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10 of the Oldest Universities in the World: Know the First!

Kashyap Matani

As per the Guinness World Records, the University of Al-Karaouine, Fez, Morocco, is the oldest and the first university in the world, established in 859 AD. Since then, thousands of higher education institutions have been around for hundreds of years, but not all have endured the test of change. Over centuries, the oldest universities in the world closed, split into autonomous colleges, or modernised beyond recognition.

The oldest universities still in existence are famous for their historical legacies, ability to adapt to modern contexts, and remain consistent in global competition. In this article, we have covered some of the oldest schools in the world with high international rankings. Let’s dive right into the insights!

Table of Contents

10 Oldest Universities in the World

Here is a list of 10 of the oldest universites in the world & their establishment year:

University Name

Establishment Year

University of Bologna


University of Oxford


University of Salamanca


University of Paris


University of Cambridge


University of Padua


University of Naples Federico II


University of Siena


University of Coimbra


Al-Azhar University

970 AD

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Now you know the oldest schools in the world. Next, let’s explore the key information about them.

Let's learn about all of them in detail now:

1. University of Bologna

University of Bologna

Founded in 1088, the University of Bologna is the world’s first & the oldest university. It is known as the “Nourishing Mother of Studies” as per the Latin motto & has never been out of service since its establishment, offering diverse programs at all levels. Its famous alums include three popes, multiple business owners, and Italian politicians.



Top Specialisations

Computer science, Civil engineering, Food science & technology, Physics, Oncology, and Agricultural sciences

Annual Tuition Fee

INR 2.26 to 3.11 Lakhs

2. University of Oxford

University of Oxford

Ranking 4th in the QS World University Rankings 2023, this most oldest university in the world caters to a student community of nearly 25,000. Besides, it operates the largest university press worldwide, publishing for three critical markets—research, education, and English language teaching. Moreover, the university’s alumni include 28 UK Prime Ministers, 20 Archbishops of Canterbury, 12 saints, 27 Nobel laureates, 50 Nobel Prize winners, and Sir Stephen Hawking.


United Kingdom

Top Specialisations

Computer science and information technology, Linguistics, Medicine, Natural sciences, etc.

Annual Tuition Fee

INR 26.28 to 40.17 Lakhs

3. University of Salamanca

University of Salamanca

This is the top oldest university in the world that caters to more than 30,000 students. It is known as the “Oxford of Spain” and has six campuses—Historical campus, Campus of Sciences, Campus de Canalejas, Campus Miguel de Unamuno, Campus Ciudad Jardín, and Campus Villamayor.



Top Specialisations

Art and humanities, Sciences, Health Sciences, Social and legal sciences, Engineering and architecture

Annual Tuition Fee

INR 2 to 4 Lakhs

4. University of Paris

University of Paris

In the list of oldest university in the world, the University of Paris is the ancient one in Europe. Even though this university was suspended for 103 years after the French revolution, today, it is scattered throughout France and divided into 13 institutions.



Top Specialisations

Computer Science, Engineering, Health, Social Science and Humanities

Annual Tuition Fee

INR 13,604  to 49,616

5. University of Cambridge

University of Cambridge

Being one of the most ancient university in the world, Cambridge University was developed by a group of scholars who left the University of Oxford due to political reasons. Cambridge’s most notable alumni include Sir Isaac Newton, Alan Turing, Francis Bacon, etc.


United Kingdom

Top Specialisations

Computer science, Engineering, Health, Social science and humanities, Business and economics, Law

Annual Tuition Fee

INR 26.984 to 59.5 Lakhs

6. University of Padua

University of Padua

Ranking among the list of mediaeval universities in Italy, the University of Padua is known for its early research in astronomy, law, medicine, and philosophy. It hosts around 62,500 students, established the Botanical Garden of Padua, and runs nine museums.



Top Specialisations

Agricultural science and veterinary Medicine, Forest Science, Food and health

Annual Tuition Fee

INR 15K to 7.22 Lakhs

7. University of Naples Federico II

University of Naples Federico II

This university ranks 416 in the QS World University Rankings 2023. It is known for providing quality education to about 80,000 students. Its most famous alumni are the Italian presidents Enrico De Nicola, Giovanni Leone and Giorgio Napolitano; mayors of Naples Luigi de Magistris and Gaetano Manfredi; CEO Fabrizio Freda; and philosophers Benedetto Croce/ Nicola Abbagnano.



Top Specialisations

Agriculture, Architecture, Economics, Pharmacy, Law, Engineering, Medicine & Surgery

Annual Tuition Fee

INR 2.53 to 30.2 Lakhs

8. University of Siena

University of Siena

This university has a solid global standing with a QS World University Rankings 2023 of 751-800. It provides education to half of the city’s population with 20,000+ students. Besides, the city is declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is visited by 1 lakh+ tourists every year to enjoy food, art, museums, and mediaeval heritage.



Top Specialisations

Economics, Pharmacy, Law, Engineering, Medicine & surgery, etc.

Annual Tuition Fee

INR 63.87K to 2.3 Lakhs

9. University of Coimbra

University of Coimbra

Among the other oldest universities abroad, this university has a student community of over 24,000. This university has been through various radical reforms, and for decades, in the 18th century, Coimbra was the only operative university. Besides, it has been added to the UNESCO World Heritage List for its cultural traditions, historical setups/buildings, etc.



Top Courses

Art & Humanities, Clinical pre-clinical and health, Engineering & Technology, Life sciences, etc.

Tuition Fee

INR 40K to 19.18 Lakhs

10. Al-Azhar University

Al-Azhar University

This university was initially known as the centre of Islamic learning, but later it developed a modern curriculum, including secular subjects, to ensure survival. This school had seen political instability throughout its course, particularly in the 12th century when a new dynasty destroyed its 1,00,000+ texts. However, now it is ranking at the 1201-1400th position in the QS World University Rankings 2023.



Top Specialisations

Science & Technology, Management and business administration, Arts, Language and humanities, etc.

Annual Tuition Fee

INR 2.05 Lakhs

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Next, look at the list of oldest universities categorised based on top study-abroad destinations.

Oldest Universities in Different Countries

Other than the above-mentioned list of oldest universities in the world, let’s explore the list of oldest universities in Canada, the US, the UK, Australia, Germany, and France with their establishment year.

1. Oldest Universities in Canada

Canada’s 30 universities rank in the QS World University Rankings 2024 among the other 1,392 global universities. This ranking clearly states the country’s academic reputation among international students.

Here is a list of the oldest universities in Canada:

University Name

Establishment Year

Université Laval


University of New Brunswick


The University of King’s College


Saint Mary’s University


Dalhousie University


Université de Saint-Boniface


McGill University


University of Toronto


Acadia University


Mount Allison University


2. Oldest Universities in USA

USA’s 202 universities rank in the QS World University Rankings 2024 among the other 1,220 global universities. Here is a list of the oldest universities in the USA;

University Name

Establishment Year

Harvard University


St. John’s College


Yale University


College of William and Mary


University of Pennsylvania


Moravian College


University of Delaware


Princeton University


Washington and Lee University


Columbia University


3. Oldest Universities in UK

UK’s 15 cities are ranked in the QS Best Student City Rankings 2024 among the other 125 global cities. It clearly states that international students consider the US an affordable and desirable city to pursue their education.

Here are the oldest universities in the UK:

University Name

Establishment Year

University of Oxford


University of Cambridge


University of St Andrews


University of Glasgow


University of Aberdeen


University of Edinburgh


University of Manchester


University College London


University of Durham


Aberystwyth University


4. Oldest Universities in Australia

Australia provides international students with an opportunity to select from 22,000 courses to pursue their higher education. Let’s explore the list of the oldest universities in Australia.

University Name

Establishment Year

University of Sydney


University of Melbourne


Federation University Australia


The University of Adelaide


RMIT University


University of Tasmania


Swinburne University of Technology


The University of Queensland


The University of Western Australia


University of New England, Australia


5. Oldest Universities in Germany

Germany is considered one of the most affordable countries to pursue higher education compared to the quality of education it offers. Besides, it has globally ranked universities/degrees and numerous courses for international students.

Here are the oldest universities in Germany:

University Name

Establishment Year

Heidelberg University


Leipzig University


University of Rostock


University of Greifswald


University of Freiburg


LMU Munich


University of Tübingen


Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg


Philipps-Universität Marburg


Friedrich Schiller University Jena


6. Oldest Universities in France

The country France has a rich culture, gastronomy, architecture, and fantastic student life. Studying here allows international students to learn the language and gain a cultural perspective. Let’s explore its list of oldest universities.

Here are the oldest universities in the France:

University Name

Establishment Year

University of Toulouse


Montpellier University


Grenoble Alpes University


University of Franche-Comte


University of Poitiers


University of Caen Normandy


University of Bordeaux


University of Nantes


University of Western Brittany


University of Reims Champagne-Ardenne


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Now you know which are the oldest universities in the world to pursue higher education. However, after country, course, and university selection, the next step in the study abroad process includes university application, loan/scholarship application, visa application, etc. These steps can be a bit intimidating for first-time study abroad aspirants. But worry not!

As we are here with our Yocket premium service to reduce the hassle. You can subscribe to it, connect with our expert counsellors, and enjoy their personalised/ end-to-end guidance. They will ensure that your study abroad journey becomes smooth from the initial to the final step.

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