History Class: The Oldest Universities in the World

Some universities have been open for hundreds of years, changing over time, but keeping their traditions. Here are some of the world’s oldest universities still teaching today.

The oldest English-speaking university still open today is Oxford University in England. No one knows the exact date, but Oxford was started between 1096 and 1167. Many famous people have studied or worked at Oxford, including over 50 Nobel Prize winners. Because it is so old, the university also has some strange traditions.

In the past, different cities and towns in Britain had their own time zone. Britain now has one time zone, but the university still uses “Oxford Time,” which is five minutes behind the rest of the country.

Even older than Oxford is the University of Bologna, Italy, which opened in 1088 and is the oldest university still teaching in Europe. One of its most famous students was Nicolaus Copernicus, who was the first to say that the Earth moved around the Sun.

Asian countries have a long history of higher education, but some of their older universities started as different institutions. For example, Sungkyunkwan University in Seoul, South Korea, begins its history in 1398, when it was opened as a royal academy. However, it wasn’t until 1895 that Sungkyunkwan was made into a four-year university.

For Asia’s oldest university, we have to go to the Philippines and the University of Santo Tomas in Manila, which first opened in 1611. Today, the university has about 42,000 students, also making it the largest Catholic university on a single campus in the world.

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