Old orthodoxies

July 14, 2016

Although Howard Hotson is correct that the earliest university to be established in what is now the European Union was Bologna (1088), he should cast his net more widely to identify the first “European university” (“Europe’s universities: an unbreakable alliance”, Features, 7 July).

Some scholars, for example Gelensecér Evá (2013), have pointed out that more than 3,000 students were educated at the Ohrid Literary School in what is now the Republic of Macedonia, referred to in the literature as the “first Slavonic University” or “the Ohrid University of St Climent”, founded in 886. Like later institutions established in Western Europe, it was focused on training clergy, in its case for the Bulgarian Orthodox Church. Whether or not Professor Hotson would recognise OLS as a “university” in the modern sense, it raises the question of what we mean by “Europe” and whether UK universities are so preoccupied with the alleged problems resulting from Brexit that they fail to appreciate academic and research opportunities in the 22 members of the European Higher Education Area that are not EU member states, such as the Republic of Macedonia, which is proud of its OLS heritage. Working with bright young people, encouraging joint and dual degrees, mobility within Erasmus+, participation in Horizon 2020 and research with an impact factor are as much part of our university’s daily work as that of universities in the UK.

Dennis Farrington
President of the university board
South East European University
Republic of Macedonia

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