Did they have entrance tests? Were certain groups officially banned from entering? How much did one have to pay? Did they have scholarships for talented studends? How these criteria differed between countries and over time?

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    I'm waiting for the Niccolo Machiavelli School of Management...
    – smci
    Aug 24, 2015 at 7:44
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    Medieval Europe covers a huge geographical and chronological span but the basic answer is that initially they were open to anyone who could pay. Aug 11, 2017 at 13:30

1 Answer 1


More details can be found in the related Wikipedia article.

University students typically had one of three sponsors:

  1. their own (wealthy) families
  2. the church
  3. the crown

The admissions criteria and payments were set by the respective sponsors.

That is the church and crown had their own "feeder" schools, and chose the best students of these to take university degrees, and generally paid for the students' education. These choices were made on the basis of public policy.

Wealthy families might "home school" their children, perhaps hiring tutors affiliated with universities, then sending those children to whichever universities would accept them, with the family paying the way.

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    I didn't understand "The admissions criteria and payments were set by the respective sponsors". Doesn't the university determine its own admission criteria?
    – Vanessa
    Oct 15, 2011 at 15:52
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    @Squark: You're thinking in today's terms, with "private" universities. In those days, universities were "established," or at least heavily sponsored by either the king or the church. As such, the sponsors had so many seats (let's say, 70 out of 100), that were reserved for young men (never women) that they wanted to train for their own purpose. Wealthy private individuals jockeyed for a handful of remaining seats.
    – Tom Au
    Oct 15, 2011 at 16:39
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    From Wiki: "Universities were generally structured along three types, depending on who paid the teachers. The first type was in Bologna, where students hired and paid for the teachers. The second type was in Paris, where teachers were paid by the church. Oxford and Cambridge were predominantly supported by the crown and the state, a fact which helped them survive the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1538 and the subsequent removal of all the principal Catholic institutions in England. ..."
    – Cerberus
    Oct 26, 2011 at 2:28
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    " ... These structural differences created other characteristics. At the Bologna university the students ran everything—a fact that often put teachers under great pressure and disadvantage. In Paris, teachers ran the school; thus Paris became the premiere spot for teachers from all over Europe. Also, in Paris the main subject matter was theology, so control of the qualifications awarded was in the hands of an external authority - the Chancellor of the diocese. In Bologna, where students chose more secular studies, the main subject was law." I believe the Bologna model was/became quite common.
    – Cerberus
    Oct 26, 2011 at 2:28
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    P.S. Universities in most of continental Europe are still controlled by the state and by no means private, some more directly than others. That is why tuition fees are usually between zero and about a tenth of those in America.
    – Cerberus
    Oct 26, 2011 at 2:29

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