Medieval Universities Costs

The post will talk about some of the characteristics and costs of university studies during the Medieval time period. Naturally, there are a lot of similarities to modern times. However, many aspects of university life took time to grow and develop as we will see.


Universities during the Middle Ages were distinct from what we see today. There were essentially no buildings that made up the university. This means that initially in many situations in Europe there ewer no libraries, no laboratories, no halls, no endowments or money, and even no sports. Today, we often think of universities in terms of there physical presence. In the past, universities were thought of in terms of the students and teachers who learned and taught regardless of the physical location.

A university was defined as the totality of students and teachers in a particular location. Both the teachers and the students organized themselves into groups for bargaining power. The university of students would work together to control rent, book price, and tuition. If local businesses tried to abuse them the students would threaten  to leave. The students also placed expectations on the teachers such as no absences without permission, no leaving the city without leaving a deposit (this prevented crooks from taking tuition and running), maintain a regular schedule.


Professors formed their own guild called the college and set expectations for people who wanted to become professors. In addition to colleges, teachers would form themselves into faculty, which is several teaches from the same discipline. Faculties were allowed to confer degrees and promote students to the academic rank of masters. In addition, it was common for teachers to be celibate

The term “college” was also used to refer to the hospice or residence hall where students live. This is similar to the modern-day dormitories. Originally, colleges were for religious students and not for secular. To this day, institutions of higher learning are referred to as colleges and or universities. The success of universities put the cathedral, monastic and provincial schools a=out of business.


Textbooks were hard to find during the Middle Ages. This was before the printing press which means that books were copied by hand. this was highly time-consuming and kept the price of books high. To get around this, it was common for students to rent books rather than purchase them. This is a strategy that is stilled being used today, especially with ebooks.

Books were so valuable that they were not even supposed to leave the city. In  addition, professors were expected to turn over their lecture notes occasionally so that they could be converted into books. Famous textbooks from this time include Peter Lombard’s “Sentences” a theological book and the jurist Gratian’s text “Decretum.” With the rental system, it actually postponed the need for libraries


Completing the degrees involved 3-4 for the BA which included completing an examination before 4 teachers. Since nobody owned books, memorizing was heavy. For many students, the BA was the end of their academic career but for those who wanted to continued they were often expected to teach for two years before taking the masters.

The masters was often focused on obtaining the license to teach. This process involved attending lectures until a student believed he was ready for the examinations. This varied by disciplined but after the BA a student could take 2-4 years after completing the BA for a total of 5-8 years


University life was different yet somewhat similar to the modern era. The features of the modern university crept in gradually as the schools adjusted to the demands of modern life. As such, we can be sure that higher education will continue to change as it continues to adapt to the needs of the students

Source: Medieval Universities Costs