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Tuesday, September 16, 2008



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 teachers
and scholars".

Representation of a university class, 1350s.

The first universities

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.

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. 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. The earliest recorded
institution of higher learnings was Shang Hsiang, and later Taixue and Guozijian
serve as the highest level of educational establishment while academies became
very popular as non-governmental establishments teaching Confucianism and
Chinese literature among other things. The choice for the oldest university is
usually among Nalanda, 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. For more on early universities see List of
oldest universities in continuous operation.

The tower of the University of Coimbra, the oldest Portuguese university.

Medieval European universities

Main article: Medieval university

The first European medieval university was the University of Magnaura in
Constantinople in Byzantium, now Istanbul in Turkey, founded in 849 by the
regent Bardas of emperor Michael III, followed by the University of Preslav and
University of Ohrid (9th century) in the Bulgarian Empire, founded by Tsar
Simeon I of Bulgaria, 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

Outside of Europe, there were many notable institutions of learning throughout
history. In China, there was the famous Hanlin Academy, established during the
Tang Dynasty (618-907 AD), and was once headed by the Chancellor Shen Kuo
(1031-1095), a famous Chinese scientist, inventor, mathematician, and statesman.

Emergence of modern universities

Main article: History of European research 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.

Universities around the world

The University of Sydney is Australia's  oldest university.

The University of Sydney is Australia's oldest 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.

Classification in the United States

Front entrance to Texas Tech University in Lubbock, Texas.

Front entrance to Texas Tech University in Lubbock, Texas.In the United States,
there is no legal definition of the term "university." The usual practice in the
United States today is to call an institution made up of undergraduate students
a "college." This can be a two-year community college, which grants an AA or a
four-year college, such as a liberal arts college, which grants a B.A. or B.S.
An institution comprising both undergraduate and graduate students (and often
several schools) is called a university. Some schools such as Boston College,
Dartmouth College, and College of William and Mary, which offer a number of
graduate programs, have retained the term "college" in their names for
historical reasons. Similarly, some institutions granting few if any graduate
degrees, such as Wesleyan University, may be called universities for historical
reasons. Another criterion used to distinguish between a college and a
university in the United States is the balance of teaching and research that
occurs in the institution. Colleges have historically focused on teaching and
universities on scholarship and research.

Sherman Hall at Western Illinois University in Macomb, Illinois.The Carnegie
Basic Classification system distinguishes among institutions on the basis of the
prevalence of degrees they grant. As the names of their categories indicate
names indicate, the Carnegie Foundation considers the granting of master's
degrees necessary, though not sufficient, for an institution to be classified as
a university.[1]

University rankingsSherman Hall at Western Illinois University in Macomb, Illinois.

Main article: College and university rankings

University rankings throughout the world attempt to give an indication of the
quality of institutions. Each has its own criteria for ranking and its own
unique methodology. Two of the most internationally recognized are the THES - QS
World University Rankings[2] and the Academic Ranking of World Universities.


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.

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 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, the United Kingdom and the
German speaking countries "university" is often contracted to "uni". In New
Zealand and in South Africa it is sometimes called "varsity", which was also
common usage in the UK in the 19th century.

Moscow State University at Sparrow Hills is the largest educational building in
the world.

[edit] Criticism

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.

Sherman Hall at Western Illinois University in Macomb, Illinois.


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