The idea and concepts of The University – began in The Middle Ages. Schools had existed for centuries (as did Academies for higher learning). However, formalized and structured organizations created for the purpose of “educating” a group of Scholars in specific “disciplines” - different from Theological Schools and Colleges – did not come into being until the 13th Century. The University was actually a LEGALLY recognized entity. They were structured much as a “modern” Corporation would be. The University was separate from any other Institutions (and stood on it's own merits). While Religious Schools offered learning in Theology and Religious Law (and some other subjects) – The University prepared Students for specific professions.
Many Islamic Nations and Kingdoms had already produced University systems (with regards to Islamic Law Schools and those of Medicine). Their Sciences too had formal Universities (as early as the 8th Century). Still, many of these “Universities” were STILL controlled by The Church (or governing religious body). Their attraction was focused on vast and well stocked Libraries (critical for the Learned few). Colleges (which appeared some time for the formal University) – first emerged (not as Schools) – by residences for Scholars and Students. They received their funding from outside sources (mostly well-heeled Royalty or Nobles wishing their “own” to be so well educated). Gradually, these “residences” developed courses of study (although still not as robust as the future University). The first “real” University was established in Paris, France in 1221 A.D.
Following the model of local Government, the example of The Guild was also used. Specific “experts” in various Fields and Professions were recruited to “teach” others. Soon, The University of Paris was authorized to issue “”Certificates and Diplomas” of completion in Medicine, Law and The Arts. Innovative, Paris still fell under control of The Catholic Church (whose control was still felt). IF the Church decided a subject was TOO controversial – it could create enough “pressure” to have the Subject “banned”. As more and more Students from different lands (and ideas) came to Paris University – even their power waned their. In Italy, experiments with “Student Supported” Universities were attempted. The “idea” of Students paying for their tuition would defray many costs. It also gave Students the power to control WHO they wanted to teach them. If they felt a Teacher or Instructor was ill-prepared (or not an expert), they could withhold payment to the School! It was effective.
Soon England developed their own University system with Oxford University. It was a combination of “Student and Government” supported Institution (which seemed to work) – in the later 12th Century. Much different than today''s system – Student entered University at 14 years of age. They were required to live their for their tenure. They were taught a set “standard” of The Liberal Arts and various forms of Grammar and Styling. They would “learn” Arithmetic, Geometry, Astronomy and Music. It would normally take 6 years to complete this arrangement. For an additional 2 years, The Student was taught Debate (to show what he had learned and how to “defend” his Profession). 2 “examinations” were given. By this time the Student was 22 and was issued a Bachelor of Arts “Degree”. From there, to attain a “Masters Degree” - required 1 more year of “advanced study” in one's chosen profession and the applied “mastery” of such. In cases of Law and Medicine – MANY more years were to follow. Universities were set up in makeshift homes and locations originally. Churches and Monasteries were often used. Eventually, separate buildings and facilities would be constructed for their exclusive use. Over time, The University would become a self-contained entity.