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For a list of universities around the world, see List of colleges and universities

Image:Laurentius de Voltolina 001.jpg
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".


[edit] History

[edit] The first "universities"

Image:Coimbra University Tower 2.jpg
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.

Because of this definition, there is controversy about which university is the world's oldest. If we consider a university as a corporation of students, then Takshashila University<ref>Hartmut Scharfe(2002). Education in Ancient India. Brill Academic Publishers. ISBN 9004125566.</ref> and Plato's Academy are 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 Shangyang, founded before the 21st century BC in China according to legend, though it was more likely built at later a date. The choice for the oldest university is usually among Nalanda, Ratnagiri, 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.

[edit] Early institutions

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 Shangyang (Shang means high and Yang means school) had been established by Shun (about 2255 BC–2205 BC) during the Youyu period. The higher learning institution may have influenced 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 also another kind of institutions of learning called Shuyuan since 8th century in Tang Dynasty. They were generally privately owned, and some were partly aided by governments. There were thousands of Shuyuan in China, 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. 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.

The ancient cities of Takshashila, 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 awarding of aic titles was not a custom of other 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.

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

[edit] 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, and the University of Paris (c. 1100) in Paris, France, later associated with the Sorbonne. 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. 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).

Universities are generally established by statute or charter. In the United Kingdom, for instance, a university is instituted by Act of Parliament or Royal Charter; in either case generally with the approval of Privy Council, and only such recognized bodies can award degrees of any kind.

[edit] Organization

Image:Brooks Hall UGA.jpg
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.

[edit] Universities around the world

The funding and organisation 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.

[edit] Universities and student life in different countries

See also: List of colleges and universities by country.

[edit] Selective admissions

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.

[edit] Colloquial usage

Colloquially, the term university may be used to describe a phase in one's life: "when I was at university…" (in the United States, college is used instead: "when I was in college..."). See the college article for further discussion. In Australia and New Zealand "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 associate's 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.

[edit] Criticism

In his groundbreaking 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 2006, Peter G. Klein wrote "Today, many professors at major research universities do little teaching. Their primary activity is research, though much of that is questionable as real scholarship."[1]

[edit] References


  • 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)

[edit] See also

[edit] Related terms

academia - academic rank - academy - admission - alumnus - aula - polytechnic - Brain farm - Bologna process - business schools - Grandes écoles - campus - college - college and university rankings - dean - degree - diploma - discipline - dissertation - faculty - fraternities and sororities - graduate student - graduation - Ivory Tower - lecturer - medieval university - medieval university (Asia) - mega university - perpetual student - professor - provost - rector - research - scholar - senioritis - student - tenure - Town and Gown - tuition - undergraduate - universal access - university administration
By age group: Primary school / Elementary schoolJunior high school / Middle schoolSecondary school / High school

By funding: Free educationPrivate schoolPublic schoolIndependent schoolIndependent school (UK)Grammar schoolCharter school

By style of education: Day schoolFree schoolAlternative schoolParochial schoolBoarding schoolMagnet schoolCyberschoolK-12

By scope: Compulsory educationComprehensive schoolVocational schoolUniversity-preparatory schoolUniversity


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