A university is a college or school that offers undergraduate or graduate degrees. It can be a public or private institution. Universities are usually among the leading research institutions in a society. Some colleges may be controlled by a religious or political authority.
The word universitas derives from the Latin words for nourishing mother. The first European medieval universities were established in France, Italy, and England. The studies of these schools ranged from arts to medicine, law, and theology.
In the nineteenth century, the German university model spread throughout the world. The Halle University in Germany, for example, renounced orthodoxy and promoted rational inquiry. Its innovations were adopted by most German universities and many American universities.
In the twentieth century, American universities were besieged by big business, political passivity, and naiveté. In an attempt to make universities more relevant to contemporary life, some scholars have argued that they need to move beyond national subjects.
The early studia, or university, arose out of efforts to educate monks and clerks outside the cathedral schools. These universities did not have a physical campus. Classes were held in a church or home. The university’s curriculum included theology, music, astronomy, mathematics, and arithmetic.
By the nineteenth century, religion was not a major part of the curriculum. In fact, the earliest schools were largely open to students from all over Europe. Catholics could study at the university as long as they met the required age. They were protected by the clergy and did not suffer corporal punishment.