There are almost 30,000 universities in the world. Some are big (covering entire towns) and some are small (confined to just a building!), but all of them with history of their own. The stories these campus walls represent are inspiring and a little weird in some cases. All of these campuses have beautiful architecture representing their location and year of foundation.
Here are some that I found very intriguing.
1. University of Bologna, Bologna, Italy
The University of Bologna is considered the oldest operating university of the western world. It was established in 1088, which makes it 930 years old :0
It was initially established as a ‘universitas scholarium’. This means that there were no professors. The students themselves elected the rectors (heads of university), leaders and lecturers. It was established for the students by the students. The library was founded in 1605 by Professor Aldrovandi. It is considered on the biggest assets of the university.
Some famous alumni of this university include poets Petrarch and Dante, Nicolaus Copernicus the astronomer, and the Pope Alexander VI. The list goes on.
2. Trinity College Dublin, Dublin, Ireland
Trinity College Dublin is one of the most prestigious (and oldest) universities in the world. It was founded in 1592, but isn’t the oldest university of Ireland. The famous poet and playwright Oscar Wilde is an alumnus of TCD. The campanile standing 100 feet tall in the middle of the campus was constructed in 1853. Students believe that walking under the campanile while the bell is tolling will result in failing the university exams. However, on graduation day, students walk under it as a celebratory tradition. TCD’s library is entitled to a free copy of every book that gets published in Ireland. Speaking of the library, TCD is home to the Book of Kells. The Book of Kells is an ancient manuscript containing four gospels. It is so famous that the university organizes tours to see it with an admission fee of at least €9.
3. Oxford University, Oxford, England
Oxford is considered the oldest english speaking university in the world, and the second oldest university on the world, after University of Bologna. Oxford University is comprised of over 30 colleges. Christchurch college is famously known to be the location where Harry Potter was shot. The hall in Christchurch college is the inspiration behind Hogwarts’ great dining hall. Women weren’t allowed to obtain degrees from Oxford till the year 1974. However, today the ratio of females to males is almost 1:1 (Yayy!!)
4. University of Cambridge, Cambridge, England
The University of Cambridge (the one in the U.K.) is the third oldest surviving university of the world. As a matter of fact, it was developed by scholars from Oxford University who escaped from Oxford to escape the riots between the town people and the scholars.
The university is extremely picturesque and has been featured in a lot of movies, most recently, the Eddie Redmayne starrer, The Theory of Everything, which is about Stephen Hawking, who was an alumnus of this very university. How cool is that?!
Other notable alumni include Charles Darwin, Sir Isaac Newton, Virginia Woolf, etc.
The University’s Parker’s Piece was also the site of a feast celebrating the coronation of Queen Victoria 1.
5. University of St. Andrews, St. Andrews, Scotland
University of St. Andrews was founded in 1413. You might recognize it as being the place where Prince William met his wife Katherine Middleton. St. Andrews is a very traditional university. They have a set of traditions that a lot of students follow and this really helps keep a tight bond between the university and students. Of course, with tradition, comes superstition. There are a lot of superstitions, for instance, there is a ‘PH’ marked on the cobblestones and if a student so much as layed a toe on the mark, it would result in failed exams or a botched degree. The only way to counter this curse is to take a dip in the North Sea on May Day. But it’s all of these traditions and superstitions are what make life at St. Andrews memorable.
6. Yale University, Connecticut, U.S.A.
Yale University is one of the prestigious Ivy League universities in the US. Yale also has the weirdest old manuscript called Voynich Manuscript. Till date, no one has been able to figure out what does it say. Yale is a very traditional university, just like all ancient ones. For example, every year, the freshmen are treated to a giant and very formal feast Harry Potter style. Graduates are given a clay pipe along with a packet of tobacco to crush and smoke to mark the end of an era, life at Yale. Also, Meryl Streep is an alumnus.
7. Stanford, Stanford, California, U.S.A.
Stanford University is arguably one of the most research oriented universities in the world. In fact, it was established as a co-ed school with no religious affiliations (which was abnormal at the time) for the sole purpose that the founders wanted a university to be completely practical that would produce ‘useful’ and ‘cultured’ citizens. It is located right in the middle of silicon valley making its location the best in terms of technology and jobs. The movie ‘Legally Blonde’ was based on the author’s experience at Stanford.
8. Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts, U.S.A.
Harvard University is the oldest university in the US. to give you perspective, Galileo was still alive when Harvard was founded. Also, Harvard is older than Calculus. Yup. Calculus emerged in the late 1600s whereas Harvard was founded in 1636. The number 8 seems to be magical for Harvard. This is because so far 8 presidents of the US are Harvard alumni (including Barack Obama). Also, of all the people that signed the declaration of Independence, 8 were Harvard alumni. Harvard University’s Widener Library has 10 floors, of which 4 are underground. This is because Harry Elkins Widener laid a condition while donating $3.5 million to build the library that the physical structure of the library could never be changed. Therefore, to accomodate more books, the architects got creative and started building rooms underground!!
9. Queen’s University, Belfast, Northern Ireland
Queen’s University of Belfast was founded in 1845 by Queen Victoria. It is one of the most prestigious universities in the world. It served great importance during World War II. It attracts a lot of attention due to its magnificent gothic architecture which is a reflection of the time in which it was built.
10. University of California - Berkeley, California, U.S.A.
UC Berkeley (or UCB) is arguably the best public university in the world. Its campus definitely has a lot of history in its numerous nooks and crannies. For once, there are hidden mining tunnels running underneath the campus! There is a hill on campus called 4.0 hill and it is customary for students to roll down the hill in order to get good grades. There is also a chamber underneath the Hearst Gym swimming pool which contains the remains of 12,000 Native Americans. It is off limits of course. Also, a dog named Igor earned a degree from UCB. When he died, his remains were buried on campus. All in all, quite quirky!
Weird isn’t it, all the history hidden behind all these old walls. Makes you wonder, what secrets do the walls around you hide?