I am specifically interested in information related to: the University of Bologna, the University of Paris, and the University of Oxford.

From what I have been able to find so far universities were created as an extension of the learning tradition embodied in monasteries. However, this doesn't really get to the why of the question. That explanation just seems to assert that they were a continuation of that sort of tradition.

My question then is, what was the demand during this time period for these institutions of higher learning to be erected? Did the sovereigns of the time period wish for their to be a more educated class? Was there some source of demand for a degree as proof of one's education? I'm looking for academic sources that can shine light on these questions.

  • 1
    Could you please try to modify this question so that it can be answered more concretely? We do not want to have questions that invite or require speculation for answers. StackExchange is about finding clear and concise answers, not opening dialogue or inviting debate. history.stackexchange.com/faq Commented Apr 9, 2012 at 17:38
  • @StevenDrennon I made the question more concrete confining it in time, and specific school. I think this will narrow answers to a much more manageable level, less speculative level.
    – ihtkwot
    Commented Apr 9, 2012 at 18:35

2 Answers 2


All about the money. As merchants and trade became important you needed lawyers, to learn law you had to go and find a teacher. The teachers hung around in towns that had important trade links (Paris, N. Italy, Oxford) and the students turned up looking for the teachers.

Gradually instead of hanging around in bars and seedy rooming houses the students and teachers organised themselves into colleges, gradually they attracted rich and royal patrons who built nicer buildings (with bars).

The religous links to early universities are more that canon (church) law was the law and so lawyers had learned it first, than universities growing directly out of cathedral schools.

The middle ages was remarkably litigous, with land being the main store/source of money and inheritence/marriage/divorce being a big source of arguements - people were suing each other in ways that even the modern USA would think was a bit excesive. To the point when to run your father's woolen business you needed a law degree.

  • +1 - Not sure if this is true, but I like the story. Now about that cherry tree...
    – T.E.D.
    Commented Apr 9, 2012 at 13:34

Actually, the universities were NOT an outgrowth of monasteries, but rather of the schools attached to great cathedrals. The difference is important, because this meant they were run by the secular clergy and not monks.


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