50 A University Education 1088 THE MODERN university is a sanctuary for the learned, a place where the wise can pass on knowledge to the next generation. It is also a zoo, full of loudmouths and know-it-alls. And it was ever thus: The first university was founded not only for students but also by them.
There have always been centers of learning--schools of philosophy in Greece, medicine in India, literature and art in China. But the university as we know it today--a secular degree-granting institution with at least one professional school attached--began in Bologna, Italy, in 1088. First came the law school: Scholars pored over Roman law, adapting it to contemporary needs--a vital contribution to the organization of European society. Next came recognition of the institution itself: When Bolognese landlords threatened to raise scholars' rents, student protests led Emperor Frederick Barbarossa to award them protection from exploitation in 1158. Students also made professors sign contracts to deliver lectures on particular subjects--and promise to remain at the school until the end of the term. Soon professors needed a license to teach (the earliest academic degree), and a real university was born.