A medieval university is a corporation organized during the High Middle Ages for the purposes of higher learning.
The first institutions generally considered to be universities were established in Italy, England, France, Spain, and Portugal in the late 11th, 12th, 13th and 14th centuries for the study of the Arts and the higher disciplines of Theology, Law, and Medicine.〔de Ridder-Symoens 1992, pp. 47–55〕 These universities evolved from much older Christian cathedral schools and monastic schools, and it is difficult to define the exact date at which they became true universities, although the lists of studia generalia for higher education in Europe held by the Vatican are a useful guide.
"The word ''universitas'' originally applied only to the scholastic guild (or guilds)—that is, the corporation of students and masters—within the ''studium'', and it was always modified, as ''universitas magistrorum'', or ''universitas scholarium'', or ''universitas magistrorum et scholarium''. In the course of time, however, probably toward the latter part of the 14th century, the term began to be used by itself, with the exclusive meaning of a self-regulating community of teachers and scholars whose corporate
existence had been recognized and sanctioned by civil or ecclesiastical authority."〔Encyclopaedia Britannica: History of Education. The development of the universities.〕
From the early modern period onwards, this Western-style organizational form gradually spread from the medieval Latin west across the globe, eventually replacing all other higher-learning institutions and becoming the preeminent model for higher education everywhere.〔Rüegg, Walter (ed.): ''Geschichte der Universität in Europa'', 3 vols., C.H. Beck, München 1993, ISBN 3-406-36956-1〕
== Antecedents ==
The university is generally regarded as a formal institution that has its origin in the Medieval Christian setting.〔Rüegg, Walter: "Foreword. The University as a European Institution", in: ''A History of the University in Europe. Vol. 1: Universities in the Middle Ages'', Cambridge University Press, 1992, ISBN 0-521-36105-2, pp. XIX–XX〕 Prior to the establishment of universities, European higher education took place for hundreds of years in Christian cathedral schools or monastic schools (''Scholae monasticae''), in which monks and nuns taught classes; evidence of these immediate forerunners of the later university at many places dates back to the 6th century AD.〔Riché, Pierre (1978): "Education and Culture in the Barbarian West: From the Sixth through the Eighth Century", Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, ISBN 0-87249-376-8, pp. 126-7, 282-98〕
With the increasing growth and urbanization of European society during the 12th and 13th centuries, a demand grew for professional clergy. Before the 12th century, the intellectual life of Western Europe had been largely relegated to monasteries, which were mostly concerned with performing the liturgy and prayer; relatively few monasteries could boast true intellectuals. Following the Gregorian Reform's emphasis on canon law and the study of the sacraments, bishops formed cathedral schools to train the clergy in Canon law, but also in the more secular aspects of religious administration, including logic and disputation for use in preaching and theological discussion, and accounting to more effectively control finances. Learning became essential to advancing in the ecclesiastical hierarchy, and teachers also gained prestige. However, demand quickly outstripped the capacity of cathedral schools, each of which was essentially run by one teacher. In addition, tensions rose between the students of cathedral schools and burghers in smaller towns. As a result, cathedral schools migrated to large cities, like Bologna, Rome and Paris.
Some scholars such as Syed Farid Alatas have noted some parallels between Madrasahs and early European colleges and have thus inferred that the first universities in Europe were influenced by the Madrasahs in Islamic Spain and the Emirate of Sicily. Other scholars such as George Makdisi, Toby Huff and Norman Daniel, however, have questioned this, citing the lack of evidence for an actual transmission from the Islamic world to Christian Europe and highlighting the differences in the structure, methodologies, procedures, curricula and legal status of the "Islamic college" (''madrasa'') versus the European university.〔George Makdisi: "Madrasa and University in the Middle Ages", in: ''Studia Islamica'', Vol. 32 (1970), S. 255-264 (264): 〕〔The scholarship on these differences is summarized in Toby Huff, ''Rise of early modern science,'' 2nd ed. p. 149-159; p. 179-189.〕〔Norman Daniel: Review of "The Rise of Colleges. Institutions of Learning in Islam and the West by George Makdisi", Journal of the American Oriental Society, Vol. 104, No. 3 (Jul. - Sep., 1984), pp. 586-588 (587)〕
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