|Flagler College in St. Augustine|
In St. Augustine, our nation's oldest city, Flagler College is one of the most beautiful campuses that combines history and education with the small town family atmosphere.
Although colleges and universities more than understandably evolved over the centuries, all of them owe a debt of gratitude to the medieval institutions who started it all. Since 1088, the world of higher education has expanded magnanimously to all corners of the globe, encompassing a far more diverse range of programs, faculty, staff and students. The following have paid witness to this drastic change more than any others, laying the rocksteady foundation for today's institutions. But even beyond that, they have all played an active role in shaping world history itself, regardless of their contributions' sizes.
- University of Bologna: This lauded institution has been in continuous operation since 1088, give or take a few years. For the longest time, they only offered doctoral degrees, though in recent times they expanded their offerings. Today, around 100,000 students spread across 23 different faculties at 8 different branches and schools — including an international location in Buenos Aires. Considering its Catholic roots, it probably comes as little surprise that University of Bologna receives accolades for its civil and canon law programs. Throughout its incredible history, the school has graduated such diverse cultural luminaries as Dante Alighieri, Nicolaus Copernicus, Albrecht D–rer and Umberto Eco.
- University of Oxford: As with many medieval universities, the exact date of founding remains largely unknown, though it's well known that teaching was going on in 1096. Although the oldest English-speaking school in the world (pictured), much of University of Oxford's wealthy intellectual legacy stems from massive influxes of Continental students and ideologies. Catholic orders, Renaissance beliefs and figures and scholars fleeing Nazism and Communism have all, at one time or another, flocked to this academic safe haven and eventually left their permanent mark. The year 1878 saw the landmark addition of the first women's college, with a second following a year later — and three more came shortly thereafter. Even today, it remains one of the world's most eclectic, prestigious and influential universities thanks to this diverse heritage.
- University of Salamanca: Spain's oldest university started offering classes around 1130, but never received a papal charter until 1218 and a royal charter from King Alfonso X until 1254. By 1255, it was able to refer to itself as a university thanks to the confirmation of Pope Alexander IV. Because of its age, this institution participated in its fair share of notable historical events, both amazing and absolutely terrible. For one, many of its graduates and faculty assisted the government in its unjust expulsion and torturing of innocent Jews. Geographers at the University of Salamanca also played an integral role in assisting Christoffa Corombo on his historic voyage attempting to discover a quicker trade route towards the West Indies. After his accidental landing in the Americas, the very same school that backed his journey would go on to debate the ethical and economic impact of interacting with its indigenous peoples.
- University of Modena: University of Modena actually spreads itself across the eponymous city as well as Reggio Emilia, with eight faculties comprising the former and four in the latter. The original campus was founded in 1175 by former University of Bologna educator Pillio of Medicina, but its original medieval structure fizzled out entirely by 1338. At that point, it ceased offering degrees and focused more on holding classes until funding forced the 1590 suspension. However, it revived itself in Modena around 1680 and eventually picked up its charter five years later. Today, both campuses host a total of around 20,000 students. Anyone visiting Modena needs to head over to the school and explore the Orto Botanico dell'Universit– di Modena e Reggio Emilia. This free botanical garden began as a small plot for medicinal plants, grew into an herbarium and subsequently expanded to its lush form locals and tourists currently enjoy.
- University of Vicenza: Many academics, unfortunately, consider the University of Vicenza one of the least significant surviving medieval schools. In spite of this mindset, however, it still deserves recognition for its age and endurance. It was founded in 1204 and received recognition as a stadium generale at some point in the 13th Century.
- University of Cambridge: The second-oldest stadium generale in the English-speaking world sprouted thanks to the first. Because of myriad disputes with faculty and townspeople alike, a small throng of Oxford intellectuals went on to found the competing university in 1209. Today, it is considered amongst the best institutes of higher learning on the planet, but it certainly took an interesting historical path to get here. On the orders of King Henry XIII, Cambridge disbanded its canon law program and dissolved any and all associations with Catholicism. As a result, classes shifted towards math, science, the classics and Bible — offerings which eventually inspired some of the most influential politicians, scientists, mathematicians, writers and thinkers of all time. Without Cambridge, there would be no laws of motion, atom splitting, unified electromagnetism, theory of evolution and natural selection, Turing machines or quantum mechanics. Nor would the electron, hydrogen or structure of DNA been discovered. Among a staggering heap of other accomplishments, of course.
- University of Padua: A 1222 split from the University of Bologna resulted in the creation of University of Padua, whose new students and faculty desired more flexibility and freedom. At first, it only focused on providing degrees in law and theology, though it expanded its offerings to include astronomy, rhetoric, medicine, dialectic, philosophy, rhetoric, grammar and philosophy by 1399. During and shortly after the Renaissance, University of Padua enjoyed recognition as one of the world's intellectual and research powerhouses, likely due to its closer affiliation with the Venetian government than the Catholic Church. Even now, the 65,000-student institution is oftentimes considered amongst the greatest institutes of higher learning in Italy.
- University of Naples Federico II: Unlike the other historical universities listed here, this one never affiliated itself with any religious institution. Rather, it received its initial patronage from Emperor Frederico II in 1224, making it the oldest state school in the world. Curiously enough, however, its most famous alum made a name for himself as one of the foremost Catholic theologians. St. Thomas Aquinas likely formed many of his influential religious theories based on his exposure to classical philosophy, letters and political science at University of Naples Federico II.
- University of Siena: Established in 1240, University of Siena funded itself on taxes levied upon individuals and families renting living quarters to citizens. By 1252, Pope Innocent IV was declaring that teachers and students alike would be exempt from taxes, forced labor, night watchman duty and military service — particularly those involved with Latin, medicine and the natural sciences. Following a giant influx of University of Bologna faculty and students angered with a young man's death sentence, the institution in Siena swelled significantly, even enjoying stadium generale status. While it may not have played a huge role in Italian history, the school did witness major power switches in the region and hosted many extremely vocal demonstrations against Risorgimento.
- University of Coimbra: Portugal's oldest university is a public school founded in 1290 following the approval of King Dinis. It actually started out in Lisbon before the 1308 move to Coimbra — a result of tensions with Pope Nicholas IV, the citizenry and the students. The core curriculum originally offered classes in the arts, canon law, law and medicine, which remained intact during the transition. In 1338, King Alfonso IV brought the school back to Lisbon, where it stayed until 1537 when King Jo–o III sent it to Coimbra permanently.