50 Oldest universities in the world in 2024

Updated on: May 22, 2024
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50 Oldest universities in the world in 2024
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Curious to know which ancient institutions serve as the foundation for modern academia? 

Explore the oldest universities in the world - institutions rich in history and academic excellence. Learn how they shape today’s education, and know more about some of the most ancient universities in the world.

If you want to pursue higher education at one of the oldest universities in the world, read more to know how these universities are ranked.

In this article, we’ll explore: 

  • List of the 50 oldest universities in the world
  • Admission requirements for these universities
  • Some of the oldest universities in popular countries
  • Admission requirements for the oldest universities in the world

Let's get started.

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List of oldest universities in the world 

RankingUniversityLocationEstablished year
1University of al-QarawiyyinFez, Morocco859
2University of BolognaItaly1088
3University of OxfordUnited Kingdom1096-1167
4University of ParisFrance1150
5University of CambridgeUnited Kingdom1209
6University of SalamancaSpain1218
7University of PaduaItaly1222
8University of Naples Federico IIItaly1224
9University of ToulouseFrance1229
10University of SienaItaly1240
11University of ValladolidSpain1241
12University of MontpellierFrance1289
13University of CoimbraPortugal1290
14University of MacerataItaly1290
15University of LisbonPortugal1290
16University of PerugiaItaly1308
17University of FlorenceItaly1321
18University of PisaItaly1343
19University of PragueCzech Republic1348
20University of ViennaAustria1365
21University of PécsHungary1367
22University of HeidelbergGermany1386
23University of CologneGermany1388-1389
24University of ErfurtGermany1389
25University of FerraraItaly1391
26University of WürzburgGermany1402
27University of St AndrewsUnited Kingdom1413
28University of RostockGermany1419
29University of LeuvenBelgium1425
30University of BarcelonaSpain1450
31University of GlasgowUnited Kingdom1451
32University of GreifswaldGermany1456
33University of FreiburgGermany1457
34University of BaselSwitzerland1460
35University of IngolstadtGermany1472
36University of MainzGermany1477
37University of CopenhagenDenmark1479
38University of AberdeenUnited Kingdom1495
39University of AlcaláSpain1499
40University of ValenciaSpain1501
41University of SevilleSpain1505
42University of MarburgGermany1527
43University of StrasbourgFrance1538
44University of ZaragozaSpain1542
45University of KönigsbergRussia1544
46University of DouaiFrance1562
47University of Pont-à-MoussonFrance1572
48University of LeidenNetherlands1575
49University of VilniusLithuania1579
50University of EdinburghUnited Kingdom1582

Data updated as of May 2024

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Top 10 oldest universities in the world

The 10 oldest universities in the world are University of al-Qarawiyyin (859), University of Bologna (1088), University of Oxford (1096-1167), University of Paris (1150), University of Cambridge (1209), University of Salamanca (1218), University of Padua (1222), University of Naples Federico II (1224), University of Toulouse (1229) and University of Siena (1240).

1. University of al-Qarawiyyin (859)

Founded in 859 CE in Morocco, the University of al-Qarawiyyin is the world’s oldest university. Established as a mosque, it became a centre of learning, attracting scholars from across the world. 

The university currently provides several undergraduate and graduate programs in Islamic studies, science, law, and languages. The university has students from Morocco, the Middle East, Europe, and more countries.

2. University of Bologna (1088)

The University of Bologna was founded in 1088 in Bologna, Italy and is the second oldest university in the world. It has various programs at all levels of study. Initially, only doctorate courses were taught at this university, but multiple subjects are offered for studies currently. 

It has an enrolment of around 87,760 students, of which 6,400 are international students. It has several campuses across the world - Representacion en la Republica Argentina, Cantro de Altos Estudios de la Universidad de Bologna, Casena Campus, Forli Campus, Ravenna Campus, Rimini Campus, Brussels, New York, and Shanghai.

3. University of Oxford (1096-1167)

Founded between 1096 to 1167, the University of Oxford is one of the top five universities in the QS World University Rankings and the oldest university in the UK. While the exact date of its establishment is not known, there are facts that academics began as early as 1096.

The University of Oxford caters to a community of nearly 25,000 students and operates the largest university press in the world. The university’s boasts its alumni of prime ministers, Nobel laureates, and notable figures like Sir Stephen Hawking. 

4. University of Paris (1150)

Established in 1150 in Paris, the University of Paris (often known as ‘la Sorbonne’) is one of the first established universities in Europe. The University of Paris is divided into 13 autonomous institutions. The university provides several undergraduate and graduate programs. 

Over 60,000 students enrol here every year. The university’s alumni include Marie Curie (Physicist), Louis Pasteur (French Chemist), and Jackie Kennedy (United States’ former First Lady), among many other notable figures.

5. University of Cambridge (1209)

Established in 1209, the University of Cambridge is the world’s fifth oldest university. It is one of the most prestigious and oldest universities in the world. It also houses the world's oldest publishing house and the second-largest university press - Cambridge University Press. The university has formed 31 constituent colleges with over 100 academic departments organised into 6 schools. 

It has more than 35,000 students from across the world. The university prides itself on its alumni of 47 State Heads, 121 Nobel Prize recipients, and 210 Olympic medal winners. Some of its famous alumni are Isaac Newton (Physicist and Mathematician), Prince Charles (UK’s King), Srinivasa Ramanujan (Indian Mathematician), Amartya Sen (Indian Economist), and Robert Oppenheimer (Theoretical Physicist).

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6. University of Salamanca (1218)

The University of Salamanca - Spain’s oldest institution, was founded in 1218. It is the top-ranked university in Spain based on the number of students coming from other regions. 

The university offers Spanish courses for non-native speakers, which attracts more than two thousand international students every year. The university caters to more than 25.000 students across its nine campuses and is well known for its language studies and courses in law and economics. 

7. University of Padua (1222)

The University of Padua was founded in 1222 and is one of the many ancient universities in Italy. The university is notable for its early research in astronomy, law, philosophy, and medicine. 

It has about 60,000 students from around the globe. The university has been one of the most prestigious in the country for its contributions to scientific research. Notable alumni of this university include Nicolaus Copernicus, the astronomer who placed the Sun at the centre of the Solar System.

8. University of Naples Federico II (1224)

Founded in 1224 by Frederick II, emperor of the Roman Empire, the University of Naples - Federico II is located in Naples. The institution is organised into 13 faculties under three divisions.

The University has a wide range of programs for around 80,000 students. Some of its notable alumni include three Italian presidents; Samantha Cristoforetti, the first Italian woman in space (the first person who brewed an espresso coffee in space), and Thomas Aquinas (philosopher and theologian).

9. University of Toulouse (1229)

The University of Toulouse is located in Toulouse. The University of Toulouse no longer exists as a single institution. However, there have been several independent "successor" universities inheriting the name under the association of universities and higher education institutions called Université fédérale de Toulouse Midi-Pyrénées(UFTMP).

The university was split in 1969 into three universities, and the present-day University of Toulouse was founded in 2007. It contains over 100,000 students. Its alumni include Thomas Pesquet (European Space Agency astronaut), and Jean Tirole, Nobel laureates in Economic Sciences in 2014.

10. University of Siena (1240)

The University of Siena is located in Siena, Tuscany, and was founded in 1240. It is the first publicly funded university and one of the oldest in Italy. It is also one of the oldest universities in the world, having more than 20,000 students. 

The University of Siena campus comprises almost half of the city’s entire population. The city centre has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is visited annually by over 160,000 tourists.

10 oldest universities in the UK

Here are the 10 oldest universities in UK.

  1. University of Oxford
  2. University of Cambridge
  3. University of St Andrews
  4. University of Glasgow
  5. University of Aberdeen
  6. University of Edinburgh
  7. Marischal College
  8. Durham University
  9. University of London
  10. Victoria University

What is the first university in the UK?

The first university in the UK is the University of Oxford. 

10 oldest universities in the USA

Here are the 10 oldest universities in USA.

  1. Harvard University
  2. College of William & Mary
  3. St John's College
  4. Yale University
  5. University of Pennsylvania
  6. Moravian University
  7. University of Delaware
  8. Princeton University
  9. Washington and Lee University
  10. Columbia University

What is the first university in the US?

The first university in the United States is Harvard University. It was founded in 1636 and is located in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

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10 oldest universities in Canada

Here are the 10 oldest universities in Canada.

  1. Université Laval (1663)
  2. University of New Brunswick (1785)
  3. The University of King’s College (1789) 
  4. Saint Mary’s University (1802)
  5. Dalhousie University (1818)
  6. Université de Saint-Boniface (1818)
  7. McGill University (1821)
  8. University of Toronto (1827)
  9. Acadia University (1838)
  10. Mount Allison University (1839)

What is the first university in the Canada?

The first university in Canada is Université Laval. It was founded in 1663 in Quebec City, Quebec, initially as a seminary named Séminaire de Québec. It was later established as a university in 1852.

10 oldest universities in Ireland

Here are the 10 oldest universities in Ireland.

  1. Trinity College Dublin 
  2. University of Dublin
  3. National University of Ireland
  4. University College Cork
  5. University of Galway
  6. Maynooth University
  7. Dublin City University
  8. University of Limerick
  9. University College Dublin
  10. Dublin Institute of Technology

What is the first university in the Ireland?

The first university in Ireland is Trinity College Dublin. It was founded in 1592 by Queen Elizabeth I and is located in Dublin.

Oldest universities in New Zealand

Here are the oldest universities in New Zealand.

  1. University of Otago
  2. University of Canterbury
  3. University of Auckland
  4. Victoria University of Wellington
  5. Lincoln University
  6. Massey University
  7. University of Waikato
  8. Auckland University of Technology (AUT)

What is the first university in the New Zealand?

The first university in New Zealand is the University of Otago. It was founded in 1869 and is located in Dunedin, on the South Island.

Admission requirements for the oldest universities in the world 

Usually, students must have passed their school exams with a certain percentage of marks to be eligible for admission into a top-ranked university. Some universities require specific scores in certain examinations, like the IELTS and TOEFL, and general entrance examinations like the GRE and GMAT for example. 

In addition to the eligibility criteria, universities need other documents to proceed with your application. Make sure you have the below-mentioned documents.

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Oldest universities in the world: Your questions answered!

We've collated answers to commonly asked questions to assist you in your study abroad journey. Find your answers below!

What is the oldest university in the world?

The University of al-Qarawiyyin in Fez, Morocco, founded in 859 CE, is the world's oldest university.

Which is the second oldest university in the world?

The University of Bologna is the second oldest university in the world, founded in 1088.

Which was the first university in Britain?

The University of Oxford is the first and oldest university in the United Kingdom.

Which are some of the ancient universities for MBA?

Some of the oldest universities for MBA programs are

  1. University of Oxford
  2. Harvard University
  3. University of Cambridge
  4. University of Glasgow
  5. University of Edinburgh
  6. University of Aberdeen
  7. University of Padua

What are the oldest universities in the English-speaking world?

Some of the oldest universities in the English-speaking world include the University of Oxford, the University of Cambridge, the University of St. Andrews, the University of Glasgow, the University of Aberdeen, and the University of Edinburgh.

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