University of Bologna
Alma Mater Studiorum – Università di Bologna
Latin: Universitas Bononiensis
MottoPetrus ubique pater legum Bononia mater[1] (Latin)
Motto in English
St. Peter is everywhere the father of the law, Bologna is its mother
TypePublic research university
Establishedc. 1088; 936 years ago (1088)
Academic affiliations
Coimbra Group
European Universities Association
Guild of European Research-Intensive Universities
International Association of Universities
Scholars at Risk
Una Europa
Mediterranean Universities Union
Utrecht Network
RectorGiovanni Molari
Academic staff
Administrative staff

44°29′38″N 11°20′34″E / 44.49389°N 11.34278°E / 44.49389; 11.34278
CampusUniversity town
103 hectares (256 acres)
NewspaperUNIBO Magazine
Colours  Red
Sports teamsCUS Bologna (in Italian)

The University of Bologna (Italian: Alma Mater Studiorum – Università di Bologna, abbreviated Unibo) is a public research university in Bologna, Italy. Founded in 1088 by an organised guild of students (studiorum), it is the oldest university in continuous operation in the world, and the first degree-awarding institution of higher learning. At its foundation, the word universitas was first coined.[3][4] The university's emblem carries the motto, Alma Mater Studiorum ("Nourishing mother of studies"), the date A.D. 1088.[5] With over 90,000 students, the University of Bologna is one of the largest universities in Europe.

The university saw the first woman to earn a university degree and teach at a university, Bettisia Gozzadini, and the first woman to earn both a doctorate in science and a salaried position as a university professor, Laura Bassi. The University of Bologna has had a central role in the sciences during the medieval age and the Italian renaissance, where it housed and educated Nicholas Copernicus as well as numerous other renaissance mathematicians.[6] It has educated a wide range of notable alumni, amongst them a large number of Italian scientists, prime ministers, supreme court judges, and priests.[7]

The University of Bologna has campuses in Cesena, Forlì, Ravenna and Rimini as well as branch centres abroad in Buenos Aires, New York, Brussels, and Shanghai.[8] It houses the fully funded boarding college Collegio Superiore di Bologna, the Bologna School of Advanced Studies,[9] the botanical gardens of Bologna, a large number of museums, libraries and archeological collections,[10] as well as the Bologna University Press.


The entry of students in the Natio Germanica Bononiae, the nation of German students at Bologna; miniature of 1497.

The date of the University of Bologna's founding is uncertain. The university was granted a charter (Authentica habita) by Holy Roman Emperor Frederick I Barbarossa in 1158, but in the 19th century, a committee of historians led by Giosuè Carducci traced the founding of the university back to 1088, which would make it the oldest continuously operating university in the world.[11][12][13] However, the development of the institution at Bologna into a university was a gradual process. Paul Grendler writes that "it is not likely that enough instruction and organization existed to merit the term university before the 1150s, and it might not have happened before the 1180s."[14]

The university arose around mutual aid societies (known as universitates scholarium) of foreign students called "nations" (as they were grouped by nationality) for protection against city laws which imposed collective punishment on foreigners for the crimes and debts of their countrymen. These students then hired scholars from the city's pre-existing lay and ecclesiastical schools to teach them subjects such as liberal arts, notarial law, theology, and ars dictaminis (scrivenery).[15] The lectures were given in informal schools called scholae. In time the various universitates scholarium decided to form a larger association, or Studium—thus, the university. The Studium grew to have a strong position of collective bargaining with the city, since by then it derived significant revenue through visiting foreign students, who would depart if they were not well treated. The foreign students in Bologna received greater rights, and collective punishment was ended. There was also collective bargaining with the scholars who served as professors at the university. By the initiation or threat of a student strike, the students could enforce their demands as to the content of courses and the pay professors would receive. University professors were hired, fired, and had their pay determined by an elected council of two representatives from every student "nation" which governed the institution, with the most important decisions requiring a majority vote from all the students to ratify. The professors could also be fined if they failed to finish classes on time, or complete course material by the end of the semester. A student committee, the "Denouncers of Professors", kept tabs on them and reported any misbehavior. Professors themselves were not powerless, however, forming collegia doctorum (professors’ committees) in each faculty, and securing the rights to set examination fees and degree requirements. Eventually, the city ended this arrangement, paying professors from tax revenues and making it a chartered public university.[16]

Archiginnasio, main seat of the University between 1563 and 1803

The university is historically notable for its teaching of canon and civil law;[17] indeed, it was set up in large part with the aim of studying the Digest,[18] a central text in Roman law, which had been rediscovered in Italy in 1070, and the university was central in the development of medieval Roman law.[19] Until modern times, the only degree granted at that university was the doctorate.

Bettisia Gozzadini earned a law degree in 1237, being one of the first women in history to obtain a university degree.[20] She taught law from her own home for two years, and in 1239 she taught at the university, becoming the first woman in history to teach at a university.[21]

In 1477, when Pope Sixtus IV issued a papal bull, authorizing the creation of Uppsala University in Sweden, the bull specified that the new university would have the same freedoms and privileges as the University of Bologna—a highly desirable situation for the Swedish scholars. This included the right of Uppsala to establish the four traditional faculties of theology, law (Canon Law and Roman law), medicine, and philosophy, and to award the bachelor's, master's, licentiate, and doctoral degrees.

Laura Bassi was born into a prosperous family of Bologna and was privately educated from the age of five.[22] Bassi's education and intellect was noticed by Prospero Lorenzini Lambertini, who became the Archbishop of Bologna in 1731 (later Pope Benedict XIV). Lambertini became the official patron of Bassi. He arranged for a public debate between Bassi and four professors from the University of Bologna on 17 April 1732.[23] In 1732, Bassi, aged twenty, publicly defended her forty-nine theses on Philosophica Studia[24] at the Sala degli Anziani of the Palazzo Pubblico. The University of Bologna awarded her a doctorate degree on 12 May.[25] She became the first woman to receive a doctorate in science, and the second woman in the world to earn a philosophy doctorate after Elena Cornaro Piscopia in 1678, fifty-four years prior. She was by then popularly known as Bolognese Minerva.[26][22] On 29 October 1732, the Senate and the University of Bologna granted Bassi's candidature, and in December she was appointed professor of natural philosophy to teach physics.[27][28] She became the first salaried woman lecturer in the world,[29] thus beginning her academic career. She was also the first woman member of any scientific establishment, when she was elected to the Academy of Sciences of the Institute of Bologna in 1732.[30][31] Bassi became the most important populariser of Newtonian mechanics in Italy.[32]

In 1971, the Graecist Benedetto Marzullo in company with Umberto Eco, Renato Barilli, Adelio Ferrero. instituted within the Faculty of Letters and Arts the DAMS (acronym of discipline delle arti, della musica e dello spettacolo, "Dicipline of Arts, Musics and Performance"). It was the first degree course of this type to be opened in Italy. Between December 26, 1982, and November 29, 1983, there occurred the DAMS murders (in Italian: Delitti del DAMS), dealing with four victims who were students or professors of the DAMS: Angelo Fabbri (a brilliant student of Umberto Eco), Liviana Rossi, the dancer Francesca Alinovi (who was stabbed for 47 times), and Leonarda Polvani.[33][34]


University Library in Palazzo Poggi
Interior view of the Porticum and Loggia of the Royal Spanish College
Cloister of San Giovanni in Monte houses the department of History and Cultures (Archeology, History, Paleography and Medieval studies).
Navile Campus houses the departments of Chemistry, Industrial Chemistry, Pharmacy and Physics and Astronomy.

Higher education processes are being harmonised across the European Community. Nowadays the university offers 101 different "Laurea" or "Laurea breve" first-level degrees (three years of courses), followed by 108 "Laurea specialistica" or "Laurea magistrale" second-level degrees (two years). However 11 other courses have maintained the previous rules of "Laurea specialistica a ciclo unico" or "Laurea magistrale a ciclo unico", with only one cycle of study of five years, except for medicine and dentistry, which require six years of courses. After the "Laurea" one may attain first-level Master (one-year diploma, similar to a postgraduate diploma). After second-level degrees are attained, one may proceed to second-level Master, specialisation schools (residency) or research doctorates (PhD).

The 11 Schools (which replace the existing 23 faculties) are:

The university is structured in 33 departments[35] (66 until 2012), organized by homogeneous research domains that integrate activities related to one or more faculty. A new department of Latin history was added in 2015.

The 33 departments are:

Affiliates and other institutions

Il Mulino

In the early 1950s, some students of the University of Bologna were among the founders of the review "il Mulino". On 25 April 1951 the first issue of the review was published in Bologna.[36] In a short time, "il Mulino" became one of the most interesting reference points in Italy for the political and cultural debate and established important editorial relationships in Italy and abroad. Editorial activities evolved along with the review. In 1954, the il Mulino publishing house (It. Società editrice il Mulino) was founded, which today represents one of the most relevant Italian publishers. In addition to this were initiated research projects (focusing mostly on the educational institutions and the political system in Italy), that eventually led, in 1964, to the establishment of the Istituto Carlo Cattaneo.

Collegio Superiore

The Collegio Superiore is an excellence institution inside the University of Bologna, aimed at promoting students' merit through dedicated learning programmes.

The institution was founded in 1998 as Collegio d'Eccellenza. Together with the Institute for Advanced Study it is part of the Institute for Higher Study.

The Collegio Superiore offers an additional educational path to students enrolled in a degree programme at the University of Bologna, providing specialized courses as part of an interdisciplinary framework.

All students of the Collegio Superiore are granted a full-ride scholarship and additional benefits such as the assistance of a personal tutor and free accommodation at the Residence for Higher Study. In order to remain members of the Collegio Superiore students are required to maintain high marks in both their degree programme and the additional courses.

Beatrice Fraboni, professor of Physics of Matter, has been head of Collegio Superiore since 2019.[37]

Notable people

Main article: List of University of Bologna people


Faculty and staff

Notable former faculty include:[89]

Rankings and reputation

University rankings
Global – Overall
ARWU World[91]201-300 (2023)
CWUR World[92]185 (2023)
CWTS World[93]120 (2023)
QS World[94]=154 (2024)
THE World[95]=155 (2024)
USNWR Global[96]122 (2022-23)

The 2024 QS World University Rankings ranked the University of Bologna 154th in the world as well as 73rd (1st in Italy, 18th in Europe) with specific reference to academic reputation. In another measurement by the same organization, it was positioned among the world's top 100 universities for graduate employability.[97]

In the 2024 Times Higher Education World University Rankings, it claimed the 155th place globally.[98] In the 2023 THE Impact Rankings, which measure the universities' commitment to sustainable development in compliance with the UN 2030 Agenda, Bologna took 5th place in Europe and 23rd in the world.[99]

Furthermore, Bologna topped Italy's 2023 list of large public universities (> 40,000 students), produced by the Italian Center for Social Investment Studies, for the 14th year in a row.[100]

Points of interest

See also


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