The Latin word «universitas» refers in general to «a number of persons associated into one body: a society, company, community, guild or coporation. When medieval guilds appeared some associations of students and teachers emerged with legal rights guaranteed by the charters issued by princes, towns and high chuch authorities.
Related to the concept of university is the idea of academic freedom. The University of Bologna in its academic charter guranteed the right of traveling scholar to cross without limitations different areas in the interests of education.
The universities had its origins in Christian cathedral schools and monastic schools where monks and nuns taught classes. However, the development of cathedral schools into universities was quite rare, with the University of Paris being an exception. Later they were also founded by Kings or municipal administrations. In the Early Middle Ages, most new universities were founded from pre-existing schools. The first univiersities in Europe with a guild structure were the Universities of Bologna, the University of Paris (the Sorbonne) and the University of Oxford.
In Europe, those who attended to university had complete the Trivium (Grammar, Rhetoric and Logic) and Quadrivium (Arithmetic, geometry, music and astronomy)
Italian universities focused on law and medicine, while the northern universities focused on the arts and theology. English, French and German universities usually awarded bachelor’s degrees. Italian universities awarded primarily doctorates.
All over Europe rulers and city governments began to create universities to satisfy a European need of knowledge. The emergence of humanism was essential to this understanding of the possible utility of universities as well as the revival of interest in knowledge gained from ancient Greek texts.
The rediscovery of Aristotel´s s works–more than 3000 pages of it would eventually be translated–fuelled a spirit of inquiry into natural processes that had already begun to emerge in the 12th century.
The university culture developed differently in northern Europe than it did in the south, although the northern (primarily Germany, France and Great Britain) and southern universities (primarily Italy) did have many elements in common. Latin was the language of the university, used for all texts, lectures, disputations and examinations.