The University of Bologna (Alma Mater Studiorum Università di Bologna, UNIBO) is one of the oldest continually operating degree-granting universities in the world, and the second largest university in Italy. It was probably the first university founded in the western world (conventionally AD 1088, but the true date is uncertain) and since 2000, its motto has been Alma mater studiorum (Latin for "fostering mother of studies"). The university of Bologna received a charter from Frederick I Barbarossa in 1158, but in the 19th century, a committee of historians led by Giosuè Carducci traced the birth of the University back to 1088, making it arguably the longest-lived university in the West. The University of Bologna is historically notable for its teaching of canon and civil law, and is presently one of the most important universities in Europe.
The institution that we today call the University began to take shape in Bologna at the end of the 11th century, when masters of grammar, rhetoric and logic began to devote themselves to law, inspiring themselves of the Byzantine Justinian Code.
The first recorded scholars were Pepone and Irnerius, the latter of whom was defined by the former as "lucerna iuris". In 1158, at the urging of four doctors (thought to be pupils at the University), Frederick I promulgated the Constitutio Habita, in which the University was legally declared a place where research could develop independently from any other power.
In the 14th century, so-called "artists" — scholars of medicine, philosophy, arithmetic, astronomy, logic, rhetoric, and grammar — began to collaborate with the school of jurists. In 1364, the teaching of theology was instituted. Dante Alighieri, Francesco Petrarca, Guido Guinizelli, Cino da Pistoia, Cecco d'Ascoli, Re Enzo, Salimbene da Parma and Coluccio Salutati all studied in Bologna.
In the 15th century Greek and Hebrew studies were instituted, and in the 16th century those of "natural magic", which we would refer to as, "experimental sciences." The philosopher Pietro Pomponazzi upheld the study of the laws of nature against the traditionalist position of theology and philosophy. A representative figure of this period was Ulisse Aldrovandi, whose contributions ranged from pharmacopoeia to the study of animals, fossils, and marvels of nature which he collected and classified.
In the 17th century, which is thought of as the "golden era" of the University, medicine coincided with the teachings of Marcello Malpighi and students began to employ the microscope for anatomical research. By this time, the University's fame had spread throughout Europe and it was a destination for many illustrious guests. Famous scholars and students included Pico della Mirandola and Leon Battista Alberti, who devoted themselves to canon law; and Nicolaus Copernicus who began his astronomical observations while studying pontifical law. Paracelsus (aka Paracelso), Raymond of Peñafort, Albrecht Dürer, St. Carlo Borromeo, Torquato Tasso, and Carlo Goldoni all spent time at the University.
With the advent of the Industrial Revolution in the 18th century, the University promoted scientific and technological development. In this period came the studies of Luigi Galvani who was one of the founders of modern electrotechnical studies (along with Alessandro Volta, Benjamin Franklin and Henry Cavendish). Following the establishment of the United Italian State came a period of great prosperity for the University in which the figures of Giovanni Capellini, Giosuè Carducci, Giovanni Pascoli, Augusto Righi, Federigo Enriques, Giacomo Ciamician, and Augusto Murri stand out.
In 1888 the eighth centennial of the University was celebrated with a grand ceremony. Representatives from universities all over the world convened in Bologna to honour the "mother of universities," and celebrate their common roots and ideals of progress and tolerance.
The University maintained its central position on the scene of global culture until the period between World War I and World War II. As its own influence declined and other universities came to prominence, Bologna was called upon to forge relationships with institutions in the most advanced countries to modernise and reinvigorate its activities. Among the many challenges which it has met with success, Bologna committed itself to the European dimension which has now led to adoption of the new university system.
Higher education processes are being harmonised across the European Community. Nowadays the University offers 128 different "Laurea" or "Laurea breve" first-level degrees (three years of courses), followed by a similar number of "Laurea specialistica" specialised degrees (two years). However, some courses have maintained preceding rules of "Laurea specialistica europea", with only one cycle of study of five years, except for medicine which requires six years of courses. After the "Laurea" one may attain 1st level Master. After "Laurea specialistica" and "Laurea specialistica europea" are attained, one may proceed to 2nd level Master, specialisation schools, or doctorates of research.