The university

The university (from the Latin universitas, -atis: community, corporation, association) is a model of education that originated in the Middle Ages. The institute has its origins in European churches and convents where, around the 11th century, lectures began, with readings and commentary on philosophical and legal texts, and with them, or in general around great ecclesiastical personalities, various categories of teachers and students began to organize themselves into universitates guilds.

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Ancient age

Institutions of this type have existed since ancient times, which can be traced back to the Platonic Academy, the various cultural symposiums present in ancient Greece (the most famous of which are the etheria of Alceo and the tíaso of Sappho) and the Lyceum of Aristotle. In Roman times the forerunner higher education schools of the current universities were those of law (active in Beirito since the second century) organized according to pre-established study cycles (generally lasting four years).

Middle Ages

In the High Middle Ages the Salerno Medical School had great prestige, whose origins date back to the 9th century, considered the first medical-scientific university. During the Middle Ages, and especially in the 12th century, the Church achieved a great intellectual, spiritual and cultural hegemony of the Western world, thanks to the work of rediscovering the classical culture of the ancient Greek-Roman world. In this sense, the work of the monasteries and scribe monks was decisive, but above all also the contact between Europe and the Arab world. Several members of the clergy began to give lectiones magistrales in which they mainly discussed Aristotelian philosophy, the most systematized part of ancient knowledge. This phenomenon spread rapidly in Europe, soon acquiring the character of real assembly meetings, so much attended that they soon required a more rational organization. They were therefore regulated and protected by imperial and papal bulls. The legal status of Clericus vagans and its internal statutes ensured ample freedom of movement for teachers and students of medieval Europe, together with immunity and independence from local powers.

In Bologna, from the institutionalization of one of these first nuclei, the University of Bologna was born, known today as Alma mater studiorum. A certain date of foundation is not known and 1088 was conventionally chosen in the nineteenth century by a committee of historians led by Giosuè Carducci to celebrate its eight hundredth anniversary. A certain date is 1158, when Federico Barbarossa promulgates the constitutio “Authentica Habita”, following which the university becomes a place where research develops independently from any other power. The presence of numerous foreign students in Bologna (non-resident students still make up the majority of the student population) leads to the creation of associations, called “universitates”, set up by students to protect their rights. Thus first two universitates arise, that of the citramontani (or Italians) and that of the ultramontani. With the increase of the students a subdivision is produced first in “nationes” (Romans, Neapolitans, Tuscans and Lombards), then in “subnationes”. The latter amounted to as many as 17 in the 12th century for the Italians and 14 for the ultramontans. According to some historians, moreover, the University of Pavia would still be older than that of Bologna, since it arose from a chair of law present about two hundred years earlier.

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