BusinessDay

The world’s four oldest universities are in Africa

Tunisia, Morocco, Egypt and Mali are the top four countries with the oldest universities in the world that still operate today, a new research report from Erudera, the world’s first education search platform backed by Artificial Intelligence shows.

According to the report, the finding is different from what many would have expected, for the oldest university in the world to be located somewhere in the territories of ancient Greece or Europe.

Gent Ukehajdaraj from Erudera, who led the research, pointed out that the value of Tunisia’s Ez-Zitouna University is even bigger than one may think; given the many wars the country has gone through.

“The Ez-Zitouna University has survived the Mahdia campaign, the Eighth Crusade, the Conquest of Tunis, as well as the Morean War, in addition to the Tunisian Civil war and more than 10 other wars that took place in the Tunisian territory from the 18th century and on,” Ukëhajdaraj said.

He also highlighted the fact that in spite of Africa being a pioneer in the establishment of first world universities, the majority of African countries fell behind in this regard, with 43 out of the 54 African countries with a university only in the second half of the 20th century and later.

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BusinessDay analysis of the report shows that Tunisia’s Ez-Zitouna University was founded in 737AD followed by Morocco’ s Al Quaraouiyine University in 859 AD, EgyptAl-Azhar University in 970 AD and Mali’s Sankore Mosque and University was founded in 989 AD.

The bottom five from the top oldest universities are from European region namely, Italy’s University of Bologna established in 1088, United Kingdom’s University of Oxford was in 1096, Spain’s University of Salamanca was founded in 1134, France’s University of Montpellier was in 1220 and Portugal’s University of Coimbra was established in 1290.

On how the methodology of the research was done, analysts said they manually researched and verified the oldest universities for 197 countries.

“We collected the data using multiple sources, but mostly based on Erudera’s list of universities, which is the largest university database as of right now, and we verified the data by consulting official university websites, education departments, and ministries, as well as other expert sources for countries that we did not have accurate data,” they added.

The report also highlighted that the Al Quaraouiyine University in Morocco was founded by a woman, Fatima al-Fihri, who is believed to have used the money inherited from her father to build the Al-Qarawiyyin Mosque, which subsequently developed a teaching institution and later became the University of al-Qarawiyyin.

Furthermore, Mali’s Sankore Mosque and University were founded by Mansa Musa, who is often described as the wealthiest individual in all human history.

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