Medieval University

The Medieval University was a system of higher education that emerged in western Europe during the late 11th and early 12th centuries.  The creation of the university is a matter of debate – how much were they based on the Cathedral and monastic schools of the Early Middle Ages? How much influence did Islamic and Roman classical models have on the development? Or were they unique institutions, the result of medieval teachers and students thinking ‘outside the box’ and figuring out a new way of learning?

Whatever the reason, by the late 11th century groups of teachers and students started to get together in groups known as ‘universitas’ – in cities such as Salerno and Bologna in Italy, Paris in France and Oxford and Cambridge in England. The main curriculum was based on seven areas – grammar, rhetoric, logic, arithmetic, music, geometry, and astronomy – all of which were important for a cleric in the Catholic church.


During the next couple of centuries many more universities would be created throughout Europe and this system of education would become more developed and diverse. This institution would be one of the most successful achievements of the Middle Ages, and is today the standard form of higher education throughout the world.

See also:

Student Violence at the University of Oxford

Articles on the Medieval University

The Shift of Medical Education into the Universities, by Thomas G. Benedek

Medieval Universities, Legal Institutions, and the Commercial Revolution, by Davide Cantoni and Noam Yuchtman

Where the Philosopher Finishes, the Physician Begins: Medicine and the Arts Course in Thirteenth-Century Oxford, by Roger French


Religion, Education and the Role of Government in Medieval Universities: Lessons Learned or Lost?, by Kimberly Georgedes

The Medieval University, by J.E. Healey

Why the Medieval Idea of a Community-Oriented University is Still Modern, by Achim Köddermann

The Intellectual Infrastructures and Networks at Paris in 12th and in early 13th centuries, by Hee-Man Lee

The Study of Canon Law and the Eclipse of the Lincoln Schools, 1175–1225, by Frans Van Liere

Medical Education in the Middle Ages, by Loren C. MacKinney

Walter de Stapeldon, Bishop of Exeter and Founder of Exeter College, by John Maddicott

1367: The Founding of the Spanish College at Bologna, by Berthe M. Marti

Surgical Education in the Middle Ages, by Michael McVaugh

Learning Medieval Medicine: The Boundaries of University Teaching, by Cornelius O’Boyle

Sporting and Recreational Activities of Students in the Medieval Universities, by Steven J. Overman

“Graduating in Paradise”: Robert of Sorbon and the Importance of Universities in the Middle Ages, by Jean-Luc Solère


Abelard the Scholar, by Helen Steele

Education and Curricula in Early Universities: Some Documentary Evidence, by Nicolay V. Tsarevsky

Classroom commentaries : teaching the Poetria nova across medieval and Renaissance Europe, by Marjorie Curry Woods

Instruments and demonstrations in the astrological curriculum: evidence from the University of Vienna, 1500–1530, by Darin Hayton

The Importance of Being Good: Moral Philosophy in the Italian Universities, 1300–1600by  David A. Lines