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- For a list of universities around the world, see Lists of colleges and universities.
Representation of a university class, 1350s.
A university is an institution of higher education and research, which grants academic degrees at all levels (bachelor, master, and doctorate) in a variety of subjects. A university provides both tertiary and quaternary education. The word university is derived from the Latin universitas magistrorum et scholarium, roughly meaning "community of masters and scholars".
The first "universities"
The tower of the University of Coimbra, the oldest Portuguese university.
Degree ceremony at the University of Oxford. The Pro-Vice-Chancellor in MA gown and hood, Proctor in official dress and new Doctors of Philosophy in scarlet full dress. Behind them, a bedel, another Doctor and Bachelors of Arts and Medicine.
Relative to the above definition, there is controversy as to which university is the world's oldest. Takshashila University may be the earliest, historically-documented universities. The original Latin word "universitas", first used in time of renewed interest in Classical Greek and Roman tradition, tried to reflect this feature of the Academy of Plato. If we consider university simply as a higher education institution, then it could be Shang Hsiang, founded before the 21st century BC in China according to legend. Later Taixue and Guozijian serve as the highest level of educational etablishment while academies became very popular as non-governmental etablishments teaching Confucianism and Chinese literature among other things. The choice for the oldest university is usually among Constantinople, Al Karaouine or Al-Azhar universities. Nalanda University, founded in Bihar, India around the 5th century BC conferred academic degree titles to its graduates, while also offering post-graduate courses. Another Indian university whose ruins were only recently excavated was Ratnagiri University in Orissa. Al-Azhar University, founded in Cairo, Egypt in the 10th century, offered a variety of post-graduate degrees, and is often regarded as the first full-fledged university. The University of Constantinople, founded in 849, by the regent Bardas of emperor Michail III, is generally considered the first institution of higher learning with the characteristics we associate today with a university (research and teaching, auto-administration, academic independence, et cetera). The Guinness Book of World Records recognizes the University of Al Karaouine in Fez, Morocco as the oldest university in the world with its founding in 859.
In ancient China, there were a number of institutions of higher learning that vaguely resembled universities in the Western sense of the word. It is reputed that an education system had been established before 21st century BC in China and a higher learning institution named Shang Hsiang (Shang means high and Hsiang means school) had been established by Shun (about 2255 BC–2205 BC) during the Youyu period. The higher learning institution may be the origination of the central imperial school, which was called Dongxu in Xia Dynasty (2205 BC–1766 BC), Youxue in Shang Dynasty (1766 BC - 1046 BC), Dongjiao and later Piyong in Zhou Dynasty (1046 BC–249 BC), Taixue in Han Dynasty (202 BC–220 AD), and Guozijian from Sui dynasty to Qing dynasty. Nanjing University traces its history back to the imperial central school at Nanjing founded in 258 and the Imperial Nanjing University became the first comprehensive institution as a combination of education and research consisted of five faculties in 470. Generally in a single dynasty there was only one imperial central school which was always located in the capital city and was the highest institution of learning of the nation. There were regional schools since 2nd BC in Han dynasty and later in every county-level and above district there was a prefecture school. Shuyuan emerged in 8th century in Tang Dynasty was another kind of institutions of learning. They were generally privately owned, and some were partly aided by governments. There were thousands of Shuyuan recorded in history, and the degree of them varied from one to another. The advanced Shuyuan such as Yuelu Shuyuan and Bailudong Shuyuan can be taken as higher institutions of learning. Other countries in East Asia such as Korea, Japan and Vietnam shared the same educational system and Shuyuan were also established in these countries. The early Chinese state depended upon literate, educated officials for operation of the empire, and an imperial examination was established in the Sui Dynasty (581–618) for evaluating and selecting officials from the general populace.
As early as the 4th century B.C. Indian civilisation could boast of an academic establishment like Takshashila in the North-east, which produced geniuses like Panini and Kautilya (both possibly from Taxila). Elsewhere the ancient cities of Nalanda, Vikramshila, and Kanchipuram in ancient India were greatly reputed centres of learning in the east, with students from all over Asia. In particular, Nalanda was a famous center of Buddhist scholarship, and as such it attracted thousands of Buddhist scholars from China, East Asia, Central Asia and South-East Asia, while also attracting many students from Persia and the Middle East. The cosmopolitan nature of medieval Indian universities is well attested by foreign records like those of Xuanzang and I-ching, both of whom studied in medieval India. These institutions were supported by both local and royal patronage. Nalanda for instance was supported by the Late Guptas and later Harsha whilst Vikramashila flourished under the patronage of the Pala kings. The universities also served as repositories of knowledge, holding vast quantities of palm-leave manuscripts storing information from various sciences and arts. Amongst the more common subjects offered for study were mathematics, grammar and linguistics (esp for Sanskrit), astronomy and philosophy. Interestingly whilst these were largely Buddhist establishments (esp in the case of Nalanda and Vikramashila) the study of the Vedas and Brahmanic texts was nevertheless important. The format of lectures is also known in the case of Nalanda due to the survival of Xuanzang's magnificent record. Also of importance to note was the fact that the Indian universities provide the first true example of residential universities (especially Nalanda)> However these ancient institutions would not qualify to be universities in the modern sense of the word simply because they did not conder 'degrees' a la European universities.
The Turko-Afghan invasions alongside other social and political factors swept away these institutions from the fabric of Indian society. Such instituitons survived only nominally in within the medieval royal palace but never grew to exist in the scale of Nalanda. Often these royal 'academies' collapsed where royal patronage ceased to exist. Elewhere 'university'-like institutions were maintained on a very local scale at regional mathas for Hindus. These were however more restricted in their aims as compared to the earlier universities.
Awarding academic titles was not a custom of educational institutions at the time but ancient institutions of higher learning also existed in China (Academies (Shuyuan)), Greece (the Academy), and Persia (Academy of Gundishapur)
The School, founded in 387 BC by the Greek philosopher Plato in the grove of Academos near Athens, taught its students philosophy, mathematics, and gymnastics, and is sometimes considered to resemble a university. Other Greek cities with notable educational institutions include Kos (the home of Hippocrates), which had a medical school, and Rhodes, which had philosophical schools. Another famous classical institution was the Museum and Library of Alexandria.
Raphael's School of Athens
Institutions bearing a resemblance to the modern university also existed in Persia and the Islamic world prior to Al-Azhar University, most notably the Academy of Gundishapur.
In the Carolingian period, Charlemagne created a type of academy, called the palace or court school (schola palatina), in Aachen, a city in present-day Germany. Another school, nowadays embodied by the Brexgata University Academy, was founded in the year 798 by Carolingian leaders. It was situated near Noyon, a city in present-day France. From a broader perspective it was the scholars, the aristocrats, the clergymen, and Charlemagne himself, who shared a vision of educating the population in general, and of training the children of aristocrats in how to manage their lands and protect their states against invasion or squandering. These initiatives were a foreshadowing of the rise, from the 11th century onward, of universities in Western Europe.
In Mali, West Africa, the celebrated Islamic University of Sankore (established 989 C.E.) had no central administration; rather, it was composed of several entirely independent schools or colleges, each run by a single master (scholar or professor). The courses took place in the open courtyards of mosque complexes or private residences. The primary subjects were the Qur’an, Islamic studies, law and literature. Other subjects included medicine and surgery, astronomy, mathematics, physics, chemistry, philosophy, language and linguistics, geography, history and art. The students also spent time in learning a trade and business code and ethics. The university trade shops offered classes in business, carpentry, farming, fishing, construction, shoe making, tailoring and navigation. It was claimed that the intellectual freedom enjoyed in Western Universities was inspired from universities like Sankore and Qurtuba (Muslim Spain) universities.
Memorizing the Qur’an and mastering Arabic language were compulsory to students. Arabic was a lingua franca of the university as well as the language of trade and commerce in Timbuktu. Except for a few manuscripts, which are in Songhay and other a’jami language, all the remaining 70,000 manuscripts are in Arabic. (Al-Furqan Heritage Foundation-London publishes a list of the manuscripts just in Ahmed Baba library in 5 volumes.)
Like all other Islamic universities, its students came from all over the world. Around the 12th century it had an attendance of 25,000 students, in a city of 100,000 people. The university was known for its high standards and admission requirements
Medieval European universities
The first European medieval university was the University of Magnaura in Constantinople (now Istanbul, Turkey), founded in 849 by the regent Bardas of emperor Michael III, followed by the University of Salerno (9th century), University of Bologna (1088) in Bologna, Italy, the University of Paris (c. 1100) in Paris, France, later associated with the Sorbonne, and the University of Oxford (11th century) in England. Many of the medieval universities in Western Europe were born under the aegis of the Roman Catholic Church, usually as cathedral schools or by papal bull as Studia Generali (NB: The development of cathedral schools into Universities actually appears to be quite rare, with the University of Paris being an exception - see Leff, Paris and Oxford Universities). In the early medieval period, most new universities were founded from pre-existing schools, usually when these schools were deemed to have become primarily sites of higher education. Many historians state that universities and cathedral schools were a continuation of the interest in learning promoted by monasteries.
In Europe, young men proceeded to university when they had completed their study of the trivium–the preparatory arts of grammar, rhetoric, and dialectic or logic–and the quadrivium: arithmetic, geometry, music, and astronomy. (See Degrees of the University of Oxford for the history of how the trivium and quadrivium developed in relation to degrees, especially in anglophone universities).
Emergence of modern universities
The end of the medieval period marked the beginning of the transformation of universities that would eventually result in the modern research university. Many external influences, such as eras of humanism, Enlightenment, Reformation, and revolution, shaped research universities during their development, and the discovery of the New World in 1492 added human rights and international law to the university curriculum.
By the 18th century, universities published their own research journals, and by the 19th century, the German and the French university models had arisen. The German, or Humboldtian model, was conceived by Wilhelm von Humboldt and based on Friedrich Schleiermacher’s liberal ideas pertaining to the importance of freedom, seminars, and laboratories in universities. The French university model involved strict discipline and control over every aspect of the university.
Universities concentrated on science in the 19th and 20th centuries, and they started to become accessible to the masses after 1914. Until the 19th century, religion played a significant role in university curriculum; however, the role of religion in research universities decreased in the 19th century, and by the end of the 19th century, the German university model had spread around the world. The British also established universities worldwide, and higher education became available to the masses not only in Europe. In a general sense, the basic structure and aims of universities have remained constant over the years.
Brooks Hall, home of the Terry College of Business at the University of Georgia in Athens, Georgia
Although each institution is differently organized, nearly all universities have a board of trustees, a president, chancellor or rector, at least one vice president, vice-chancellor or vice-rector, and deans of various divisions. Universities are generally divided into a number of academic departments, schools or faculties. Public university systems are ruled over by government-run higher education boards. They review financial requests and budget proposals and then allocate funds for each university in the system. They also approve new programs of instruction and cancel or make changes in existing programs. In addition, they plan for the further coordinated growth and development of the various institutions of higher education in the state or country. However, many public universities in the world have a considerable degree of financial, research and pedagogical autonomy. Private universities are privately funded having generally a broader independence from state policies.
Despite the variable policies, or cultural and economic standards available in different geographical locations create a tremendous disparity between universities around the world and even inside a country, the universities are usually among the foremost research and advanced training providers in every society. Most universities not only offer courses in subjects ranging from the natural sciences, engineering, architecture or medicine, to sports administration, social sciences, law or humanities, they also offer many amenities to their student population including a variety of places to eat, banks, bookshops, print shops, job centres, and bars. In addition, most major universities have their own libraries, sports centers, restaurants, students' unions, botanical gardens, astronomical observatories, university hospitals and clinics, computer labs, research laboratories, business incubators and many other.
Universities around the world
Western Illinois University
The funding and organization of universities is very different in different countries around the world. In some countries universities are predominantly funded by the state, while in others funding may come from donors or from fees which students attending the university must pay. In some countries the vast majority of students attend university in their local town, while in other countries universities attract students from all over the world, and may provide university accommodation for their students.
Universities and student life in different countries
See also: List of colleges and universities by country.
Admission systems and university structures vary widely around the world (see college admissions). Differences are marked in countries where universities fulfill the role of community colleges in the United States and Europe.
Colloquially, the term university may be used to describe a phase in one's life: "when I was at university…" (in the United States and the Republic of Ireland, college is used instead: "when I was in college..."). See the college article for further discussion. In Australia, New Zealand and the German speaking countries "university" is often contracted to "uni", which has also recently become common among the young in the United Kingdom. In New Zealand and in South Africa it is sometimes called "varsity", which was also common usage in the UK in the 19th century.
The usual practice in the United States today is to call an institution made up of several schools and/or colleges and granting a range of post-graduate degrees a "university", while a smaller institution only granting bachelor's or associates degrees is called a "college". (See liberal arts colleges.) Nevertheless, a few of America's older universities, such as Boston College, Dartmouth College, and College of William and Mary, have retained the term "college" in their names for historical reasons, even though they offer a wide range of higher degrees. On the other hand, many smaller, principally undergraduate institutions call themselves "universities," primarily for marketing purposes to make them appear more prestigious. In the United States, the Carnegie classification system distinguishes among institutions on the basis of the prevalence of degrees they grant. The Carnegie classifications are: I (doctoral), IIA (masters), IIB (baccalaureate), III (2-year institutions with academic ranks), IV (2-year institutions without academic ranks). A "true" university is an institution with a I or IIA classification.
Moscow State University at Sparrow Hills is the largest educational building in the world.
In his study of the American university since World War II, The Knowledge Factory, Stanley Aronowitz argues that the American university has been besieged by growing unemployment issues, the pressures of big business on the land grant university, as well as the political passivity and ivory tower naivete of American academics.
In a somewhat more theoretical vein, the late Bill Readings contends in his 1995 study The University in Ruins that the university around the world has been hopelessly commodified by globalization and the bureaucratic non-value of "excellence." His view is that the university will continue to linger on as an increasingly consumerist, ruined institution until or unless we are able to conceive of advanced education in transnational ways that can move beyond both the national subject and the corporate enterprise.
In some countries, in some political systems, universities are controlled by political and/or religious authorities, who forbid certain fields and/or impose certain other fields. Sometimes national or racial limitations exist - for students, staff, research.
Books from university libraries, written by anti-Nazi or Jewish authors, were burned in places (eg. in Berlin) in 1933, and the curricula were subsequently modified. Jewish professors and students were expelled according to the racial policy of Nazi Germany, see also the Law for the Restoration of the Professional Civil Service. Martin Heidegger became the rector of Freiburg University, where he delivered a number of Nazi speaches. On August 21, 1933 Heidegger established the Führer-principle at the university, later he was appointed Führer of Freiburg University. University of Poznań was closed by the Nazi Occupation in 1939. 1941-1944 a German university worked there. University of Strasbourg was transferred to Clermont-Ferrand and Reichsuniversität Straßburg existed 1941-1944.
Nazi universities ended in 1945.
Soviet type universities existed in Soviet Union and in other countries of the Eastern Bloc. Medical, technical, economical, technological and artistical faculties were separated from universities (compare the List of institutions of higher learning in Russia). Soviet ideology was taught divided into three disciplines: Scientific Communism, Marxism-Leninism (mostly in form of Leninism) and Communist Political Economy) and was introduced as part of many courses, eg. teaching Karl Marx' or Vladimir Lenin's views on energy or history. Genetics was degradated to Lysenkoism. Communist parties controlled or influenced universities. Sciences were generally tolerated, but humanities curbed. In 1922, the Bolshevik government expelled some 160 prominent intellectuals. The leading university was the Moscow State University. After Iosif Stalin's death, universities in some Communist countries obtained more freedom. Patrice Lumumba Peoples' Friendship University provided higher education as well as a KGB training ground for young communists from developing countries. The system failed during the years 1989-1991. Universities in North Korea continue the tradition.
- ^ Hartmut Scharfe(2002). Education in Ancient India. Brill Academic Publishers. ISBN 90-04-12556-6.
- Stanley Aronowitz, The Knowledge Factory. Boston: Beacon, 2000. ISBN needed
- Clyde W. Barrow, Universities and the Capitalist State: Corporate Liberalism and the Reconstruction of American Higher Education, 1894-1928, University of Wisconsin Press 1990 ISBN needed
- Sigmund Diamond, Compromised Campus: The Collaboration of Universities with the Intelligence Community, 1945-1955, Oxford University Press 1992 ISBN needed
- Olaf Pedersen, The First Universities : Studium Generale and the Origins of University Education in Europe, Cambridge University Press, 1998 ISBN needed
- Bill Readings, The University in Ruins. Harvard UP, 1995 ISBN needed
- Thomas F. Richards, The Cold War Within American Higher Education: Rutgers University As a Case Study,Pentland Press 1998 ISBN needed
- Walter Ruegg (ed), A History of the University in Europe, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge (3 vols) ISBN 0-521-36107-9 (vol 3 reviewed by Laurence Brockliss in the Times Literary Supplement, no 5332, 10 June 2005, pages 3-4)
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