ORIGIN OF A UNIVERSITY

ORIGIN OF A UNIVERSITY

ORIGIN OF A UNIVERSITY

The word ‘university’ is derived from the Latin “universitas magistrorum et scholarium”, which roughly means “community of teachers and scholars”.

“In the early medieval period, most new universities were founded from pre-existing schools, usually when these schools were deemed to have become primarily sites of higher education. Many historians state that universities and cathedral schools were a continuation of the interest in learning promoted by monasteries. All over Europe, rulers and city governments began to create universities to satisfy a European thirst for knowledge, and the belief that society would benefit from the scholarly expertise generated from these institutions. Princes and leaders of city governments perceived the potential benefits of having a scholarly expertise develop with the ability to address difficult problems and achieve desired ends.” [culled from Wikipedia]

According to Encyclopædia Britannica, the earliest universities were founded in Asia and Africa, predating the first European medieval universities. The University of Al Quaraouiyine, founded in Morocco by Fatima al-Fihri in 859, is considered by some to be the oldest degree-granting university. The first universities in Europe with a form of corporate/guild structure were the University of Bologna (1088), the University of Paris (c.1150, later associated with the Sorbonne), and the University of Oxford (1167).[Wikipedia]

This backdrop avers that a University is one of the strongest institution in a town, state or country. Little wonder, it often bears the name of the state or town: University of Nigeria, University of Mississipi etc. Again, it is an institution that exists for the good of the society. Little wonder, it also bears the name of illustrious sons and daughters who impacted positively on the society in order to immortalise their names: Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu University, John Hopkins University etc.

Since a University is a conglomerate of teachers and scholars, it means that no one actually “graduates” from a university. It is a cult of scholars and academics (doctorate degree holders, Masters degree holders) who are always in the process of “initiating” the undergraduates into the culthood. Mark the word ‘Cult’ not ‘Occult’ meaning that their activities are transparent and open (cultic) not hidden (occultic). This process of initiation entails academic discipline and moral rectitude. So, when one joins a university, one grows in LEARNING and CHARACTER.

Now when one is “MATRICULATED” into a university, he or she, upon induction, swears to be part of the hood forever, to abide by the rules of the culthood and to never hesitate in using one’s knowledge to help the growth of the society that established the university. Matriculation comes from the Latin word “matriculare” meaning “to register,” from Latin “mātricula” which means “public register”. And this registration is never terminated. Even if one leaves the premises of a university upon the so called “graduation”, he or she is a part of that UNIVERSITY forever, an Alumnus (Plural-Alumni) and he or she is expected to answer the yearly call, the “CONVOCATION”.

What happens in a CONVOCATION which people mistake for GRADUATION? Convocation comes from the Latin word “convocare” which means “to call together”. It is a clarion call to all senior men and women of the hood (holders of doctorates, masters and bachelors) to come together and welcome the new bachelors into the hood. To show the importance of this initiation, all are dressed in a special garb- the gown, the hood and the cap properly called the mortarboard with the tassel (for bachelors) or the bonnet (for the seniors). While the new Bachelors are dressed in black, the Doctorates and Masters are dressed in red or green to indicate the radar. On Matriculation, the Matriculates place the tassel on the left and upon becoming bachelors, they place it on the right. There is always a convocation lecture to remind the old guys and the new guys, the need to stand out as pillars of moral rectitude and academic discipline wherever they are and not to cease impacting on  the society positively.

However, a University does not always convoke during the ceremonial convocation, they can convene impromptu whenever the society faces a major challenge just like the coronavirus. Some Nigerian universities did well by producing ventilators in this covid-19 pandemic. John Hopkins University has not stopped in her endless researches for the good of the society. Major inventions do spring up from the universities. Any alumnus, who gets a bright idea can always go back to his/her university and with the help of other scholars, make real that innovation. Governments and individuals with the wherewithal should always sponsor researches in the universities.

Talking of individuals with the wherewithal who impact positively on the society through their works and donations, the University is always ready to reward this type of people and admit such intelligent people into their hood by granting them the “honoris causa”. Honoris causa is the honorary doctorate degree awarded without examination, as a mark of esteem, for the sake of honour, to distinguished personalities so as to encourage people to help in building the society.

With all these explanations, it is disheartening to learn that potential undergraduates do lie, cheat and bribe their way into this citadel of learning and morals. It is also heart-wrenching to learn that the Seniors (doctorates and masters) who should be an example to the would-be bachelors do ask for money or sex in order to award marks or admit them into the university. Very pathetic.  Very painful also, is learning that “graduates” elected into public offices to steer the affairs of the state do siphon public funds and impoverish the society, thus bringing shame to their Alma Mater universities of which they are still part of.

It is always good that we go back to the origin so that we do not miss the mark. Thank you for reading.

Let’s join hands in #recreating_values

© Valentine Obiagwu 27/06/20

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