Definition The original Latin word "universitas" refers in general to "a number of persons associated into one body, a society, company, community, guild, corporation, etc."[2] At the time of the emergence of urban town life and medieval guilds, specialised "associations of students and teachers with collective legal rights usually guaranteed by charters issued by princes, prelates, or the towns in which they were located" came to be denominated by this general term. Like other guilds, they were self-regulating and determined the qualifications of their members.[3] The original Latin word referred to degree-granting institutions of learning in Western Europe, where this form of legal organisation was prevalent, and from where the institution spread around the world. For non-related educational institutions of antiquity which did not stand in the tradition of the university and to which the term is only loosely and retrospectively applied, see ancient higher-learning institutions. [edit]Academic freedom An important idea in the definition of a university is the notion of academic freedom. The first documentary evidence of this comes from early in the life of the first university. The University of Bologna adopted an academic charter, the Constitutio Habita,[4] in 1158 or 1155,[5] which guaranteed the right of a traveling scholar to unhindered passage in the interests of education. Today this is claimed as the origin of "academic freedom".[6] This is now widely recognised internationally - on 18 September 1988 430 university rectors signed the Magna Charta Universitatum,[7] marking the 900th anniversary of Bologna's foundation. The number of universities signing the Magna Charta Universitatum continues to grow, drawing from all parts of the world. [edit]Medieval universities Main articles: Medieval university and List of medieval universities Area above the Old University of Bologna buildings, founded in 1088 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.[8] The earliest universities were developed under the aegis of the Latin Church, usually from cathedral schools or by papal bull as studia generalia (n.b. The development of cathedral schools into universities actually appears to be quite rare, with the University of Paris being an exception see Leff, Paris and Oxford Universities), later they were also founded by Kings (University of Naples Federico II, Charles University in Prague, Jagiellonian University in Krakow) or municipal administrations (University of Cologne, University of Erfurt). In the early medieval period, most new universities were founded from pre-existing schools, usually when these schools were deemed to have become primarily sites of higher education. Many historians state that universities and cathedral schools were a continuation of the interest in learning promoted by monasteries.[9] The first universities in Europe with a form of corporate/guild structure were the University of Bologna (1088), the University of Paris (c. 1150, later associated with the Sorbonne), the University of Oxford (1167), the University of Palencia (1208), the University of Cambridge (1209), the University of Salamanca (1218), the University of Montpellier (1220), the University of Padua (1222), the University of Naples Federico II (1224), the University of Toulouse (1229),[10][11] the University of Siena (1240). The University of Bologna began as a law school teaching the ius gentium or Roman law of peoples which was in demand across Europe for those defending the right of incipient nations against empire and church. Bolognas special claim to Alma Mater Studiorum[clarification needed] is based on its autonomy, its awarding of degrees, and other structural arrangements, making it the oldest continuously operating institution[5] independent of kings, emperors or any kind of direct religious authority.[12][13] Meeting of doctors at the University of Paris. From a medieval manuscript. The conventional date of 1088, or 1087 according to some,[14] records when a certain Irnerius commences teaching Emperor Justinians 6th century codification of Roman law, the Corpus Iuris Civilis, recently discovered at Pisa. Lay students arrived in the city from many lands entering into a contract to gain this knowledge, organising themselves into Learning Nations of Hungarians, Greeks, North Africans, Arabs, Franks, Germans, Iberians etc. The students had all the power and dominated the masters.[15][16] In Europe, young men proceeded to university when they had completed their study of the triviumthe preparatory arts of grammar, rhetoric and dialectic or logicand the quadrivium: arithmetic, geometry, music, and astronomy. (See Degrees of the University of Oxford for the history of how the trivium and quadrivium developed in relation to degrees, especially in anglophone universities). Universities became popular all over Europe, as rulers and city governments began to create them to satisfy a European thirst for knowledge, and the belief that society would benefit from the scholarly expertise generated from these institutions. Princes and leaders of city governments perceived the potential benefit of having a scholarly expertise develop with the ability to address difficult problems and achieve desired ends. The emergence of humanism was essential to this understanding of the possible utility of universities as well as the revival of interest in knowledge gained from ancient Greek texts.[17] The rediscovery of Aristotle's works - more than 3000 pages of it would eventually be translated - fuelled a spirit of inquiry into natural processes that had already begun to emerge in the 12th century. Some scholars believe that these works represented one of the most important document discoveries in Western intellectual history.[18] Richard Dales, for instance, calls the discovery of Aristotle's works a turning point in the history of Western thought."[19] After Aristotle re-emerged, a community of scholars, primarily communicating in Latin, accelerated the process and practice of attempting to reconcile the thoughts of Greek antiquity, and especially ideas related to understanding the natural world, with those of the church. The efforts of this scholasticism were focused on applying Aristotelian logic and thoughts about natural processes to biblical passages and attempting to prove the viability of those passages through reason. This became the primary mission of lecturers, and the expectation of students.

The university culture developed differently in northern Europe than it did in the south, although the northern (primarily Germany, France and Great Britain) and southern universities (primarily Italy) did have many elements in common. Latin was the language of the university, used for all texts, lectures, disputations and examinations. Professors lectured on the books of Aristotle for logic, natural philosophy, and metaphysics; while Hippocrates, Galen, and Avicenna were used for medicine. Outside of these commonalities, great differences separated north and south, primarily in subject matter. Italian universities focused on law and medicine, while the northern universities focused on the arts and theology. There were distinct differences in the quality of instruction in these areas which were congruent with their focus, so scholars would travel north or south based on their interests and means. There was also a difference in the types of degrees awarded at these universities. English, French and German universities usually awarded bachelor's degrees, with the exception of degrees in theology, for which the doctorate was more common. Italian universities awarded primarily doctorates. The distinction can be attributed to the intent of the degree holder after graduation in the north the focus tended to be on acquiring teaching positions, while in the south students often went on to professional positions.[20] The structure of Northern Universities tended to be modeled after the system of faculty governance developed at the University of Paris. Southern universities tended to be patterned after the student-controlled model begun at the University of Bologna.[21] Scholars like Arnold H. Green and Hossein Nasr have argued that starting in the 10th century, some medieval Islamic madrasahs became universities.[22][23] George Makdisi and others,[24] however, argue that the European university has no parallel in the medieval Islamic world.[25] Courtenay et al. partially critique this view by stating similarities between madrasahs and southern European universities.[26] Other scholars regard the university as uniquely European in origin and characteristics.[27][28] Many scholars (including Makdisi) have argued that early medieval universities were influenced by the religious madrasahs in Al-Andalus, the Emirate of Sicily, and the Middle East (during the Crusades).[29][30][31] Other scholars see this argument as overstated.