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The Oldest Universities In North America
College Graduation

Today’s high school students interested in pursuing higher education have many colleges and universities to choose from, both at home and abroad.

In Europe, there are many old, established institutions of higher education. In fact, many schools in Europe are among the oldest in the world. But North America has its share of centuries-old colleges and universities as well. The following is a look at some of the oldest institutions of higher learning that North America has to offer.

The Royal and Pontifical University of Mexico, 1551: The Royal and Pontifical University of Mexico was founded on Sept. 21, 1551, by a royal decree signed by Charles I of Spain, in Valladolid, Spain. It is generally considered the first university founded in North America and second in the Americas.

Harvard University, 1638: One of the original nine colonial colleges, Harvard University was funded by a bequest by namesake John Harvard. It was twice what the Massachusetts Bay Colony had set aside to establish two schools in the area.

Université Laval, 1663: Université Laval is the oldest institution of higher education in Canada and the first North American institution to offer higher education in French.

The College of William & Mary, 1693: The College of William & Mary was established when land for the college was purchased in 1693. The school claimed that it was in the planning stages decades before Harvard was established.

Yale University, 1701: Yale University began as the ‘Collegiate School.’ It was renamed in 1718 and has become one of the world’s most prestigious schools.

Washington College, 1782: Chartered in 1782, Washington College can trace its origins to a gift of 50 guineas provided by George Washington. Washington granted permission to use his name on the school, which grew from the existing Kent County Free School.

St. John’s College, 1784: St. John’s College is the third oldest college in the United States, tracing its origins back to the King William’s school in the colony of Maryland. The school was not chartered as St. John’s College until 1784.

The University of New Brunswick, 1785: The University of New Brunswick is the oldest English-language university in Canada, and among the oldest public universities in North America. It was founded by a group of seven loyalists who left the United States after the American Revolution.

The University of Ottawa, 1848: The University of Ottawa was established as the College of Bytown in 1848 by the first bishop of the Catholic Archdiocese of Ottawa, Joseph-Bruno Guigues. It was renamed the College of Ottawa in 1861 and received university status five years later through a royal charter.

The University of Windsor, 1857: The University of Windsor was established in 1857 when the first students arrived to study at its predecessor, Assumption College. It eventually became one of the largest colleges in Ontario.