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There are usually two different opinions: the first group considers the University of Bolgona to be officially the first one, some others instead claim that there might have been other groups of students in the eastern world before.

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I found this wikipedia page really useful. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/… It explains that the U. of Bologna is indeed the oldest, and why older institutions cannot be considered universities. Try to improve the questions explaining e.g. who these groups are. Good start! –  astabada Jan 2 '13 at 10:50
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Yes, it can. Your question says that some people consider it the first University. What are you really asking? If you want to support your opinion that UoB is the oldest, then ask for evidence. –  Mark C. Wallace Jan 2 '13 at 11:48

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The criteria of inclusion in that list is quite arbitrary. For example, University of Constantinople (Pandidacterium) was established in 425. It much better resembled modern institution than the University of Bologna because it had fixed curriculum and state funding.

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What does funding source have to do with defining an institution as a university? Bologna was funded by tuition, Paris by the Church, and for that matter, Harvard by John Harvard. –  choster Jan 3 '13 at 3:55
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@choster initially Bologna was not a specific institution, they even had no building. There were some students who hired the teachers. Conversely Pandidacterium from the beginning was an educational institution that hired the lecturers and gave diplomas to the graduates. –  Anixx Jan 3 '13 at 8:54
    
@Anixx Apparently the Pandidacterium cannot be considered a university because it lacked the "corporative structure of medieval universities". A majority of sources seems to agree on this point, but Wikipedia also reports one source with somewhat opposite opinion. –  astabada Jan 3 '13 at 9:34
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@astabada most of modern universities also do mot have medieval corporate structure. That's why I said that Pandidacterium more resembled a modern university than a medieval one. –  Anixx Jan 3 '13 at 9:36
    
@Anixx I totally agree on that. I just find it strange how most scholars seem to agree on the fact that Bologna was the first (see e.g. books.google.it/…, pag. 35). It's not like we're talking about a controversial subject... Or not? –  astabada Jan 3 '13 at 9:44

So I think these kinds of questions are problematic since they rely on a very specific definition that seems to exclude other traditions. As an easterner I find such claims in Wikipedia that the University is a "European institution par excellence" myopic and rooted in a misguided tradition of them v.s us, rather than seeing world history as one common thread.

Consider for example the Academy of Gondishapur, of which the medical school had exams, required doctors to study and train in hospitals, and conferred degrees that qualified doctors to practice medicine. This university existed from around 500 CE till just around 900 CE. In addition it had centers for study of mathematics, astronomy, theology, dentistry, philosophy, military commandership, architecture, craftsmanship, agriculture and irrigation, and geometry. It's methods were widely emulated in Islamic universities, including those in Spain and Sicily that almost definitely influenced European schools. Note, for example, that Avicenna's treatise on medicine (~900CE) which, was the main canon of medicine in Europe and the Islamic world until 1700, was likely heavily influenced from the knowledge and learning bequeathed by Gondishapur.

Yet, I would hesitate to name Gondishapur as the first since this institution had Greek, Indian, Jewish and Chinese scholars who perhaps had come from institutions of their own. So I think a more constructive approach to these subjects, is rather than claim who is first, which at best is extremely hard to define, to consider how an institution has evolved.

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