The Rise of Medieval Universities Lesson Plan

Instructor: Heather Jenkins

Heather has a bachelor's degree in elementary education and a master's degree in special education. She was a public school teacher and administrator for 11 years.

Consider using this lesson during a unit on medieval Europe to discuss the rise of medieval universities. A group activity is included for students to create a proposal for a new university and present it to the ruling body of a town or city.

Learning Objectives

Upon completion of the lesson, students will be able to:

  • describe why universities grew in Europe during the Middle Ages
  • describe how education progressed from monasteries to guilds and universities
  • identify factors that contributed to the growth in secular education


1-2 hours


  • Chart paper
  • Markers

Curriculum Standards


Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources, attending to such features as the date and origin of the information.


Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary of how key events or ideas develop over the course of the text.


  • Ask students to identify their favorite college and what they would like to study.
  • Tell the class that they will be examining the rise of universities in Europe during the Middle Ages.
  • Play the lesson, The Rise of Universities and Displacement of Monasteries, pausing at 2:13.
  • Have students discuss the following questions:
    • Why were monasteries centers for education during the High Middle Ages?
    • How did the Crusades help bring about the growth of education outside of monasteries?
  • Finish playing the lesson, and have students discuss the following questions:
    • How were guilds similar to today's trade schools?
    • How did the availability of classical texts change the availability and philosophy of education?
    • Why was a charter important to a university?
    • What were some difficulties faced by early scholars and universities?
    • What were the societal benefits of the increasing number of universities in Europe?
  • To assess mastery of the lesson's concepts, have students complete the lesson quiz.

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