Universities have been around for hundreds of years. Most of the oldest universities were established before the end of the 13th century.
Though some of the world’s oldest universities have Over the centuries, many of the world’s oldest universities have disbanded, split into autonomous colleges or become modernized beyond all recognition.
Studying at these institutions will not only give you a chance at a quality education but also the chance to experience history up close.
In this article, we will give you a review of the top 30 oldest universities in the world in 2023
Top 30 Oldest University In The World 2023-Reviewed
Let’s take a look at these universities leister below:
1. University Of Ez-Zitouna
Location: Tunis, Tunisia
Ez-Zitouna University is the oldest existing university in the world. It is a public ancient mediaeval university in Tunis, Tunisia.
According to Wikipedia, the university originates in the Al-Zaytuna Mosque, founded at the end of the 7th century or in the early 8th century, which developed into a major Islamic centre of learning in North Africa.
The present-day institution has some 1200 students and 90 faculty, divided between two associated institutes.
2. University Of Al Quaraouiyine
Location: Fez, Morocco
The University of Al Quaraouiyine is the oldest existing, continually operating and the first degree-awarding educational institution in the world according to UNESCO and Guinness World Records.
It was founded as a mosque by Fatima al-Fihri in 857–859 and subsequently became one of the leading spiritual and educational centres of the Islamic Golden Age.
Teaching is delivered with students seated in a semi-circle around a sheikh, who prompts them to read sections of a text, asks them questions, and explains difficult points. The university is open to both men and women.
3. Al-Azhar University
Location: Cairo, Egypt
Al-Azhar University is Egypt’s oldest degree-granting university and is renowned as “Sunni Islam’s most prestigious university, they offer undergraduate, and postgraduate study programs and consist of 81 faculties, 9 institutions, 359 academic departments, 42 centres, 6 university hospitals, and 27 general administration units.
The university was founded as a centre of Islamic learning, and students studied the Qur’an and Islamic law along with logic, grammar, and rhetoric. The format of education at Al-Azhar remained relatively informal for much of its early history.
It’s an Islamic university that focuses on the Quranic sciences and the Prophet Muhammad traditions while teaching other modern sciences.
Al-Azhar University’s main thematic focus areas are science and technology, management and business administration, arts, languages and humanities, agriculture, dentistry, and medicine.
4. Hunan University
Location: Changsha, China
Hunan University is a national key university under the direct administration of the Ministry of Education of China, It was ranked 29th among the best global universities in engineering in the US News & World Report Best Global University Rankings. Also the oldest university in Asia.
Hunan University is situated at the foot of the picturesque Yuelu Mountain and on the west bank of the rippling Xiangjiang River in the historically and culturally renowned City of Changsha, the capital of Hunan Province.
Many of its graduates have become academic experts, entrepreneurs and high-ranking officials in government organs and private sectors, while 39 faculty and alumni members have been elected as members of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences and academicians of the Chinese Academy of Science and the Chinese Academy of Engineering.
5. University Of Bologna
Location: Bologna, Italy
The University of Bologna is a public research university in Bologna, Italy. It was established by an organised guild of students and experienced its golden ages in the 17th century with the Marcello Malpighi being the lecturer.
Unbo ( University of Bologna) holds the title of “Alma Mater” as it was the first educational institution to use the University title and the first university in the substance of higher learning.
The university has 33 departments organized by homogeneous analysis domains that combine activities connected to one or more faculty.
6. The University Of Oxford
Location: Oxford, England
The University of Oxford is the oldest university in the English-speaking world, and is actually so ancient that its founding date is unknown – though it is thought that teaching took place there as early as 1096, the 11th century.
The University of Oxford is known formally as Chancellor Masters and Scholars of the University of Oxford and has buildings and facilities scattered throughout the city centre. Oxford is a private university and is made up of 38 constituent colleges and a full range of academic departments, organised further into four divisions.
The two ancient universities of England, Oxford and Cambridge, are referred to as Oxbridge and enjoy worldwide recognition. The year 1920 saw the admission of female students to Oxford.
Other things to know include:
- The University offers more than 350 different programmes for undergraduate and postgraduate students
- It is frequently placed amongst the world’s top universities and is made up of 39 prestigious colleges
- It is home to the world’s oldest university museum and the world’s largest university press
- The University is associated with 72 Nobel Prize laureates and its alumni include at least 28 prime ministers of the UK and other heads of the state around the world
7. The University Of Toulouse
Location: Toulouse, France
The University of Toulouse was one of the earliest universities to emerge in Europe. It’s located in the large, modern city of Toulouse known for its art, history, and culture, but the city feels like a village. The university was closed in 1793 due to the french revolution.
The present-day Université de Toulouse was founded on 27 March 2007. It no longer represents a single university, as it is now the collective entity which federates the universities and specialised institutions of higher education.
With more than 100,000 students, Midi-Pyrénées is the fifth-largest university area in France.
8. University Of Padua
Location: Padua, Italy
The university is conventionally said to have been founded in 1222 when a large group of students and professors left the University of Bologna in search of more academic freedom (‘Libertas Scholastic). The first subjects to be taught were law and theology.
Padua is a public university in a city known for frescoes, beautiful arcaded streets, and stylish cafes that are frequented by students. The institute now plays a role in scholarly and scientific research both at the European and world level. It also manages nine museums, including a History of Physics museum.
The university became one of the universities of the Kingdom of Italy in 1873, and ever since has been one of the most prestigious in the country for its contributions to scientific and scholarly research.
Motto: Universal Patavina Libertas(Latin); Liberty of Padua, universally and for all
9. University Of Cambridge
Location: Cambridge, England
The start of the university is generally taken as 1209 when scholars from Oxford migrated to Cambridge to escape Oxford’s riots of “town and gown” (townspeople versus scholars). To avert possible troubles, the authorities in Cambridge allowed only scholars under the supervision of a master to remain in the town.
The group of scholars congregated in Cambridge for the purpose of study, and the Bishop of Ely founded the first college at Cambridge, called Peterhouse. Since its establishment, the university has formed 31 constituent colleges with over 100 academic departments organised into 6 schools.
The University of Cambridge has over 100 libraries. It wasn’t until 1948 that women were considered full members of the University. It has won more Nobel Prizes than any other university, with 121 Nobel laureates. Cambridge University began offering PhD degrees in the 20th century.
Motto: Hinclucemet poculasacra (Latin); From this place, we gain enlightenment and precious knowledge
10. The University Of Salamanca
Location: Salamanca, Spain
The University of Salamanca is an important place for the study of humanities, it began as a cathedral school in 1130 though the university itself was founded in 1134 and was granted its Royal Charter of foundation by King Alfonso IX in 1218.
A number of colleges were founded as charitable institutions to enable poor scholars to attend the University, but by the 18th century, these had become closed corporations controlled by the families of their founders.
In the 19th century, the Spanish government dissolved the law and theology faculties of the university. They were later re-established as part of the Pontifical University of Salamanca in the 1940s.
11. University Of Naples Federico II
Location: Naples, Italy
The University of Naples Federico II (Italian: Università degli Studi di Napoli Federico II) is a public, non-religious university in Naples, Italy. Established in 1224, it is the oldest public non-sectarian university in the world and is now organized into 82 departments.
The institution is organised today into 13 faculties under three semi-independent divisions: the Division of Science and Technology, the Division of Life Sciences and the Division of Social and Human Sciences. These are responsible for the research and teaching of 13 schools and 82 different departments.
The institution was renamed Frederico II in 1987 in acknowledgement of its founder.
In 1224, the head of state Frederick II, Holy Roman Emperor and King of Sicily, decided to create an educational institution that was not significantly influenced by the Pope.
12. University Of Valladolid
Location: Siena, Italy
The University of Valladolid is a Spanish public university founded in 1241 as a spin-off of the University of Palencia. The University of Valladolid is a public university located in Valladolid, Province of Valladolid, Autonomous Region of Castile and León, Spain. There are currently about 31,780 students here.
It is responsible for teaching higher education on seven campuses distributed in four cities. The first university building notable for its architecture was built in the late 15th century after the institution moved from the Collegiata. The university library has 14 library services and each with a director.
13. Sorbonne University
Location: Paris, France
Sorbonne University is a public research university located in Paris, France. It is considered one of the most prestigious universities in Europe and the world. It has a world-class reputation in academia and industry; as of 2021, its alumni and professors have won 33 Nobel Prizes, six Fields Medals, and one Turing Award.
The institution’s legacy dates back to 1257 when Robert de Sorbonne established Sorbonne College as one of the first universities in Europe. As of 2021, its professors have won 33 Nobel Prizes, six Field Medals, and one Turing Award.
There are currently about 55,600 students here.
14. University Of Coimbra
The University of Coimbra is the oldest university in Portugal It was established in 1290. It went through many relocations until it moved permanently to Coimbra in 1537.
The University was moved from Lisbon to Coimbra in 1308, it has eight faculties, offering undergraduate, postgraduate, and doctoral degrees in almost all major fields.
It is also the only Portuguese-speaking university in the world. Built in the grounds of a former palace, its 16th-century campus is classified as a UNESCO World Heritage site.
In keeping with its 700-year history, the university emphasises tradition alongside modernity and innovation.
15. Sapienza University Of Rome
The Sapienza University of Rome, also called simply Sapienza or the University of Rome, and formally the Università degli Studi di Roma “La Sapienza”, is a public research university located in Rome, Italy.
Since the 2011 reform, Sapienza University of Rome has eleven faculties and 65 departments. Today Sapienza, with 140,000 students and 8,000 among academic and technical and administrative staff, is the largest university in Italy.
In 1935 the new university campus designed by Marcello Piacentini was completed. Sapienza University has many campuses in Rome, but its main campus is Citta Universitaria.
16. University Of Pisa
The University of Pisa belongs to the top 200 universities in the world and the top 100 universities in Europe.
The University of Pisa is one of the oldest universities in Italy. The university was founded in 1343 but closed in 1360.
It is a public research university located in Pisa, Italy. The University Library System consists of 15 libraries and the General Archive of the University.
The University of Pisa has an active international program, with partnerships and exchange programs with universities around the world. This allows students to study abroad and gain valuable experience in different cultural contexts.
17. Charles University
Charles University, also known as Charles University in Prague or historically as the University of Prague, is the oldest and largest university in the Czech Republic. It is one of the oldest universities in Europe in continuous operation.
Charles University ranked in the top 1.5 per cent of the world’s best universities in 2011. According to 2016, there are currently studies on about 51,438 students.
18. University Of Pavia
The University of Pavia is a public institute located in Pavia, Lombardy, Italy. There is proof of teaching as early as 1361, making it one of the oldest universities in the world. The university has eighteen departments and nine faculties.
Currently, it has 18 departments and 9 faculties. It does not have a main campus; its buildings and facilities are scattered around the city.
Until the end of the 19th century, it was the only university in Milan and the greater Lombardy region. The university has more than 20,000 students from Italy and around the world.
The University of Pavia offers more than 80 undergraduate programs. The University of Pavia is a member of the COIMBRA Group and the European University Association. About 1,500 students entering the university each year are international students.
19. Jagiellonian University
According to Wikipedia, Jagiellonian University is a public research university in Kraków, Poland. Founded in 1364 by King Casimir III the Great, it is the oldest university in Poland and the 13th oldest university in continuous operation in the world.
It is regarded as Poland’s most prestigious academic institution.
It employs about 4,000 academics and provides education to more than 35,000 students.
The new seat of the University Hospital was recently opened in Prokosim in 2019, as a result of an investment project of more than 1.2 million. The university’s main Library Is one of the largest in Poland.
20. University Of Vienna
The University of Vienna (German: Universität Wien) is a public university located in Vienna, Austria and one of the largest universities in Europe. It was founded by Duke Rudolph IV in 1365.
They offer 181 degree programs 55 bachelor’s programs, 110 master’s programs, three diploma programs, and 13 doctoral programs.
21. Heidelberg University
Heidelberg University, officially the Ruprecht Karl University of Heidelberg, is a public research university in Heidelberg, Baden-Württemberg, Germany
In 2019, QS World University Rankings ranked Heidelberg University 3rd in Germany.
The university has two semesters per year. The winter semester runs from 1 October to 31 March and the summer semester runs from 1 April to 30 September. There are currently about 28,653 students.
22. University Of Ferrara
The University of Ferrara is the main university of the city of Ferrara in the Emilia-Romagna region of northern Italy. In the years prior to the First World War the University of Ferrara, with more than 500 students, was the best-attended of the free universities in Italy.
It consists of 12 Departments: Architecture; Humanities; Life Science and Biotechnology; Chemistry and Pharmaceutical Science; Biomedical and Surgical Science; Morphology, Surgery and Experimental Medicine; Medical Sciences; Engineering; Physics and Earth Science; Law; Management and Economics; Mathematics and Informatics.
23. Sungkyunkwan University
Location: South Korea
Sungkyunkwan University is a national university with 622 years of glorious history and shining tradition. It is a private research institute in South Korea.
The university spends heavily on research and outcomes sponsored by Samsung, Hyundai, and government agencies.
The university’s Humanities and Social Sciences Campus, also housing the Arts Department, is located in central Seoul on the same hill as Changdeokgung and Changgyeonggung.
24. University Of Turin
The University of Turin is today one of the largest Italian Universities, open to international research and training.
It is one of the oldest and most prestigious universities in Italy, covering 120 buildings and with 75,000 enrolled students.
The University has been acknowledged as a distinctive city within the city, stimulating cultural development, research, and innovation.
The University of Turin was ranked among the top 500 universities in the world by Times Higher Education. As of 2022, there are 78,900 undergraduate, 1,200 postgraduate and 1,100 doctoral students.
25. Leipzig University
Leipzig University was founded back in 1409 and is one of the oldest universities in Europe to have been offering teaching without interruption throughout its existence.
Nowadays, the university is home to a total of 14 faculties offering a wide range of academic disciplines in their 120 institutes.
In 2009, Leipzig University celebrated its 600th anniversary with over 300 scientific and cultural lectures and exhibitions. There are currently about 29,459 students here.
26. University Of St Andrews
The University of St Andrews is a public university in Fife, Scotland. It is the oldest of the four ancient universities in Scotland.
The structure of the undergraduate degrees at St Andrews gives you the chance to study multiple subjects across your first two years, before fully specialising.
St Andrews also has a diverse community that is home to over 9,000 students from more than 130 territories worldwide, offering global perspectives on your subject in a uniquely Scottish setting.
St Andrews also has a diverse community that is home to over 9,000 students from more than 130 territories world-wide, offering global perspectives on your subject in a uniquely Scottish setting.
27. The University Of Rostock
Location: Rostock, Germany
The University of Rostock is the oldest university in the Baltic Sea Region, the University of Rostock is located in Rostock, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Germany.
The University of Rostock is not only the oldest university in the Baltic Sea Region; it is also the richest in tradition.
The university has nine faculties these days, comprising numerous institutes and clinics. In addition, the Interdisciplinary Faculty as a central university institution unites researchers and students from all disciplines.
The University of Rostock courses includes basic and advanced study programmes at undergraduate and postgraduate levels like electrical engineering, computational science and engineering, agriculture, law, science, international relations, humanities, education, medicine, health, and social sciences, etc.
28. University Of Catania
Location: Catania, Italy
Catania University is one of the top public universities in Catania, Italy. It is ranked 801-1000 in QS World University Rankings 2023.
Students wishing to take an undergraduate degree will find the University of Catania to be a high-quality educational institution. In the city of Catania students may also discover a culturally dynamic environment suitable for growing as students and individuals as well.
The University of Catania’s first four faculties were Medicine, Philosophy, Canon and Civil Law, and Theology. During the 16th century, this university awarded 20/25 degrees per year.
The university has 1,623 administrative staff. There are currently about 66,235 students here.
29. University Of Barcelona
The University of Barcelona is a public university located in the city of Barcelona, Catalonia, in Spain. With 63,000 students, it is one of the biggest universities in Spain.
It is one of the oldest universities in both Catalonia and Spain, established in 1450. It is considered one of the best universities in Spain.
It is ranked 1st in Spain in most of the 2021-2022 rankings. It has more than 5,000 full-time technicians, researchers, and research assistants.
As of 2013, the University of Barcelona has 18 faculties and 100 departments. Now, it has more than 63,000 students.
30. The University Of Glasgow
Location: Glasgow, Scotland
The University of Glasgow is the fourth oldest university in the English-speaking world, founded in 1451.
Based in Scotland’s largest city, the University of Glasgow is one of the world’s top 100 universities and currently has 26,000 students from over 120 different countries enrolled.
Glasgow is also a member of the prestigious Russell Group of UK research universities.
They have numerous campuses and the main campus is at Halehead. In 1973, Delphine Parrott became the first female professor as the Gardiner Professor of Immunology.
It has four main faculties: Arts, Divinity, Law, and Medicine. Now, it has more than 32,500 students.
We hope this article has educated you on the top oldest schools in the world in 2023, and you can see that some of them are in Italy due to the particularly impressive number of longstanding and prestigious universities in this region, but there’s also an African representative to consider.
Please let us know in the comment section any of the oldest schools you think we didn’t mention, your comments are valuable to us.