What Are the Three Oldest Universities in The World?


A university is an institution of advanced learning that provides facilities for learning and research, intending to award degrees to successful graduates. The main purpose of universities is to equip students with enough professional knowledge to assist them in the corporate world and also to help students conduct accurate research on subject matters. 

What Are the Three Oldest Universities in The World?

With the success, popularity, and importance of universities today, one cannot help but consider the history of universities. Therefore, which universities in the world are the oldest?

According to research, the three oldest universities in the world are the University of al-Qarawiyyin, Al-Azhar University, and the University of Bologna. How about we learn more about the three universities below.

The Three Oldest Universities in the World

  1. University of al-Qarawiyyin:

The University of al-Qarawiyyin is an African University located in Fez Morocco. It can also be spelled Al Quaraouiyin. It was founded initially as a mosque by the daughter of a wealthy merchant named Fatima al-Fihri. Fatima, who had acquired a great level of education, decided to use the large sum of money inherited from her father to build a mosque for her community.

As a result of this historical decision Fatima made, the Mosque quickly became one of the most popular educational and spiritual institutions of the Golden Age of Islam. After this, the Mosque evolved into a higher institution, as in 1963, it was integrated into Morocco’s modern state university system. To this effect, the institution was executively named the University of Al Quaraouiyine.

The institution is known for its structure, which includes components from various times in Moroccan history.

University of al-Qarawiyyin Today:

 Al-Qarawiyyin is the oldest university in the world, still in operation today, according to Guinness World Records. The institution has about forty thousand students today and offers various programs ranging from law to tourism and hotel management. Application deadlines are August 25th and January 25th, and the tuition fee per semester stands at about 500 Euros. There is free transport on campus and financial aid is provided for students.

Unfortunately, non-Muslim visitors are not allowed inside the university, but some entrances are open to them. According to unirank, the university is the 9756th best university in the world.

  1. Al-Azhar University:

Associated with the Al-Azhar Mosque, the Al-Azhar University is the second on this list. Al-Azhar is a public university located in Cairo, Egypt which was initially founded in 972 but acquired the university status in 1961. Otherwise known as the University of the honorable, it has a notable history as one of the oldest universities in the world. The university was named in honor of Fatimah, the daughter of Muhammad who was called al-Zhara.

In 975, education was introduced to the institution which included studies in Islamic astronomy, law, philosophy, logic, and grammar. In 1961, the Al-Azhar University was re-introduced, and other non-Islamic faculties were added to the institution, such as medicine, pharmacy, agriculture, etc.

The Al-Azhar University Today:

Today, Al-Azhar University’s academic session is split into two semesters. The university’s tuition fee is relatively cheap, standing at about 2,500 dollars a year, which also applies to a master’s degree. Over three hundred and seventy-six thousand students attend the institution. According to US news, Al-Azhar University is ranked 994th best university globally.

  1. University of Bologna:

The University of Bologna is a public university situated in Bologna Italy that was established by a group of students in 1088. UNIBO is the oldest university in the world in uninterrupted running, it is also the first university to offer advanced learning and degree-awarding programs. Not only that, the word university originated through the founding of this institution. Bettisia Gozzadini, the first female to acquire a degree and take over a teaching role at a university, was a product of the University of Bologna. The first female to acquire a doctorate in science, Laura Bassi, and a compensated position as a university professor was also a product of this institution.

The institution is habitually known for its teaching of civil and canon law and, it was primarily opened to learn Roman law. A doctorate was the only degree granted at the university until modern times.

The University of Bologna Today:

As the oldest continuous university in the world, the University of Bologna continues to be inventive and significant. The university offers 104 international programs, 87 of which are conducted in English. Not only that, financial aid such as grants and scholarships are made available for students, including international students. According to US news, the institution is the 117th best university globally.

Other Historical Universities in the World

  1. The University of Oxford, located in the United Kingdom, was founded in 1096-1167.
  2. University of Salamanca located in Spain was founded in 1134.
  3. The University of Paris, located in France, was founded in 1160-1250.
  4. University of Cambridge, located in the United Kingdom, was founded in 1209.
  5. The University of Padua, located in Italy, was founded in1222.
  6. University of Naples Federico II, located in Italy, was founded in 1224.
  7. The University of Siena, located in Italy, was founded in 1240.
  8. The University of Coimbra, located in Portugal, was founded in 1290.

In summary, the University of al-Qarawiyyin and the Al-Azhar University are considered the oldest, because of their original founding date. The University of Bologna comes in third but is still the oldest continuous university in the world.

Frequently Asked Questions
  1. Who founded the University of al-Qarawiyyin?

Fatima al-Fihri, the daughter of a wealthy merchant founded the institution.

  1. What is Al-Azhar University known for?

It is popularly known for its history, as Egypt’s oldest degree-granting university.

  1. Is the university of Bologna hard to get into?

With an acceptance rate of 50-60%, the admission process is selective, therefore it is not exactly easy to get into UNIBO.

  1. Can I study medicine at the University of Bologna?

Yes, the university offers a degree in medicine and other prestigious fields.