The best medieval (and very old) universities to study Computer Science and Technology -

The best medieval (and very old) universities to study Computer Science and Technology

Did you know that some of today’s best computer science and engineering universities in the world are actually medieval? They were founded centuries ago by the scholars of those times and built their prestige over time. In fact, the correlation between university rankings and agealso applies for modern subjects. But what are the best old universities for high-tech study?

A short history of universities

Modern universities developed in medieval Europe, where academics coalesced around religious centres and schools; the word ‘university’ comes from the Latin ’universitas magistrorum et scholarium’, a community or collective of masters and scholars. These communities gradually developed the features we recognise today, like different disciplines and examinations.

Find your Computer Science & IT Master's

This makes it hard to identify exactly when the earliest universities became universities. For example, there are records of teaching at Oxford in 1096, but it’s only considered a university from the start of the 13th century. However, the medieval model proved resilient, so when university expansion accelerated in the 19th century, there was a tried and tested model to follow.

Why are old universities so good?

It seems odd that old universities can be the best for new subjects like computer science, especially when many newer universities were established to specialise in engineering and technology degrees. But ancient universities had an unbeatable head-start, giving them money, a strong reputation, and an instinct for academic innovation.

Ancient universities have hundreds of years’ worth of bequests and investments. The UK’s Oxford and Cambridge both have endowments worth over £6 billion. The UK’s next wealthiest university, Edinburgh, is five hundred years younger and more than £5 billion poorer. It’s a significant advantage when it comes to funding new schools or institutes.

They also benefit from reputation. A long-established and successful university is more attractive than a new university for talented students and researchers. And this becomes self-perpetuating, attracting the best and brightest from successive generations.

And they innovate. New subjects emerge from existing disciplines. Modern tech subjects often develop from fields like mathematics or physics, so it’s not surprising that universities with the best traditional departments lead the way with new subjects too.

Why study a high-tech subject?

Qualifications like computer science, engineering, and technology degrees are in high demand. As society shifts and progresses, the demand for technology, and the people who will create it, has grown. And the pace of change means it’s a growth industry with relatively little hierarchy.

This gives tech careers high earning potential. The tech sector is growing faster than any other, and figures from the US Bureau of Labor suggest that average earnings in computer-related fields are more than twice the US average wage. A relevant degree from a prestigious university, especially advanced degrees, such as from an international master’s programme, is a route to a high-earning career.

The best ancient universities for high-tech study

We’ve selected the best ancient and old (one hasn’t quite reached 360 yet!) universities that offer the best computer science, engineering, and technology degrees.

10. Lund University

Founded in 1666, teaching had been taking place in Lund, Sweden, for at least two hundred years before. Although the youngest university on our list, Lund has still made a significant contribution through its research output.

Lund is one of Europe’s top performers for published research and does much of its work in English to attract students to its international master’s programmes and research opportunities. Innovations that started life at Lund include everyday technologies like inkjet printing and Bluetooth, and it continues to have an impact, leading research in ground-breaking fields like nanotechnology. 

9. Harvard

Harvard was 140 years old when the Declaration of Independence led to the foundation of the United States. One of the world’s best universities, it is, unsurprisingly, in the top ten for computer science as well.

Harvard’s leadership in research and innovation has resulted in it producing 14 Turin Laureates, recognised for their contribution to computing and technology. It continues to drive innovation in research areas like computational neuroscience, human-computer interaction, and AI. There are plenty of engineering and technology and computer science Masters to choose from at Harvard.

8. The University of Edinburgh

Edinburgh played a key role in the Scottish Enlightenment, helping to establish Scotland’s intellectual reputation, and today is one of the highest-ranking ancient universities for areas like science and computing on international league tables.

The university offers a range of high-tech engineering and technology degrees, like software engineering or artificial intelligence. It also offers an innovative master’s degree in Interdisciplinary Futures, studying how emerging technologies and existing knowledge can address the problems of the future.

7. University of Glasgow

Founded in 1451, like most ancient universities, Glasgow started life providing education for the wealthy. However, it was one of the first to pioneer the education and expansion of the urban middle class by preparing for them for the professions.

The university’s research output in tech fields is rated as world-leading in impact. This is reflected in the university’s research themes. For example, the Glasgow Cyber Defence Group, part of its computer science department, has an international standing for its work with academic, industrial, and governmental partners on cyber-defence.

University of Glasgow

6. University of Barcelona

Regarded as Spain’s best university, Barcelona was founded in 1450. With one of Europe’s highest ratings for teaching quality, it also has one of the best employability rates in the world.

The department of mathematics and computer science is ranked as Spain’s most innovative academic department. The university has links with the surrounding tech community, and credits towards engineering and technology degrees can be earned through industrial placements.

5. Sapienza University of Rome

Founded by papal bull in 1303, Sapienza had a rocky start as its fortunes rose and fell with papal politics but is now Italy’s most prestigious university.

The Computer Science department at the university is incredibly highly rated, it is regarded as the best department in the whole university, and one of the best in the world. It is currently building on its reputation and cementing its position as a European leader in the field of machine learning.

4. The University of Cambridge

The UK’s second-oldest university, and the third oldest in the world. Cambridge  was created when, in 1209, masters and students fled violence in Oxford and settled in Cambridge, which was already a centre for education.

Cambridge was the first university to offer a computing science degree. The university is closely linked with a surrounding tech cluster and has the world’s second-largest venture capital market after Silicon Valley. Its history and links make Cambridge one of the world’s most desirable engineering and technology degrees.

3. Sorbonne University

Although, technically, only founded in 2018, Sorbonne can trace its history, through France’s turbulent politics and education reforms, to at least 1257, when it was one of many colleges of the University of Paris.

Computer science and related topics are a major research area at Sorbonne. It hosts one of France’s first computer science research units and has recently established the Sorbonne Center for Artificial Intelligence.

2. The University of Oxford

The UK’s oldest university, and the second oldest in the world, with teaching dating to 1096, it became a university in the modern sense at the beginning of the 13th century.

Although many of the tech subjects have small intakes, they share the university’s academic intensity and it’s ranked as the UK’s leading computer science degree.

1. The University of Bologna

The oldest university in the world, and the first place to called a university, Bologna has been teaching since at least 1088 and is recognised as a university from the late twelfth century.

But despite its age, it is at the cutting edge of tech. With degrees in subjects like aerospace engineering and biotechnology, many feature as part of its international master’s programme, with teaching taking place in English. There are plenty of engineering and technology degree options at the University of Bologna to choose from.

Bologna University

Interesting programmes for you

Explore more than 90000 Master's programmes from all around the world with Studyportals.

Computer Science & IT


Go to your profile page to get personalised recommendations!