The oldest university in the world a madrasah?

Jul 21, 2009

Browsing through a guide book for Poland I came upon the claim that the Cracow Academy is the second oldest university in Europe (and one would presume that meant the second oldest in the world) after Charles University of Prague. I seemed to remember that the oldest university was the University of Bologna so I decided to google it. Turns out I was right, at least when it comes to Europe. But I was suprised to find that there are other competitors for "oldest university in the world".

First, as I found on the List of Oldest Universities that the Guinness Book of World Records considers the University of Al-Karaouine in Morocco to be the oldest continually operating university in the world. Impressive, no? But wait, there are also claims that the University of Sankore in Timbuktu is the oldest university, founded in 989 A.D., although the wikipedia article considers it to be founded in 1324 A.D. Keep in mind we're only talking about continually operating universities, not ancient universities like Nalanda in India.

Of course the idea that a madrasah can be considered a University has been challenged but I don't see why not. What's your opinion? Do you vote for Prague, Bologna, Al-Karaouine or Sankore?

And hey, since we're talking about the oldest, why not mention the northernmost one.