Module Information

Module Identifier
Module Title
Medieval Universities and European Society
Academic Year
Semester 2

Course Delivery

Delivery Type Delivery length / details
Seminars / Tutorials 10 x 2-hour seminars
Workload Breakdown 20 hours seminars 2 hour tutorial support including individual essay returns 178 hours independent study and essay preparation 200 hours total


Assessment Type Assessment length / details Proportion

Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of this module students should be able to:

Demonstrate a critical understanding of relevant themes and approaches in the history and historiography of medieval universities, especially the impact of education upon scholars and the wider community.

Engage in close reading of relevant primary sources and place them in their intellectual and literary context.

Marshal and understand the use of appropriate evidence in formulating historical arguments regarding the history of medieval universities.

Demonstrate through written work an ability to integrate methodological themes into their own research.

Brief description

Academic rationale of the proposal:
The module will study the universities of medieval Europe in depth in order to assess their significance within medieval society and understand how historians have explored the role of education within that society. It considers the ways in which their development impacted on scholars and the wider society, including encouraging social and geographical mobility, developing a coherent European society, challenging established forms of authority, and discussing new ideas which were taken up by society at large. Key themes in the historiography of universities will be addressed, a variety of primary sources will be read closely, and students will be instructed in dealing with the methodological challenges involved when studying the intellectual world of the middle ages. By the end of the module students will come to appreciate the various ways in which the education of the few could impact upon society as a whole.

Brief Description:
Universities have been described as the most valuable contribution of the middle ages to the modern world; their development from the twelfth century onwards certainly had a great effect on medieval society itself. This module incorporates a comprehensive exploration of the medieval universities, from the curriculum and relationship with church authorities to the social life of scholars and the brawls between nationalities. Focussing on the significance of the universities, it considers the ways in which their development impacted on scholars and the wider society, including encouraging social and geographical mobility, challenging established forms of authority, and developing new ideas which were taken up by society at large. This leads us to address many key issues, such as the role of education within society and the way in which a movement, which included only a small minority of the population, could impact so greatly on the rest of society.

(Indicative content):
1. Introduction: the universities of medieval Europe
2. The twelfth-century renaissance and the rise of the universities
3. Teaching and learning
4. Relationship with authority: royal, ecclesiastical and municipal
5. ‘Wandering scholars’: the universities as international centres
6. Recruitment and admission: who were medieval scholars?
7. The social life of scholars
8. Careers and social mobility
9. Universities and the development of ideas and new learning
10. Universities within medieval society: overview and conclusions

Module Skills

Skills Type Skills details
Application of Number Through understanding of statistical and other numerical data as it relates to the topics under review
Communication Through seminar discussion and essay writing. Latter only is formally assessed.
Improving own Learning and Performance By guided reflection during seminars and feedback sessions following submission of written work.
Information Technology Through data retrieval exercises for research purposes and word-processing for essay writing purposes.
Personal Development and Career planning Through developing research skills, furthering understanding of approaches to the history of the period, and the opportunity this offers for research and history related careers.
Problem solving By understanding how historians seeking to explore the significance of medieval universities employ a variety of different methodological approaches towards understanding problems within their field.
Research skills By learning how to identify appropriate primary and secondary sources and utilising that material in their work.
Subject Specific Skills By developing ability to use the writings of the middle ages to explore the role and impact of education within society, and appreciating the methodological challenges involved when discussing this history.
Team work Through seminar work.


This module is at CQFW Level 7