Who invented College? (Invention Timeline Explained)

You’ve probably already heard about how college is crucial if you want to climb this ladder we call life. If you want more opportunities to succeed, college is undoubtedly the way to go. That said, have you ever wondered where college got its start, and who invented college in the first place? It’s an interesting enough question, as much like everything else, college as a concept had to have been invented first.

If you’re interested in where college got its start and how it’s managed to evolve through the years, you’ve come to the right place! Let’s look into a quick summary and timeline of college development.

Who invented college?

The very first college was invented by Fatima al-Fihri. It’s considered the oldest university on earth, and it’s called the University of al-Qarawiyyin. College in the modern sense got its start from this university!

College’s key contributors (and evolution)

  • Fatima al-Fihri
    Founder of the first college in the world

    University of al-Qarawiyyin was founded by Fatima al-Fihri in 859 AD, which started college in the modern sense.

  • Irnerius
    Purported founder of the University of Bologna

    The oldest university in Europe was said to be founded in 1088 by Irnerius, who was also founder of the School of Glossators — the primary tradition of Medieval Roman Law. 

  • University of Oxford
    The oldest university in the English-speaking world

    The University of Oxford is also known as the 2nd oldest university and college still in operation. There’s currently no concrete information on its founding, with one source citing Alfred the Great as a founder.

  • King Alfonso IX of León
    Founder of the University of Salamanca

    As Spain’s oldest institution of higher learning, the University of Salamanca has always tried to spread the Spanish language throughout the world. These days, it offers the courses you can expect from a modern college.

  • William of Durham
    Founder of the University College

    William of Durham founded the University College in 1249 as a penance for insulting the Bishop of Durham.

When was college invented?

Amazingly enough, Fatima al-Fihri founded the University of al-Qarawiyyin in 859 AD! As the first institution for higher learning anywhere in the world, it predates the founding of the next college university by over a hundred years.

A brief history of college

As far as what college means in the modern sense, it’s any kind of institution that offers vocational and tertiary education to students. As far as the differences between colleges and universities go, the former is usually smaller, offering undergraduate degrees. Universities are much larger, and offer a more complete education. Universities and colleges are interchangeable as usually college is part of the university curriculum.

One of the funniest age-old questions is as follows: Did the man who invented college go to college? It’s meant to be a head-scratcher, since there’s no way the man who invented college went to college in the same sense. However, it’s wrong in more ways than one.

The very first person to found the concept of a modern college isn’t even a male — her name was Fatima al-Fihri, and she founded the University of al-Qarawiyyin in 859 AD. It’s amazing that the concept of college was formulated in such an early period of history. As far as the oldest college institutions go, they also happen to be called universities.

After the University of al-Qarawiyyin, came the University of Bologna, considered to be the oldest educational institution and college in all of Europe as it was founded in 1088. The University of Oxford goes next, though its founding is more shrouded in mystery. It’s unsure precisely when it was founded, though some say it was founded as early as 1096. The University of Salamanca is next as the oldest educational institution in Spain — established in 1134.

The University College was founded by William of Durham in 1249, though his reasons for doing so are pretty unorthodox by today’s standard. He founded the college as a means of penance, as he had insulted the Bishop of Durham!

Colleges and educational institutions have been around for a long time, and their importance can’t be stressed enough. Everyone with the means should strive for a higher education!

The college timeline

  1. 859
    The University of al-Qarawiyyin

    Fatima al-Fihri founded the University of al-Qarawiyyin in 859 AD, making it the very first college

  2. 1088
    The University of Bologna

    The University of Bologna was founded in 1088, making it the oldest educational institution in Europe

  3. 1096
    The University of Oxford

    The University of Oxford was founded in 1096, or at least, it was purported to have been founded as early as 1096.

  4. 1134
    The University of Salamanca

    King Alfonso IX of León founded the University of Salamanca in 1134. Its focus was to spread the Spanish language all over the world, though it has grown significantly since.

  5. 1249
    University College

    The University College was William Durham’s attempt at building bridges with the Bishop of Durham in 1249.

Where was college invented?

The very first college was founded in Morocco by Fatima al-Fihri. It’s pretty mind blowing when you consider just how old the first college was, having been founded in 859 AD!

The importance of college

  • Long-term financial gain

    One of the primary reasons why college is so important to society is that it can open the doors to long-term financial gain. While it takes plenty of effort, it’s well worth it. 

  • Climbing the varied career ladder

    Going hand-in-hand with financial gain, going to college gives you the chance to climb the career ladder however you want. There are so many different courses to take that you’re practically spoiled for choice!

  • How the college community helps you be a better citizen

    There’s a surprising number of college graduates who get into volunteer work. It’s mainly due to how college students learn to work together and understand how their actions benefit society as a whole.

  • A platform for higher learning

    Aside from teaching you to be a better citizen and providing long-term financial gain, the best thing about going to college is it’s a platform for higher learning. Everything you take from college you can apply in daily life in one way or another. Never underestimate just how much college can help you thrive!

College by the numbers

  • 70The percentage of American students that go to college. Overall, it’s an increase of students over the years compared to the 63% in the 2000s.
  • 56.71Canada’s considered to be the most educated country based on various sources. In Canada, 56.71% of people meet the criteria.
  • 96.1The graduation rate of Harvard University is a whopping 96.1%.
  • 27South Sudan is currently known as the country with the lowest literacy rate. Such is the reason why a higher education is so crucial, as the more people go to college, the easier it is for humanity to make progress.

Five facts about college

  • Requirements for graduation

    The length it takes to graduate from college depends largely on the institution and the course. An associate degree will usually take 2 years to graduate, whereas the bachelor’s degree can take 4 years. However, the requirements are becoming stricter, which means 5 years for bachelor’s degrees will become the norm.

  • The results of competition

    There’s no denying that the competition for colleges can be quite fierce. It’s easy for a college to get swept away and overshadowed, which is why so many educational institutions have modern amenities such as swimming pools and theaters.

  • Going green

    Sustainability is becoming more and more of a hot topic these days, particularly when it comes to green living. College campuses have a habit of going green, including recycling programs and clean energy.

  • The totally online experience

    Surprisingly enough, college has grown to the point where you can potentially earn your degree online without ever having to go to the campus. It’s become especially commonplace due to the recent pandemic.

  • Gender-specific educational institutions

    As far as women’s colleges go, there are about 60 in the United States. On the other hand, all men’s colleges have gone down to about 4 left in the country.

FAQ about college

  • Why should I go to college?

    The simple answer is that college is one of the best ways you can go through life. It gives you all the opportunities you need when it comes to career satisfaction, long-term financial gain, and so much more. 

  • What course should I take?

    The best part about going to college is you can take whatever course you like based on the educational institution. While there might be some limitations based on the area, there’s no denying that you have plenty to choose from. It all depends on what course strikes your fancy.

  • What are the consequences of failing?

    Unfortunately, a failing grade can hurt your chances of getting into graduate school. It could also potentially hurt your odds of graduating when you want to. That said, don’t fret, as you can always bounce back!

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