beginnings this institution has become diffused throughout the world, assuming everywhere principal responsibility for advanced teaching and, more often than not, research. (Bender, Thomas: "Introduction", in: Bender, Thomas (ed.): The University and the City. From Medieval Origins to the Present, Oxford University Press, New York, 1988, ISBN 0-19-505273-0, pp. 3-10 (4))

John Kenneth Hyde

But I want to begin by phrasing a very extraordinary state of affairs: the university as we know it today spread to all the continents in the modern world in which the great majority of research and teaching in the higher faculties still continues. They all go back to three prototypes: Oxford, Paris, and Bologna. And they go back to a particular moment in the West, within a decade or so on either side of the year 1200. The statement that all universities are descended either directly or by migration or are descended by imitation from those three prototypes 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 the universities, as studium generale. (Hyde, J. K.: "Universities and Cities in Medieval Italy", in: Bender, Thomas (ed.): The University and the City. From Medieval Origins to the Present, Oxford University Press, New York, 1988, ISBN 0-19-505273-0, pp. 13-21 (13f.))

The difference(s) between the university and the madrasa

George Makdisi

In studying an institution which is foreign and remote in point of time, as is the case of the medieval madrasa, one runs the double risk of attributing to it characteristics borrowed from one's own institutions and one's own times. Thus gratuitous transfers may be made from one culture to the other, and the time factor may be ignored or dismissed as being without significance. One cannot therefore be too careful in attempting a comparative study of these two institutions: the madrasa and the university. But in spite of the pitfalls inherent in such a study, albeit sketchy, the results which may be obtained are well worth the risks involved. In any case, one cannot avoid making comparisons when certain unwarranted statements have already been made and seem to be currently accepted without question. The most unwarranted of these statements is the one which makes of the "madrasa" a "university".

In the following remarks, it will be seen that the madrasa and the university were the result of two different sets of social, political and religious factors. When speaking of these two institutions, unless otherwise stated, my remarks will refer, for the most part, to the eleventh century in Baghdad and the thirteenth century in Paris. These are the centuries given for the development of these institutions in the Muslim East and the Christian West, respectively.

Universitas, the term which eventually came to be used synonymously with studium generale, and to designate what we now know as the university, originally meant nothing more than a community, guild or corporation. It was a corporation of masters, or students, or both...The madrasa, unlike the university, was a building, not a community. It was one among many such institutions in the same city, each independent of the other, each with its own endowment.

In the West the scholars of the University were ecclesiastics, people of the Church...Now, whereas the popes were the ultimate guardians of orthodoxy in the Christian hierarchy, in Islam which lacked a religious hierarchy, it was the ulama, or religious scholars, themselves, who ultimately had to see to the preservation and propagation of orthodox truth.

Centralization in medieval European cities, and decentralization in those of medieval Islam–such was the situation in the institutions of learning on both sides of the Mediterranean. Paris was a city with one university; Baghdad, on the other hand, had a great number of institutions of learning. In Paris organized faculties were brought into a single system resting on a hierarchical basis; in Baghdad, one leading scholar (and others of subordinate positions) taught in one of the many institutions, each institution independent of the other, with its own charter, and its own endowment. Here we have another essential difference between the two institutional systems: hierarchical and organized in medieval Europe, individualistic and personalized in medieval Islam.

Perhaps the most fundamental difference between the two systems is embodied in their systems of certification; namely, in medieval Europe, the licentia docendi, or license to teach; in medieval Islam, the ijaza, or authorization. In Europe, the license to teach was a license to teach a certain field of knowledge. It was conferred by the licensed masters acting as a corporation, with the consent of a Church authority, in Paris, by the Chancellor of the Cathedral Chapter...Certification in the Muslim East remained a personal matter between the master and the student. The master conferred it on an individual for a particular work, or works.

Before the advent of the licentia docendi, the conditions for teaching were much the same in medieval Europe and in the Muslim world...But Europe developed the license to teach, and with its development came the parting of the ways between East and West in institutionalized higher education...The license to teach in medieval Europe brought with it fixed curricula, fixed periods of study and examinations. Whereas the ijaza in Islam kept things on a more fluid, a more individualistic and personal basis.

There is another fundamental reason why the university, as it developed in Europe, did not develop in the Muslim East. This reason is to be found in the very nature of the corporation. Corporations, as a form of social organization, had already developed in Europe. Their legal basis was to be found in Roman Law which recognized juristic persons. Islamic law, on the other hand, does not recognize juristic persons.

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. (Makdisi, George: "Madrasa and University in the Middle Ages", Studia Islamica, No. 32 (1970), pp. 255–264

The first universities all in medieval Europe

Ferruolo, Stephen C.

Given how the university came to be defined, the decisive step in its development came when masters and scholars of various subjects and with diverse professional objectives first joined together to form a single guild or community. It was in Paris that the earliest such corporation was formed. Although in other respects the city's schools developed more slowly than those of Bologna, Paris can, in this definitive sense, be regarded as the location of the first university. (Ferruolo, Stephen C.: The Origins of the University: The Schools of Paris and Their Critics, 1100–1215, Stanford University Press, 1985, ISBN 978-0-8047-1266-8, p. 5)

Encyclopædia Britannica

The modern university evolved from the medieval schools known as studia generalia; they were generally recognized places of study open to students from all parts of Europe. The earliest studia arose out of efforts to educate clerks and monks beyond the level of the cathedral and monastic schools...The earliest Western institution that can be called a university was a famous medical school that arose at Salerno, Italy, in the 9th century and drew students from all over Europe. It remained merely a medical school, however. The first true university was founded at Bologna late in the 11th century. It became a widely respected school of canon and civil law. The first university to arise in northern Europe was the University of Paris, founded between 1150 and 1170. (Encyclopædia Britannica: "University", 2012, retrieved 26 July 2012)

Catholic Encyclopedia

Although the name university is sometimes given to the celebrated schools of Athens and Alexandria, it is generally held that the universities first arose in the Middle Ages. (Pace, Edward: "Universities", The Catholic Encyclopedia, Vol. 15, Robert Appleton Company, New York, 1912, retrieved 27 July 2012)

Lexikon des Mittelalters

Die ältesten Universitäten waren Bologna und Paris. Sie müssen sich vor 1200 konstituiert haben, wenn auch die ältesten erhaltenen Statuten erst später erlassen wurden (Paris 1215, Bologna 1252) und beide Universitäten erst um die Mitte des 13. Jh. ihre volle institutionelle Ausprägung erfuhren. Auf ein fast ebenso hohes Alter blicken Oxford, Cambridge und Montpellier (Medizin) zurück; sie entstanden vor 1220. Im Laufe des 13. Jh. traten etwa zehn weitere Universitäten hervor, alle im südlichen Europa: Einige kleinere italienische Zentren (Reggio, Vicenza, Vercelli, Arezzo usw.), gleichsam »Sekundärgründungen« des weitausstrahlenden Bologna, blieben kurzlebig, dagegen konnten Padua (1222) und Neapel (1224) nach schwierigen Anfängen einen Aufwärtstrend verzeichnen; in Südfrankreich entwickelten sich die in Toulouse nach dem Albigenserkreuzzug von 1229 gegründeten Schulen ab 1234 zu einer echten Universität, der etwas später die Rechtsuniversität von Montpellier (1289) und die Universität Avignon (1303) zur Seite traten. Die Universitäten der Iberischen Halbinsel waren sämtlich königliche Stiftungen, die später vom Papsttum bestätigt wurden; neben einigen Fehlgründungen sind die Universitäten von Salamanca (1218), Lissabon (1288; bereits im 14. Jh. zeitweise nach Coimbra verlegt) und Lérida (1300) als gleichsam "nationale" Hochschulen der drei führenden Reiche Kastilien, Portugal und Aragón zu nennen. Diese Universitäten, bei deren Gründung das Vorhandensein einer entsprechenden Anzahl von Magistern und Studenten sowie die Intervention der kirchlichen (Toulouse) oder monarchischen (Neapel, Salamanca, Lissabon) Institutionen die entscheidendende Voraussetzung war, erlangten längst nicht die Bedeutung der Universitäten der ersten Generation. (Lexikon des Mittelalters: "Universität. Die Anfänge", Vol. 8, Cols 1249–1250, Metzler, Stuttgart, [1977]–1999)

Brill's New Pauly

The first universities appeared around 1200. They traced their own origins to ancient roots. Paris, for instance, in the 13th cent. portrayed itself as founded by Charlemagne and hence as the final station of a translatio studii founded in Athens and transmitted via Rome...In reality, the mediaeval universities as institutions enjoyed no form of continuity with the public academies of Late Antiquity...The early universities as institutions were not clearly legally defined, and had no consistent, comprehensive bureaucratic structure. They emerged from collective confraternities at a place of study. Teachers and students would join together in corporate groups (universitas magistrorum et scholarium, as at Paris before 1200, and at Oxford and Montpellier before 1220) or, indeed, students alone (universitas scholarium, as at Bologna before 1200). Sometimes universities resulted from secessions from these first foundations (as at Cambridge from the University of Oxford before 1220, at Padua from the University of Bologna in 1222). Retrospectively at least, however, the foundation and its legal privileges (protection, autonomy, financial basis, universal licence to teach – licentia ubique docendi) had to be confirmed by a universal power, either by the pope or, more rarely, the emperor. Only then did an institution attain the true status of a studium generale. (Brill's New Pauly: "University", Brill, 2012)

Dictionary of the Middle Ages

Archetypes of Universities: Paris, Bologna. The structural evolution of universities of later foundation depended on the model originally adopted following either the magisterial archetype of Paris or the student-university type of Bologna. (Dictionary of the Middle Ages: "Universities", Vol. 12, Charles Scribner's Sons, New York, 1989, pp. 282–300 (283))

Al-Karaouine was a madrasa, not a university

What is a madrasa?

Encyclopaedia of Islam

Madrasa, in modern usage, the name of an institution of learning where the Islamic sciences are taught, i.e. a college for higher studies, as opposed to an elementary school of traditional type (kuttab); in mediaeval usage, essentially a college of law in which the other Islamic sciences, including literary and philosophical ones, were ancillary subjects only. (Pedersen, J.; Rahman, Munibur; Hillenbrand, R.: "Madrasa", in Encyclopaedia of Islam, 2nd edition, Brill, 2010)

Lexikon des Mittelalters

Madrasa (Medresse), im klassischen Islam gildenartige Institution der höheren Bildung, eine Weiterentwicklung der masǧid ("Moschee") und der ihr angeschlossenen Herberge (ḫān). Der Unterricht fand in der Moschee statt, während die Herberge den Studenten als Unterkunft diente...Nur eine Bildungsstätte wie die Madrasa konnte in der islamischen Welt den Doktorgrad verleihen, denn die wohltätige Stiftung (waqf) war im Islam, der im Unterschied zur christlichen Welt das Rechtskonzept der "juristischen Person" nicht kannte, die einzige Institution, die, rechtlich gesehen, von "überpersönlicher" Dauer war. Dies ist der eigentliche Grund, warum es in der muslimischen Welt bis zum 19. Jh. nicht zur Gründung von Universitäten kam. (Lexikon des Mittelalters: "Madrasa", Vol. 6, Cols 65–67, Metzler, Stuttgart, [1977]–1999)

Medieval Islamic Civilization: An Encyclopedia

A madrasa is a college of Islamic law. The madrasa was an educational institution in which Islamic law (fiqh) was taught according to one or more Sunni rites: Maliki, Shafi'i, Hanafi, or Hanbali. It was supported by an endowment or charitable trust (waqf) that provided for at least one chair for one professor of law, income for other faculty or staff, scholarships for students, and funds for the maintenance of the building. Madrasas contained lodgings for the professor and some of his students. Subjects other than law were frequently taught in madrasas, and even Sufi seances were held in them, but there could be no madrasa without law as technically the major subject. (Meri, Josef W. (ed.): Medieval Islamic Civilization: An Encyclopedia, Vol. 1, A–K, Routledge, 2006, ISBN 978-0-415-96691-7, p. 457 (entry "madrasa"))

Encyclopædia Britannica

madrasah, (Arabic: "school":) Turkish Medrese, in Muslim countries, an institution of higher education. The madrasah functioned until the 20th century as a theological seminary and law school, with a curriculum centred on the Qurʾān. In addition to Islamic theology and law, Arabic grammar and literature, mathematics, logic, and, in some cases, natural science were studied in madrasahs. (Encyclopædia Britannica: "madrasah", 2012, retrieved 31 July 2012)

Madrasas had no institutional structure, no curriculum, no regular examination and no system of degrees

Berkey, Jonathan P.

Over the course of the Islamic Middle Period (1000–1500), these madrasas became typical features of the urban landscapes of Near Eastern and central and southwest Asian cities, and their proliferation was one of the seminal features of medieval Islamic religious life. Even so, the institutions themselves seem to have had little or no impact on the character or the processes of the transmission of knowledge. For all that the transmission of knowledge might take place within an institution labeled a madrasa, and be supported by the endowments attached to that institution, the principles that guided the activities of teachers and students, and the standards by which they were judged, remained personal and informal, as they had been in earlier centuries before the appearance of the madrasa. No medieval madrasa had anything approaching a set curriculum, and no system of degrees was ever established. Indeed, medieval Muslims themselves seem to have been remarkably uninterested in where an individual studied. The only thing that mattered was with whom one had studied, a qualification certified not by an institutional degree but by a personal license (ijaza) issued by a teacher to his pupil. Whether lessons took place in a new madrasa, or in an older mosque, or for that matter in someone's living room, was a matter of supreme indifference. No institutional structure, no curriculum, no regular examinations, nothing approaching a formal hierachy of degrees: the system of transmitting knowledge, such as it was, remained throughout the medieval period fundamentally personal and informal, and consequently, in many ways, flexible and inclusive. (Berkey, Jonathan P.: Madrasas Medieval and Modern: Politics, Education, and the Problem of Muslim Identity, in Hefner, Robert W.; Qasim Zaman, Muhammad (eds.): Schooling Islam: The Culture and Politics of Modern Muslim Education, Princeton Studies in Muslim Politics, Princeton University Press, 2007, ISBN 978-0-691-12933-4, p. 43)

Al-Karaouine was founded or run as a madrasa, mosque school or mosque, not a university

Lulat, Y. G.-M

In Africa...places that came to be regarded as centers of learning with an extensive higher education system teaching both Islamic and foreign sciences were of course few; they included: Cairo (which boasts the famous al-Azhar University that was founded as a madrasah in 969); Fez in Morocco (the modern-day Qarawiyyin University in Fez began its life as a madrasah in 859);...

...As for the nature of its curriculum, it was typical of other major madrasahs such as al-Azhar and al-Qarawiyyin, though many of the texts used at the institution came from Muslim Spain...Al-Qarawiyyin began its life as a small mosque constructed in 859 C.E. by means of an endowment bequeathed by a wealthy woman of much piety, Fatima bint Muhammed al-Fahri. (Lulat, Y. G.-M.: A History Of African Higher Education From Antiquity To The Present: A Critical Synthesis, Greenwood Publishing Group, 2005, ISBN 978-0-313-32061-3, p. 69-70)

Al-Karaouine was transformed only in modern times into a university.

Shillington, Kevin

Higher education has always been an integral part of Morocco, going back to the ninth century when the Karaouine Mosque was established. The mosque school, known today as Al Qayrawaniyan University, became part of the state university system in 1947. (Shillington, Kevin: Encyclopedia of African history, Vol. 2, Fitzroy Dearborn, 2005, ISBN 978-1-57958-245-6, p. 1025)

Belhachmi, Zakia

The Adjustments of Original Institutions of the Higher Learning: the Madrasah. Significantly, the institutional adjustments of the madrasahs affected both the structure and the content of these institutions. In terms of structure, the adjustments were twofold: the reorganization of the available original madaris, and the creation of new institutions. This resulted in two different types of Islamic teaching institutions in al-Maghrib. The first type was derived from the fusion of old madaris with new universities. For example, Morocco transformed Al-Qarawiyin (859 A.D.) into a university under the supervision of the ministry of education in 1963. (Belhachmi, Zakia: "Gender, Education, and Feminist Knowledge in al-Maghrib (North Africa) – 1950–70", Journal of Middle Eastern and North African Intellectual and Cultural Studies, Vol. 2–3, 2003, pp. 55–82 (65))

Historical Dictionary of Morocco

al-qarawiyin is the oldest university in Morocco. It was founded as a mosque in Fès in the middle of the ninth century. It has been a destination for students and scholars of Islamic sciences and Arabic studies throughout the history of Morocco. There were also other religious schools like the madras of ibn yusuf and other schools in the sus. This system of basic education called al-ta'lim al-aSil was funded by the sultans of Morocco and many famous traditional families. After independence, al-qarawiyin maintained its reputation, but it seemed important to transform it into a university that would prepare graduates for a modern country while maintaining an emphasis on Islamic studies. Hence, al-qarawiyin university was founded in February 1963 and, while the dean's residence was kept in Fès, the new university initially had four colleges located in major regions of the country known for their religious influences and madrasas. These colleges were kuliyat al-shari's in Fès, kuliyat uSul al-din in Tétouan, kuliyat al-lugha al-'arabiya in Marrakech (all founded in 1963), and kuliyat al-shari'a in Ait Melloul near Agadir, which was founded in 1979.

muHammad al-khamis was the first modern university in Morocco and was founded after independence in 1957 initially under the name of Rabat University. It took over many higher education institutions created during the protectorate. (Park, Thomas K.; Boum, Aomar: Historical Dictionary of Morocco, 2nd ed., Scarecrow Press, 2006, ISBN 978-0-8108-5341-6, p. 348)

Al-Karaouine was not among the first madrasas, therefore it cannot have been the first university, even if one considers a madrasa a university

Medieval Islamic Civilization: An Encyclopedia

The first madrasas appeared during the late tenth century in the eastern Islamic world. By the early eleventh century, there were several in Nishapur. The Seljuk vizier Nizam al-Mulk (1064–1092) greatly promoted their spread. He founded the renowned Nizamiyya Madrasa in Baghdad in 1065 for the Shafi'is and proceeded to establish similar colleges in other cities of the Seljuk Empire. His primary objective was to use this institution to strengthen Sunnism against Shi'ism and to gain influence over the religious class. Madrasas rapidly spread from east to west. (Meri, Josef W. (ed.): Medieval Islamic Civilization: An Encyclopedia, Vol. 1, A–K, Routledge, 2006, ISBN 978-0-415-96691-7, p. 457 (entry "madrasa"))

Berkey, Jonathan P.

Before the emergence of the madrasa as a distinctive educational forum in the eleventh century, the transmission of Muslim knowledge was not tied to any institutional structure. Most education probably took place in mosques, as students gathered with respected scholars in informal teaching circles to recite texts and discuss the issues which they addressed...Beginning in the eleventh century, Muslims began to establish institutions specifically created and endowed to support the transmission of religious knowledge, and over the ensuing centuries the madrasa and its cognate institutions became one of the most common features of premodern cities...A madrasa established in Baghdad in the late eleventh century by Nizam al-Mulk, the Persian vizier to the Saljuq sultans, is often today mentioned as the archetypal madrasa, although in fact the institution probably developed earlier in Khurasan in eastern Iran. (Berkey, Jonathan P.: Madrasas Medieval and Modern: Politics, Education, and the Problem of Muslim Identity, in Hefner, Robert W.; Qasim Zaman, Muhammad (eds.): Schooling Islam: The Culture and Politics of Modern Muslim Education, Princeton Studies in Muslim Politics, Princeton University Press, 2007, ISBN 978-0-691-12933-4, p. 42f.)

Further Discussion

  • @Gun Powder Ma: I clicked on the name of the first "so-called expert" which took me to the German Wikipedia and I saw a "biography" that's barely 2 paragraphs long and it contains not a single sourced statement. Im not going to waste my time checking the credentials of the rest of your so-called "Experts"
  • But the main problem I have here is that you are using sources published or written by mostly Europeans to support up a IMHO Eurocentric viewpoint.
  • The "Encyclopaedia of Islam, for example, is published by Brill Publishers which is a dutch organization. Try citing from non-European sources if you want to convince me. -A1candidate (talk) 21:56, 31 May 2013 (UTC)
Walter Rüegg is the editor of the seminal work A History of the University in Europe, with contributions from many of the foremost scholars in the study of the history of the university. It has been translated into several languages, so it is clearly a top-notch source and it is cited all over Wikipedia. I think the rest of your argument does not really warrant a response. If you really believe that the mere ethnic origin of these authors determines them as biased, I suggest you step away from the article because this is quite a disturbing view. But I hope we have found a compromise with the footnote which allows us to move on. Best Gun Powder Ma (talk) 22:29, 31 May 2013 (UTC)
From Ruegg's biography, I note that he was rector of the University of Frankfurt from 1965 to 1970 and was president of the Westdeutschen Rektorenkonferenz (now the Hochschulrektorenkonferenz or Conference of Rectors of [German] Universities) from 1967 to 1968. He has written extensively on the history of universities and his views cannot be dismissed as those of a "so-called 'expert'".--SteveMcCluskey (talk) 19:04, 1 June 2013 (UTC)
  • Being cited by tonnes of Wikipedia articles isn't any indicator of notability.
  • I've never implied that these authors are biased, its your citation of them that is biased
  • Consensus was, and still is, to mention Al-Karaouine in the lede as a special case. If this was my encylclopedia, I would have moved A.K. back to the list of universities "Founded before 1500". I hope you understand that I've already made a huge compromise by allowing A.K. to be mentioned in the lede instead of where it belongs. And no, even the sources that you have quoted above contradict themselves. -A1candidate (talk) 22:57, 31 May 2013 (UTC)
If you insist on removing Al-Karaouine from the lede, whether by pushing it away to the foonotes of otherwise, then this article gets a tag for Eurocentrism. You cant have your cake and eat it as well. -A1candidate (talk) 23:04, 31 May 2013 (UTC)
Knock the edit-war off, A1candidate, you have made your ideological motivation pretty clear by now. You try to push your unencyclopedic Guinness book of beer records against a ton of scholarly sources, ignoring at the same time number of guidelines like WP:Scope, WP:UNDUE, WP:Lead, WP:RS. Gun Powder Ma (talk) 22:10, 2 June 2013 (UTC)
PS: Tell us when are ready to discuss the gist of the sources above. So far, I am afraid, you have simply tried to ignore and evade them. Gun Powder Ma (talk) 22:47, 2 June 2013 (UTC)
  • Note that as this is a list the guidelines at WP:LEAD, which is aimed at articles, have to interpreted appropriately. In particular see WP:LIST#Lead_sections_in_stand-alone_lists which says "Further, non-obvious characteristics of a list, for instance regarding the list's structure, should be explained in its lead section". This is why we explain the exclusion of Paris in the lead, and it seems entirely reasonable to me that Al-Karaouine should be mentioned as well. There's plenty of room to debate over the exact wording of course. Jonathan A Jones (talk) 10:05, 3 June 2013 (UTC)
The problem is whatever the exact wording is, the fact remains that the information appears in the WP:Lead which, however, Wikipedia defines as the most prominent and important place of the entire article (The lead is the first part of the article most people read, and many read only the lead.) The direct obvious inference is that only the most important things should be summarized there and that everything else should be considered WP:Undue, particularly those things which aren't even mentioned in the rest of the article as the lead summarizes contents, not non-contents.
These additional "non-obvious characteristics" you cite, but aren't they already extensively provided in the lead? The entire first paragraph is dedicated to the definition of the university (=what is a university), while the entire third paragraph is devoted to Other institutions of higher learning (=what is not a university). Since these institutions also include the Muslim madrasa and since Al-Karaouine is only one specific case of a madrasa, it is difficult to see why a single madrasa should be suddenly singled out? Nowhere says WP:LIST#Lead_sections_in_stand-alone_lists that non-examples should be specifically listed and the two lists exemplarily provided don't do this either.
The main criteria of inclusion into the WP:Lead is rather this: The emphasis given to material in the lead should roughly reflect its importance to the topic, according to reliable, published sources. But this is mostly clearly not the case with AK where 1-2 one-liners from sources which may not even comply with WP:RS have to be contrasted with 12-15 disagreeing high-quality sources which go into a large depth into the topic.
And as an aside, the inclusion of Paris in the lead demonstrably does not provide more stability to the article, as evidenced by this edit, so why should it be all of a sudden different with AK? Gun Powder Ma (talk) 21:29, 3 June 2013 (UTC)
  1. These sources which you have retrieved from Al-Karaouine have long been discussed and consensus is that their quality is mediocre compared to those above. Some outright fail WP:RS like the self-serving Oxford Business Group (report) and the marketing book. They may be just so acceptable in the lemma, but here a higher standard is needed. You will notice that none of these views was composed by a historian of the university or published in a truly specialized encyclopedia. You will further notice that almost all of them consist of hardly more than one phrase or one throw-away line. All actually fail provide to define what they mean with a university, indicating that they mean it in the generic sense of the word (=institution of higher education) which is – rightly so – not the definition used in Wikipedia's university. One needs to understand that while every university is an institution of higher education, not every institution of higher education is/was a university.
  2. I fail to see your point. First, disagreement is hardly a rare phenomenon in science, but almost the rule, but we are here interested in the majority view per WP:DUE, which specifically stipulates: Wikipedia should not present a dispute as if a view held by a small minority deserved as much attention overall as the majority view. Now you will agree that putting the madrasa of AK right up into the lead would give it much more attention that it deserves. Second, Berkey and Lexikon des Mittelalters don't actually disagree, both agree that the Muslim madrasa was dissimilar to the Christian university due to the lack of an institutional frame beyond the personal relationship between pupil and teacher; they just emphasize different aspects: Berkey the personal character of the Ijazah, the LdM the lacking juristic personality of the Waqf foundation, both of which prevented the development of universities proper out of the mosque school. Gun Powder Ma (talk) 00:29, 4 June 2013 (UTC)
  • Like I've already said, UNESCO is an authoritative source for controversial topics like this one; but Walter Rüegg, Jacques Verger and George Makdisi aren't. Is this really that hard to understand?
  • "Wikipedia should not present a dispute as if a view held by a small minority deserved as much attention overall as the majority view.": If mainstream scholars view Bologna as the oldest university in the Western world, then this article should reflect its status as the oldest university in the Western world and not the oldest university in the world. You may be trying to throw in lots of Wikipedia guidelines and 3rd party sources, but they all seem to counter your own arugument
  • General consensus among historians is that Bologna is the oldest university in Europe. Even the University of Bologna itself admits that "The University of Bologna was probably the first University in the western world". Either the Western world accounts for the entire world, or this article reeks of Eurocentrism -A1candidate (talk) 16:31, 8 June 2013 (UTC)
The problem is you just keeping on asserting things but without providing adequate evidence based on the relevant WP:RS and WP:DUE guidelines. Gun Powder Ma (talk) 22:53, 21 June 2013 (UTC)
A1Candidate's reliance on the authority of UNESCO and dismissal of scholarly sources clarifies one crucial element in the current disagreement, the different sense in which we're taking the term "authoritative source."
  • UNESCO is authoritative in the formal or institutional sense, but its publications are written by various people, sometimes by scholars and other experts on a topic, sometimes by bureaucrats, and sometimes by international diplomatic committees. Since UNESCO's authority comes from its institutional status, we can call its authority "institutional authority."
  • Rüegg, Verger, and Makdisi are scholarly experts on the history of the university; their authority comes not from any administrative position but from their scholarly expertise. We can call their authority "expert authority."
It seems that for an encyclopedia like Wikipedia, expert authority almost always trumps institutional authority as a reliable source.--SteveMcCluskey (talk) 17:13, 22 June 2013 (UTC)

Al-Karaouine is not "special case", but its claim relies on two assumptions: A. That a madrasah is a university and B. That Al-Karaouine is the oldest madrasah. Both claims have been refuted by a multitude of reliable sources above. A. is, more over, rebutted by the fact that WP has two distinct articles on them indicating that the consensus is these are two different institutions which we don't mix. Gun Powder Ma (talk) 18:10, 8 July 2013 (UTC)

General consensus among historians is that Bologna is the oldest university in Europe. Even the University of Bologna itself admits that "The University of Bologna was probably the first University in the western world". Either the Western world accounts for the entire world, or this article reeks of Eurocentrism. -A1candidate (talk) 18:19, 8 July 2013 (UTC)
Consensus among reliable sources is pretty clear that the university is a European invention, and that medieval non-European institutions don't qualify. You have failed to make your case. Dominus Vobisdu (talk) 10:58, 19 August 2013 (UTC)
No. These sources are picked to promote a certain opinion while ignoring the opposite viewpoint. University of Bologna: "The University of Bologna was probably the first University in the western world".
That horse is deader than dead. Drop the stick. Dominus Vobisdu (talk) 11:04, 19 August 2013 (UTC)
The University of Bologna was "probably" the first University in the western world, and this article should reflect that. -A1candidate (talk) 11:09, 19 August 2013 (UTC)
I think you are reading too much into the statement "first University in the western world". That kind of writing is typical of a cautious organization that is avoiding making claims that it has not thoroughly investigated. They may have good reason to believe that their university was the first in the western world ("probably"), but simply have not taken the time to check whether their claim extends to the entire world. The article verifies the claim with two reliable sources, and does not rely on the university's website. Johnuniq (talk) 11:48, 19 August 2013 (UTC)
When various sources and scholars assert different viewpoints, a neutral article should take this into consideration especially when the opppsing viewpoint is not a fringe theory. -A1candidate (talk) 12:02, 19 August 2013 (UTC)
A1candidate is getting from fixated into obsessive. I am glad we are not discussing here acupuncture where he has been disruptive even longer. Gun Powder Ma (talk) 19:40, 19 August 2013 (UTC)
Gun Powder Ma: You may be able to make a case that A1canddate is becoming disruptive; he does keep appealing to relatively marginal evidence to challenge an accepted scholarly consensus here. However, this is not the place to make such a claim. Normally an RfC/U is the appropriate place for discussions of disruptive behavior. SteveMcCluskey (talk) 15:13, 20 August 2013 (UTC)
The wording at the university's website does not assert a different viewpoint because the text on the page is merely standard caution and politeness—why assert priority over the entire world and possibly offend a group somewhere who believe their ancestors developed a university? For their own reasons, the University of Bologna merely wishes to assert they are probably the first in the western world, and extracting some meta-meaning that therefore another organization somewhere else was the first university is simply an incorrect understanding of standard English. Johnuniq (talk) 00:28, 20 August 2013 (UTC)

The point Im trying to make is that a neutral article should take both sides into consideration especially when the opposing viewpoint is not a fringe theory:

"Some regard the University of Al Karaouine in Fez, Morocco, which was founded in 859, to be the world's oldest continuously operating academic degree-granting higher education institution. Others cite the University of Nalanda in Bihar, India, founded in 427, as the oldest one. The first European university to be established was Bologna in 1088, then in 1167 the University of Oxford, followed by the University of Cambridge in 1209 and the University of Paris in 1231."

Burnes, Bernard (17 January 2013). "The changing face of English universities: reinventing collegiality for the twenty-first century". Studies in Higher Education: 1–22. doi:10.1080/03075079.2012.754858.  Unknown parameter |coauthors= ignored (|author= suggested) (help)
Additional sources
  1. The Karaouiyne University, located in Fez, Morocco was one of the oldest universities in the Arab world
Degorge, Barbara (1 October 2002). "The Modernization of Education: A Case Study of Tunisia and Morocco". The European Legacy. 7 (5): 579–596. 
  1. The first university was established in Fez, Morocco in the ninth century AD, and the oldest university in the UK is the University of Oxford whose origins can be traced back to 1167
Foskett, Nick (2011). "Markets, government, funding and the marketisation of UK higher education". he marketisation of higher education and the student as consumer. pp. 25–38. 
  1. Founded in the 9th century and home to the oldest university in the world
"Medina of Fez". UNESCO. 
  1. According to one authority, the University of Al Karaouine in Fes, Morocco, can claim to be the oldest university in the world, being founded in 859.
West, J. B. (18 September 2008). "Ibn al-Nafis, the pulmonary circulation, and the Islamic Golden Age". Journal of Applied Physiology. 105 (6): 1877–1880. 
  1. The oldest existing, and continually operating educational institution in the world is the University of Karueein, founded in 859 AD in Fez, Morocco. The University of Bologna, Italy, was founded in 1088 and is the oldest one in Europe.
"Oldest university". Guinness World Records. Retrieved 20 August 2013. 
  1. Of the numerous universities of the Middle Ages (and from the Middle East), only three survived: the oldest of them all al-Qarawiyyin.
Kettani, M. A. (1974). Engineering Education in the Arab World. Middle East Journal, 28.4. pp. 441–450. 
  1. Not surprisingly, the maiden pedagogical effort was made in Fes, cultural capital of the Maghrib and seat of the oldest university in the Muslim world.
Halstead, John P. (1964). "The Changing Character of Moroccan Reformism, 1921–1934". The Journal of African History. 5 (03). 
  1. Fez, a walled imperial capital high in the mountains, seat of one of the world's oldest universities...
Johnson, Katherine Marshall (1973). "Urban Morocco draws on the past and confronts the future". The Urban Review. 6 (5-6): 8–13. 
  1. The University of Al-Qarawiyyin is a university close to the centre of the Medina in Fes, Morocco. It was founded in 859 as a religious school. Al-Qarawiyyin is known to be the oldest continually operating university and pre-dates for example University of Bologna.
Hardaker, Glenn and Sabki, Aishah (2011). Reflections on Islamic Pedagogy at Al-Qarawiyyin. Perspectives, 1 (3). p. 10. 
  1. The Fes Festival builds much of its promotional materials around the “shrine” of Fes. Fes is the home of al-Qarawiyyen, a theological university, or madrasa, built in the ninth century (C.E. 857) that is one of the largest centers for Islamic learning in North Africa.
KAPCHAN, DEBORAH A. (1 December 2008). "The Promise of Sonic Translation: Performing the Festive Sacred in Morocco". American Anthropologist. 110 (4): 467–483. 
  1. "The Qarawiyin of Fez is the most well-known example. Built in 859 by two sisters from Qayrawan, Myriam and Fatima, it is considered the oldest university in the world, even older than Bologna (1119), Oxford (1229) or the Sorbonne (1257)."
"Cultural pluralism and education in the Maghreb". Prospects - Quarterly Review of Education. UNESCO. 22 (82): 140. 1992. 
  1. In 859, Fatima al-Fihiri laid the foundation of al-Karaouine University, the Islamic world's first university.
Basit, Abdul (2012). Removing the Veil: Clarifying the Role of Women in Islam. he Global Muslim Community at a Crossroads: Understanding Religious Beliefs, Practices, and Infighting to End the Conflict. p. 65. 
  1. Both Morocco's University of Al-Karaouine, founded in 856 AD, and Al-Azhar University in Cairo, where the first lecture was given in 975 AD, claim to be the oldest institution of higher learning in the world. The University of Bologna in Italy, stablished in 1088, is said to be Europe's oldest, while Harvard dates back to 1636.
Walczak, David, and Monika Reuter (2008). The Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale: 1968-2008. Arcadia Publishing. 

Im not saying that the University of Bologna asserts a different viewpoint, but the fact that the University of Bologna does not even recognizes itself as the world's oldest university only underscores the point that this subject is controversial and both viewpoints should be respected. Note: Constructive discussion is welcome but personal attacks like these and these are extremly disruptive and I WILL it to a higher level if you do it again. I don't expect you to agree with me, but I do expect you to discuss in a matured and civilized manner. -A1candidate (talk) 07:28, 20 August 2013 (UTC)

For the avoidance of doubt, I have seen nothing from any participant in this discussion which alters my view expressed above on May 28 2013: "There is then an interesting subsidiary question of what we should do with instutions such as Al-Karaouine which do not meet the essential definition but are sometimes believed to do so. In many cases we simply ignore that fact, but in particularly notable cases we remark on the exclusion in the covering paragraphs. For example the University of Paris does not meet the criteria, despite being probably the single most important and influential university in history, and so its exclusion is specifically discussed. Personally I believe that Al-Karaouine merits similar treatment, and I have supported such additions, though not all editors agree with this." I remain mystified as to why this position has not been more widely accepted. Regards, Jonathan A Jones (talk) 11:37, 20 August 2013 (UTC)

These sources have the same flaws as the previous ones: lack of quality. They are very short, they don't define the subject (what do they mean with "university", a madrasa?) and they are not from experts on the history of the university. Besides, it has been many times pointed out that the scope of the topic is defined at university, not here. Gun Powder Ma (talk) 13:49, 20 August 2013 (UTC)

That's what I said about your sources earlier on - they lack quality and they even contradict themselves. Madrasas, according to your sources, are the only Islamic institutions which awarded doctorate titles. How does that not fit the definition of a University? -A1candidate (talk) 10:25, 21 August 2013 (UTC)
Where did you get this misinformation from? The relevant article in this encyclopedia (J. Verger, 'Doctor, doctoratus', in Lexikon des Mittelalters, 10 vols (Stuttgart: Metzler, [1977]-1999), vol. 3, cols 1155-1156) does not even mention madrasas with a single word. In fact, Verger who is also cited at length above (2nd from top) could not be clearer about the Christian origin of the university. Gun Powder Ma (talk) 23:42, 22 August 2013 (UTC)
Definition of a Madrasa, as quoted by Gun Powder Ma on May 31, 2013 (in German)
Lexikon des Mittelalters

Madrasa (Medresse), im klassischen Islam gildenartige Institution der höheren Bildung, eine Weiterentwicklung der masǧid ("Moschee") und der ihr angeschlossenen Herberge (ḫān). Der Unterricht fand in der Moschee statt, während die Herberge den Studenten als Unterkunft diente...Nur eine Bildungsstätte wie die Madrasa konnte in der islamischen Welt den Doktorgrad verleihen, denn die wohltätige Stiftung (waqf) war im Islam, der im Unterschied zur christlichen Welt das Rechtskonzept der "juristischen Person" nicht kannte, die einzige Institution, die, rechtlich gesehen, von "überpersönlicher" Dauer war. Dies ist der eigentliche Grund, warum es in der muslimischen Welt bis zum 19. Jh. nicht zur Gründung von Universitäten kam. (Lexikon des Mittelalters: "Madrasa", Vol. 6, Cols 65–67, Metzler, Stuttgart, [1977]–1999)

In case you've somehow forgotten about your previous edit, take a look at this diff. I assume that you're able to comprehend German since you quoted this, but for the sake of all those who dont, the source tells us that:

  1. A Madrasa not a mosque, but a further development of it (eine Weiterentwicklung der masǧid ("Moschee"))
  2. In the Islamic world, only the Madrasa is capable of granting a doctorate title (Nur eine Bildungsstätte wie die Madrasa konnte in der islamischen Welt den Doktorgrad verleihen)

I dont think its fair to argue that only institutions with a Christian heritage are allowed to be considered universities. Madrasas are not mosques, but they do grant doctorate titles and this is according to your sources -A1candidate (talk) 19:21, 23 August 2013 (UTC)

Changes to the OED's definition of University

I have added a note at Talk:University about the apparent recent changes in the Oxford English Dictionary's definition of "University". This new definition appears to offer more scope for institutions that don't meet the characteristics of Medieval European universities.

Discussion of the implications for Wikipedia of this new definition can best be carried out there, rather than here. --SteveMcCluskey (talk) 15:03, 23 August 2013 (UTC)

Regardless of whether we're taking into account the old or new definition of university, the Madrasa seems to perfectly fit both definitions because its an institution of higher education with the ability to confer doctorate titles, according to GPM's sources and many others -A1candidate (talk) 13:15, 26 August 2013 (UTC)
As I suggested above (and has been repeatedlypointed out) the appropriate place to discuss the definition of the university is at Talk:University. SteveMcCluskey (talk) 15:10, 26 August 2013 (UTC)
Im not trying to change the defintion of university, I personally think both definitions are fine. -A1candidate (talk) 15:28, 26 August 2013 (UTC)
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    • ^ The Report: Morocco 2009 - Page 252 Oxford Business Group "... yet for many Morocco's cultural, artistic and spiritual capital remains Fez. The best-preserved ... School has been in session at Karaouine University since 859, making it the world's oldest continuously operating university. "
    • ^ , p. 328, ISBN 0-1951-2559-2  Unknown parameter |année= ignored (|year= suggested) (help); Unknown parameter |prénom= ignored (|first= suggested) (help); Unknown parameter |éditeur= ignored (|editor= suggested) (help); Unknown parameter |nom= ignored (|last= suggested) (help); Unknown parameter |lien auteur= ignored (help); Unknown parameter |titre= ignored (|title= suggested) (help); Missing or empty |title= (help)
    • ^ Illustrated Dictionary of the Muslim World, Publisher: Marshall Cavendish, 2010 [4] p. 161
    • ^ Hidden Giants, 2nd Edition, by Sethanne Howard, Publisher: 2008 [5] p.60
    • ^ Civilization: The West and the Rest by Niall Ferguson, Publisher: Allen Lane 2011 - ISBN 9781846142734
    • ^ The marketisation of higher education and the student as consumer by Mike Molesworth & Richard Scullion, Publisher: Taylor & Francis 2010 [6] p. 26
    • ^ Frommer's Morocco by Darren Humphrys, Publisher: John Wiley & Sons 2010 [7] p. 223