ORIGIN OF UNIVERSITIES AND DEGREE

HONOURS
by Venerable Dr Ifechukwu U. Ibeme
Websites: http://www.scribd.com/ifeogo
and http://thechapelofgrace.wordpress.com

The Apostles believed in focused and thorough biblical studies for ministerial excellence
(Act_6:4; Act_18:24-28; 2Ti_2:15), so the Cathedrals and Monasteries had always had
monastic schools (Scholae Monasticae) since the earliest times, for their diocesan
priests and monks to be educated in ecclesiastical studies (theology, liturgy, canon law,
logic, hermeneutics, homiletics, ecclesiastical catechesis, administration and accounting).

The famous Christological Schools of thought called “Alexandrian School” and “Antiochene
School” were not academic institutions but groups of theologians with different approaches
to biblical hermeneutics and Christology. The Alexandrian School of thinkers was
inclined to allegorist mystagogical hermeneutics while the Antiochene School of
thinkers was inclined to literalist historical hermeneutics. Nevertheless, there was a
Catechetical School which was most probably founded by Apollos who returned to
Alexandria (Egypt) after undergoing tutelage under Aquila and Priscilla’s as narrated in
Acts 18:24-28. The Catechetical School of Alexandria continued through the time of
Pantaenus, Clement and then Origen as its heads. The Antiochene School of thinkers was a
group of theologians around the Church of Antioch (Syria). The Church in Antioch was
founded and pastored by teachers mentioned in Act 13:1-3, these were succeeded by other
theologians like the three Greggory’s, Chrysostom, Diodorus, Theodore and Theodoret.
These two Schools of thought were of great symbiotic significance during the Ecumenical
Christological Councils beginning with Nicaea in AD 325.

From the 11th century AD, the Scholae Monasticae of the cathedrals and monasteries
evolved into the wider Studia Generalia (schools for general studies) or Universitas
Magistrorum et Scholarium (guild/corporation of teachers and scholars). These
‘scholars-cum-teachers’ unions for general studies devoted themselves to the acquisition
and advancement of intellectual skills and “encyclopaedic” (all-round) knowledge. The
Church protected Studia scholars with the same legal privileges accorded to the clergy. The
first of these Universities started at Bologna (Italy) in 1088 AD. Others were Paris (France)
1150 AD, Oxford (England) 1167 AD, Cambridge (England) 1209 AD.

The Studia or Universitas were devoted to the liberation of human intellectual
capacities for encyclopaedic analytical knowledge through the Liberal Arts (the Trivium
for communicative Humanistic Studies and the Quadrivium for calculative Nature
Studies), and acquisition of vocational skills through the Utilitarian Arts (for the
Professions).
 The Liberal Arts (intellectually liberating studies) which were mainly
humanistic/humanising studies were non-vocational general studies for
intellectual/personal development to liberate the mind with the objective critical
capacity to learn, reason and COMMUNICATE encyclopaedic knowledge
language and ideas, and with the objective analytical capacity to CALCULATE,
evaluate and articulate every kind of information, formula and data.
With such objective intellectual capacities, the mind could accumulate, analyze,
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communicate and advance knowledge and ideas applicable to any field of study in a
dispassionate and efficient manner.
 The Utilitarian Arts (vocational or technical skills) were studied for acquisition of
specific professional skills. Despite informal acculturation, the non-liberated and
formally uneducated mind is not only ignorant and illiterate in knowledge but is also
subjective and illogical in intellectual analysis. Herein lay the purpose and profit of
the Liberal Arts offered in the Studia or Universitas.

The Studia or Universitas were given the charter of international accreditation by the
Church and organised as academic guilds for the advancement of knowledge. Later
some temporal authorities also began to give local special recognition. The Studia or
Universitas awarded “degree” academic honours to those who attained the all-round
knowledge of the Liberal Arts (i.e. advanced encyclopaedic humanities) which certified
them as internationally rated all-round teachers of higher learning. The humanities can
be described as the study with emphasis on how people process (analyse) and document
(exchange) the human experience rather than quantitative explanation of the sciences.
Since humans have been able, we have used philosophy, literature, religion, art, music,
history and language to understand and record our world. Degrees apply to encyclopaedic
general learning while diplomas apply to monopedic limited learning. This is why
universities require General Studies in Liberal Arts for degree programmes while
seminaries (for religious secondary or ministerial training), monotechnics and polytechnics
(for technical and vocational training) do not require General Studies for their diploma
programmes.

The hierarchy of degrees awarded were for mastery in the seven Liberal Arts (called
“LIBERAL” because these are meant for intellectual liberation/reformation of the mind
through general humanistic knowledge and intellectual skills – rather than for utilitarian
occupation or profession) and the higher professional studies or utilitarian specialties as
follows:
 Bachelor of Arts (i.e. baccalaureate after 3yrs in the Liberal Arts FOR
COMMUNICATION AND ORATION called the Trivium: grammar with literature-
history, logic with dialectic, and rhetoric with oratory-philosophy).
“The more gifted ones extended their studies further and applied for admission to the liberal arts
(the trivium, made up of grammar, rhetoric, and logic; and the quadrivium, including geometry,
arithmetic, harmonics, and astronomy) and, upon completion of the liberal arts, to philosophy.
Philosophy had four branches: theoretical, practical, logical, and mechanical. The theoretical
was divided into theology, physics, and mathematics; the practical consisted of morals or ethics
(personal, economic, political). The logical, which concerned discourse, consisted of the three arts
of the trivium. Finally, the mechanical included the work of processing wool, of navigation, of
agriculture, of medicine, and so on.” – Encyclopaedia Britannica.
 Master of Arts (on completion of further 4yrs in the Liberal Arts FOR CALCULATION
AND MENSURATION called the Quadrivium: arithmetic, geometry, astronomy,
and harmonics which was mainly Church music).
 Masters and Doctorate (7 to 10yrs in any of the higher philosophical or utilitarian i.e.
professional faculties: mainly theology, canon-civil law and medicine. Other modern
faculties like architecture, engineering, psychology, agriculture, sciences, sociology,
economics, politics, pharmacy, and so on, came along with time).
 Professors were either appointed and paid by the Church or sometimes elected and paid
by the students depending on the circumstances that led to the formation of each
university.

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 Bachelor of Arts was seen as intermediate or preparatory degree in general knowledge
and intellectual skill for liberal thinking and humanistic eloquence Bachelor of Arts is
awarded by the Faculty Professors without involving the Diocesan Chancellor's Board
and so bachelors were not usually qualified to be international encyclopaedic
teachers as masters, doctors or professors.
 There were other schools and institutions like Secular Gymnasia, Specialised
Academies, Professional and Vocational Colleges and Religious Seminaries, for
advancing special interest courses, advanced apprenticeship training and advanced
religious studies. These did not offer the higher encyclopaedic humanistic education of
the seven Liberal Arts mandatory in the University Studia, and so did not qualify to
award degree honours. At the best their certificates could be said to be diplomas but not
digrees.
 Modern day universities and degree awarding colleges still pay lip service to some basic
mind-liberalising encyclopaedic knowledge through the mandatory General
Studies covering Basic Library Science (Use of the Library), Grammar (Use of
English), Basic General Humanities, Basic Natural Sciences and Basic Social
Sciences. This basic general knowledge requirement distinguishes a degree from a
diploma and distinguishes a university from other utilitarian academies and vocational
tertiary institutions.

In the 18th century, the University Studia in protestant Germany and France began to
break away from the Church's control and traditional religious orthodoxy to become
secular institutions for objective rational inquiry. Since then the Church released the
University Studia to pursue rational objectivism and scientific empiricism regardless of
any spiritual or philosophical authority, but they still retained the over 500yr old pattern
inherited from the Church. The academic vestments and offices (e.g. chancellor, dean,
rector, provost) of today still bear semblance to cathedral vestments and offices, while the
procession from and reverse order recession to the vestry still bear the semblance of
cathedral procedures, despite the secularization of the academia. All intellectuals who
prefix "Professor" and "Doctor" to their names, owe such honorific ultimately to the
Church which originated them. The records in historical literature and encyclopaedias
confirm these facts.

BIBLIOGRAPHY
'Medieval Universities'. From Wikipedia, the free online encyclopedia.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Medieval_university

'University'. From Wikipedia: the free online encyclopedia. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/University

Church Honours and the Scripture by Ifechukwu U. Ibeme.
http://www.scribd.com/doc/39491417/Church-Honours-and-the-Scripture

Encyclopædia Britannica® 2001, Standard Edition CD-ROM.

Microsoft® Encarta Encylopedia, Standard Edition 2005 CD-ROM.

Christian Classics Ethereal Library CD-ROM.
Also available on their Website at “Early Church Fathers” and “Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers”
http://www.ccel.org/fathers.html

Updated August 6, 2012
by Ven. Dr. I. U. Ibeme
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Copyright © PriscAquila Publishing, Maiduguri, Nigeria.
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