Medieval Universities

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Medieval Education: The Histor
Higher education plays a major part in today's society. Expected to continue their education beyond high school, many students attend four-year universities and colleges. The emergence of such higher education was first recorded in Europe during the Middle Ages. The origins and characteristics of these medieval universities as well as details of the students and their masters (professors) will be thoroughly discussed in the following paragraphs. These universities became the foundation of and models for the higher education of today.

The Latin word universitas, or university, first appeared in the Latin text of Cicero, the word meaning the whole of mankind or the human race. The word gained educational meaning when the corporation of Paris masters and students first used universitas in 1221 to define the organized society of the entire body of masters and students. But even then the meaning of university was different. Unlike today's university, the medieval universities referred to the students and masters rather than to a building or specific place. This is mainly due to the fact that the early universities did not own buildings but used rented rooms or available rooms loaned by the church as their classrooms (Previte-Orton 622). This flexibility also gave the university the power to secede from their town during a dispute with the townspeople, a strategy used often by the scholars who were often in need of protection (Thompson and Johnson 725).

Several conditions provided the way for the establishment of the university during the thirteenth century. The communal movement, or the migration of people to cities, and the formation of guilds provided a model for the scholastici, or scholars, to follow when forming universities. The existence of cathedral and canonical schools provided scholars and teaching material needed to begin such a university. The discovery and emergence of new disciplines and school manuals, translations of works, contact with the Arab world, the discovery of Aristotle's treatises on logic, known as the Organon, and the revival of Roman Law also contributed to the rise of the university (Gabriel 282).

The university followed two main types of organization: 1) the magisterial type of Paris, and 2) the student-university type of Bologna. At the University of Paris, the teachers or masters, referred to as the honestas societas or honorable society by Alexander Neckham in 1180, were the powers of the university. The chancellor granted teaching licenses to students, but the society instituted the requirements a student must fulfill to gain the title of master. Initially opposed to the new independent corporation, the papacy ultimately approved the university with Pope Innocent III's acknowledgment of the "community of masters'" right to act as a corporation around 1208 to 1209. An important feature of the University of Paris was its dominant position of the faculty of arts, considered there to be the mother of the higher faculties of saluberrima (medicine), consultissima (cannon law), and sacrtissima (theology). The Paris archetype was followed with slight modification by almost all the universities of Northern Europe (Gabriel 283).

The second archetype was the student-university type of Bologna. The University of Bologna ultimately formed two universitates, one organization for Italian students and one for foreign students. These student organizations were originally formed for protection but eventually took over the supervision of the teaching with much protest from the doctors, or professors, of the school (Hyde 311).

Bologna had been known as a center for legal studies during the second half of the twelfth century. Its fame increased due to the famous masters the city acquired as well as its teaching of Roman Law, which was forbidden in France and England in 1219. The university also offered lectures on practical sciences, such as the art of...
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