What is the oldest university in the world?
Like many centers of learning, Al-Azhar University was originally intended as a place of worship and religious instruction. The mosque at Al-Azhar is one of the most famous in the Muslim world, and is still considered the seat of Sunni Islamic study.
The university pioneered systems of advanced academic instruction with its hierarchy of regular instructors and visiting professors. Its history follows the turbulent rise of the Islamic Empire, replete with political revolutions and competing religious philosophies. While Al-Azhar University has a storied history of religious instruction, it also boasts a robust secular curriculum, offering advanced degrees in engineering and medicine.
As with all matters medieval, historical facts and figures are up to academic interpretation. Qarawiyyin Mosque in Fez, Morroco, has also laid claim to the title of oldest university in the world.
Europe's oldest university was founded in 1088 in the northern Italian city of Bologna. The United States's oldest university, Harvard, opened in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 1636, not long after the first English colonists arrived in the Massachusetts Bay Colony.
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