History of College Education

Medieval Universities And Higher Learning Education

Education History

History of Medieval Education, Middle Ages European Learning

Below is a background review of the history of college education, medieval universities and higher learning education in the university and schools setting in europe, and origin and timeline information on the evolution of education in that system.

Excerpt from "Academical Dress in New Zealand", 2000, Chap 2: Mediæval Education,
by Noel Cox, LLM(Hons) MA PhD GradDipTertTchg FRHistS FBS, Barrister of the High Court of New Zealand, Professor of Law, and Discipline Chairman of Law, Faculty of Business, Auckland University of Technology, New Zealand

The mediæval higher education system was markedly different from that with which we are familiar today. Latin was the language of instruction throughout the middle ages, and beyond. Generally speaking the university scholar was a cleric, that is a man in holy orders, or at least one who had received the tonsure.(1) Many however did not advance beyond deacon and forsook the religious vocation for a secular career.

In its developed form in the thirteenth century, academic studies began with a student embarking, often at no more than 13 or 16 years of age,(2) on the trivium. This comprised the study of Latin grammar (including literature), rhetoric(3) (which also covered law(4)) and logic (or dialectic). Once the structure of the university was firmly established, the completion of these studies after some four to seven years(5) was formally marked by the awarding of the degree of Bachelor of Arts (baccalaureate or bicentiate).(6)

The baccalaureate was regarded as being only a preliminary step to the mastership(7) (later variously called master,(8) doctor or professor(9)). The awarding of the baccalaureate could be followed by the course of studies known as the quadrivium. This involved the study of arithmetic, geometry (including geography and natural history), music (chiefly that of the Church), and astronomy (to which astrology was often added). This was normally followed by Hebrew, and Greek philosophy and history. After at least three years of study the degree of Master of Arts was awarded.(10) The mastership originally meant no more than a certificate of fitness to teach at a university.

The study of the quadrivium and trivium (which was the more important of the two) comprised the basis of the curriculum of the mediæval monastic schools by the beginning of the eleventh century,(11) and was from the beginning the essence of the university education. They were not taught because they were merely useful or practical. The study of the "seven liberal arts", as the subjects taught in the course of the trivium and quadrivium were called, was what were thought suitable for the development of intellectual and moral excellence.(12)

Several years as a teaching master (or regent as they were called at Oxford) was frequently required before a student was admitted to one of the higher faculties, to commence the seven or eight years required to obtain the degree of a higher faculty, whether called doctorate, masterate or baccalaurate.(13)

Degrees in divinity (Bachelor of Divinity (BD), Doctor of Divinity (DD)), law (Bachelor of Civil Law (BCL), Doctor of Civil Law (DCL) at Oxford, Bachelor of Laws (LLB), Doctor of Laws (LLD) at Cambridge),(14) and medicine(15) (Bachelor of Medicine (BM), Doctor of Medicine (DM) at Oxford, Bachelor of Medicine (MB), Doctor of Medicine (MD) at Cambridge) were awarded. Music, as a subject in which degrees could be awarded, was post-mediæval.(16)

Whichever degree was possessed, students and graduates alike wore costumes which identified them as members of an academical community.

(1) Franklyn, Charles, "Academical Dress- a brief sketch from the twelfth to the twentieth century, with especial reference to doctors" in (1946-7) 9(2) Oxford 78; Lacey, Rev'd TA, "The Ecclesiastical Habit in England" (1900) 4 Transactions of the St Paul's Ecclesiological Society 126, 129-30.

(2) This point has proved somewhat contentious, as Dr Hastings believed that while a student might enter the University of Paris at 14 years of age, so as to qualify as a master at the minimum age of 20, some may have entered much younger. For a contrary opinion see Daly, Lowrie, The Mediæval University, 1200-1400 (Sheed and Ward, New York, 1961) 126.

(3) Largely a study of Aristotle.

(4) With the reception of the Roman law into the common law systems of Europe, the works studied were usually Gratian's Decretum and Justinian's Corpus Juris Civilis. In England the reception took place later, and did not have as great an effect. Consequently, the education of the English legal profession was based on practical on-the-job training, supplemented by very occasional public lectures. To practice in the superior courts in England it was, and remains, necessary to become a member of one of the four Inns of Court [Lincoln's Inn, the Inner Temple, the Middle Temple and Gray's Inn], which were in effect the common lawyers' universities. Only the advocates, who practised in ecclesiastical and admiralty law, obtained legal training at the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge.

(5) For details of the curriculum studied see Hastings, Very Rev'd Rashdall, The Universities of Europe in the Middle Ages (first published 1895, new ed FM Powicke & AB Emden, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1936) vol 3 p 153-4.

(6) The first recorded award of the baccalaaureate was at Paris, in 1231; Lockmiller, David, Scholars on Parade (Macmillan, Toronto, 1964) 209.

(7) At Paris and derivative universities, the title magister (or master) prevailed in theology, medicine and arts, while professor was fairly frequent. Doctor was more rarely used, though common before the rise of universities and again in the fifteenth century. At Bologna, lawyers were generally styled "doctor", and Paris followed suit. In the fifteenth century doctors at Oxford were confined to the superior faculties of law, medicine and theology, and masters to arts and grammar. In Italy doctor soon spread from law to all faculties, and the same eventually happened in Germany. See Hastings, Very Rev'd Rashdall, The Universities of Europe in the Middle Ages (first published 1895, new ed FM Powicke & AB Emden, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1936) vol 1 p19-20.

(8) The Licentiate was a student qualified for the masterate but as yet without the necessary regency, or period of teaching. This was two years from inception.

(9) Since a man had to have acquired, at least in theory, a degree of master of arts before commencing the study of these disciplines, the doctor or professor was regarded as being a more senior degree than that of master. The so-called "Doctor of Philosophy", a research degree, dates, in the United Kingdom, with the exception of the the universities of St Andrews and Edinburgh, only from after the First World War; Haycraft, Frank, The Degrees and Hoods of the World's Universities and Colleges revised and enlarged by EW Scobie Stringer (4th ed, The Cheshunt Press, Cheshunt, Hertfordshire, 1948, first published 1923) 1. The DPhil is taken even today at Oxford to include the MA.

(10) In the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries less than half of the matriculated students proceeded to the BA, and much less than half of these completed the MA. For several centuries it has been customary at Oxford and Cambridge to advance to the MA after a prescribed number of terms. In Oxford a fee of £10 is payable, and about a third of BAs pay this to receive the higher degree; at Cambridge there is no fee, and more than half of BAs apply for the degree. At Dublin it is £112, so fewer BAs are likely to advance to the senior degree.

(11) Lucas, Christopher, Our Western Educational Heritage (Macmillan Publishing Co Inc, New York, 1972) 209.

(12) After 1431, in an attempt to make the curriculum more relevant to contemporary students, Oxford taught the seven liberal arts and the three philosophies (moral, natural, and metaphysical).

(13) Hay, Denys, Europe in the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Centuries (first published 1966, 2nd ed Longman, New York, 1989) 363. The style depended upon the faculty.

(14) At Oxford, Bachelors of Canon Law were styled BCanL, and Doctors of Canon Law DCanL (or Doctor of Decrees, the Decretorum Doctor). The Bachelors and Doctors of Civil Law, the sole type remaining, are styled BCL and DCL, the former being licencia legendi aliqina cursorie in iure ciuli. At Cambridge, the one degree included both canon law and civil law, as LLB and LLD stand for Bachelor of Laws. Though canon law is no longer taught (being indeed prohibited in 1535), the style remains unchanged.

(15) The Faculty of Physic only developed at Oxford as late as c.1450-c.1500.

(16) Cambridge MusB 1500-1; Oxford BMus 1505. The degree of doctor of music was introduced in Oxford in 1515 (the first recipient being Robert Porret or Perrot), and in Cambridge in 1463 (for Thomas Saintwix or Saint Just). Trinity College Dublin introduced the doctorate in music in 1615.

The above excerpt was reprinted with permission of copyright owner.

About Us | Site Map | Privacy Policy | Contact Us | ©2007 Academic Church and Choir Gown Mfg. Co., Inc.