The University of Bologna was founded in 1088 in Bologna, Italy. It is the oldest university still in operation today. It was founded as an educational institution that would allow free teaching independent from ecclesiastic schools. The earliest recorded scholar of the University was Irnerius, who catalogued Roman legal materials. In the course of the 11th century, the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick I Barbarossa became a major protector of the school. The Holy Roman Empire also took the responsibility to ensure that scholars travelling to study would be free from intrusion from all political authorities. The university was established as a place where thinking and research would take place independently.
The history of the University of Bologna reflected general historical changes. The university fought for its autonomy from any religious and political power during the first two centuries of its history. At first, it concentrated on teaching canon and civil law, but gradually expanded its horizon. In the 14th century, the teaching of theology was instituted, then in the 15th century, Greek and Hebrew studies, as well as experimental sciences were instituted. By then the University of Bologna had already become a renowned university in Europe. Later during the Industrial Revolution, the university promoted and encouraged scientific and technological development and studies. Interestingly, the first study of plastic surgery took place in the university in the 16th century, and one of the persons who founded modern electrotechnology, Luigi Galvani, conducted his research at the university in the 18th century.
The University of Bologna offers diplomas, undergraduate, graduate (both Masters and PhD), in over 200 programs. More than 80,000 students are enrolled as of 2015. It has 11 schools, including the School of Law, Engineering and Architecture, Arts and Humanities, Medicine and Surgery, Foreign Languages and Literature, Sciences, Economics, Political Sciences, Psychology and Education, Pharmacy, and Agriculture; 33 departments, and 5 campuses. In addition, it also hosts 9 Research and Training Centers, such as the Interdepartmental Centers for Industrial Research, Center for Advanced Studies in Tourism, and the Advanced School of Studies on the City and Territory.
The University of Bologna is internationally recognized as a world class university. It has been ranked as the best Italian university five years in a role by the Italian newspaper La Repubblica. The QS World University Rankings has ranked it in the range between 150 to 200 for the past ten years, and ranked its Law School as within the top 40 in the world. Times New Higher Education shows similar results: the University of Bologna was ranked in the range between 276 and 300 in the world in 2014. Many degree programs are taught in English to attract international students.
Through its incredibly long history, the University of Bologna is home to many notable and accomplished alumni. Many popes, including Alexander VI, Innocent IX, Gregory XII, and Gregory XV attended there. Renowned scientists such as the founder of the discipline of toxicology Paracelsus, the pioneer of plastic and reconstructive surgery Gasparo Tagliacozzi, and the pioneer in the study of electromagnetism Ausuto Righi, all went there. Today, it is alma mater of many Italian politicians, activists, and celebrities.