Young Ho Kee, Bernard


A Study of Degree Granting System in the University of Paris




The University of Paris, founded in 12th Century.  Became famous after the brilliant scholar Peter Abelard, who wrote the famous book “Sic et Non” taught in the University.  Afterwards, more and more students went to Paris from the rural areas, after they finished their elementary education in the cathedral school, which taught them elementary Latin and some elementary courses, and treated as the preparation education in the University, because the only language used in the University was Latin, except for the students within their nation, which means the student body, which divided according to their nationality, may spoke their mother language.


In the University life was quite tough, needed to attend the lecture very early until the evening.  But the reward is high after they completed the course and graduated.


But in my essay, I will not focus on the University life of the students or the origins of the University; instead, I bring a question why the Church and the Kings were interested about the degree (License) granting of the University of Paris.


According to the Statues of Gregory IX to the University of Paris, we note that License Granting is a serious and important issue, not only to the student and the University; but also to the King and the Church.  Therefore, I will discuss this issue in this research essay. 


In my plan, I will divide the essay into four parts.  The first part is about the background information about the types of degrees that University of Paris can be granted at that time; the second part is about the steps of students need to do in order to get a degree; the third part will discuss why the church and the King were so serious about this issue, I will put my assumptions into the passage.  Lastly, the last part I will conclude the points in the essay and give my opinion to them.


Part One


Types of degrees that University of Paris could grant


In the 13th Century, the University of Paris was divided into four faculties — trivium and quadrivium (Arts),  but I think this is the undergraduate College in today the United States education system, Law, Medicine and the most prestigious faculty— Divinity.  By definition, faculty originally is “facultas”, which originally means part of the knowledge, may be due to the professors in the group specialized one area of knowledge and taught to their students; therefore it is appropriate to describe as the guild of professors.  Therefore, University is medieval Europe is the interaction between the guilds of professors and the student bodies.


Usually, the students can get several types of degrees in the University after they completed the varieties of courses.  After the students educated in the University for certain period of time, studied the certain books and completed the exam, which means “determined”, the students will got a Bachelor of Arts degree, which only showed the students have ability to study the Master degree; if they still continue to study afterwards, then the students would get a Master of Arts degree, which is a license, which means the students had such ability to teach in the University, and or a pre-requisite to ether to the other professional faculties of the University, like Law, Medicine and Divinity.


After they continued to study and entered to one of the professional faculties, the students would need to study a certain period of time, met the requirements of the degree and depended which doctoral degree they want to study or which faculty they entered, the following table shows different types of doctoral degrees in the faculties of the University1:-


Faculty of Medicine

Doctor of Medicine

Faculty of Law

Doctor of Civil Law


Doctor of the Canon Law


Doctor utriusque Juris

Faculty of Divinity

Doctor of Divinity



1.     Daly, S.J. (1961) pp.122-151


We can see that, faculty of law granted two types of doctoral degree, which are Doctor of Civil Law, Doctor of Canon Law and Doctor utriusque Juris.  The difference between them is shown in the following table1:-


Type of Degree

What did the student had studied?

Doctor of Civil Law

Civil Law

Doctor of the Canon Law

Canon Law (Catholic Law)

Doctor utriusque Juris

Both Civil Law and Canon Law


After the students obtained their doctoral degree, which means the students had completed their studied, it is because doctor in Latin means “learned”.



1.     Daly S.J. (1960) p.140

Part Two


The steps of students need to do in order to get a degree


As I mentioned before, the students would leave their home town after they completed their elementary educational in the Catholic School and went to the city and started their University life.


According to different scholars, the age the students entered to the University in medieval Europe was between 12-181, but in my point of view, I summarize their findings, I conclude the age is about 16, which is earlier in modern age, because the materials that the students studied in faculty of trivium, are similar to our modern secondary school education, which included Grammar and Rhoetoric in the trivium, are quite to our language courses in the secondary school, but not the University, therefore I make such assumption; besides, according to the faculty of it is because in the faculty of divinity, some of its requirements to grant a degree are the candidate at least had in the age of 35 years or at least studied at least 16 years.


Firstly, after the students entered to the University, they would join one of the nations, which according to their home town were located, it is because the nations were divided according to the name of the place, like English-German nation in the University of Paris.


Afterwards, the students would attend the courses, different from the University of Bologna which the students hired the Master to teach, in the University of Paris, students would join the Master’s lectures, just like Peter Abelard, the students joined his lecture due to his name.  The lectures held in anywhere of the city, some of them may hold in a room or even in the street.


The students spent about several years, about three to seven years, to complete the arts courses and they need to study several books in depth and the following table shows some of the book titles required in the University of Paris in 12552, you may realize that many title are written by the Aristotle, a Greek philosopher.



1.     Daly S.J. (1960) p.126

2.     Daly S.J. (1960) pp.228-229



Book Name

Praedicamenta Periarmeniae

Divisions and Topics of the book Boethius

Sex principa





After the students studied the books, attended the lectures and passed the exams, then they would on determination.  After they studied for several years, they could get a Master of Arts degree, or a “License”, this means still used in French education system now, then the students could teach in the other Universities.


If the students wanted to continue their studies, they could enter to the other faculties, Laws, Medicine or Divinity and got a doctoral degree.


In the faculty of Law, if the students want to choose which doctoral degree they want, as I mentioned before, there were three types of laws degrees, civil law, canon law or both.


If the students wanted to choose civil law degree, they need to study the books like Gratian’s Decretals or Justinian’s code and need to hold part of a lecture about single civil code after five years or whole book of Justinian’s code after six years and became the doctorate in eight years1.  If the students chose Civil code, the students spent six to complete the degree, if they chose both, the double doctorate, in ten years, but different from the Universities, the years will be different.


In the Faculty of Medicine, the students need to study in the University for thirty-two months2; because the medicine was related to arts in the medieval Europe, therefore the students should have sufficient arts knowledge.  If we compare with the law doctorate, medicine doctorate was much easier to obtain and could be completed in the earlier age.



1.     Daly S.J. (1960) p.140

2.     Daly S.J. (1960) pp.137-139


In contrast, the Faculty of Divinity of the University of Paris is the most prestigious faculty and the doctor of divinity is the rigorous but the most degree in the medieval Europe.  It is because not only the course duration was very long, as I mentioned before, but the age admitted as a doctorate is also mature, at least 35 years old, therefore not many theologians in Medieval Europe had Divinity Doctorate, especially in University of Paris.


During the years, the students need to study two main titles, Bible and the book Sentences, which was written by famous theologian Peter Lombard, also a graduate of this program and became archbishop.


Besides, the students need to demonstrate their good character, according to the Status of Gregory IX in April 13, 1231, the masters of the program had to bear witness to the knowledge and also the good life of the proposed candidate, therefore to become a doctorate in Divinity was not easy, especially in the University of Paris.



Part Three


Why the church and the King were so serious about the degree granting


According to the books I have read, I realize a point, which is to become a student or a master in the University was not easily, that’s why the church and the Kings were so fascinated with them.  I have several reasons to support the argument.


At first, in order to meet the requirements of entry of the University, the students need to know the Latin language, but in the medieval age, not many people knew this language, except the church, not many schools would teach students elementary Latin.  But the problem is, if the students enter to the Catholic school, not only they needed to pay the tuition fee, besides the family should also sufficient workers in order to spare their children to go to school instead working for the family.


Besides, in the University of Paris, there were no libraries in that time1, that means the students need to finance their own textbooks and also the reference, although in the University education system at that time, at we seen the book titles, we realize that the students no need to bought a lot books, but at that time, printing system was not invented in the Western Books, and the books should be copied by hand, therefore the books were very expensive, and I think not many people can afford them.


Besides, many students left the home town and went to the University which located in the city, that means his family need to spare one worker to go to study, it is not economical and the life of the civilians are not easy, therefore I think not many people would do so.


Besides, the time spent in the University was very long, like the Master of Arts, that the license that permit the students to teach, required the students spent about six years to study in the University, besides the previous reason, they needed to pay the tuition fee pay to the Nation and also the Master.


Moreover, under my assumption, according to the Medieval students which shown as the following, the students had no time to do the part-time job, and I think no part-time degree is available to the students, that many students who cannot afford the fee would not go to the University



Moreover, when the students passed his thesis and the defense, and enter to the graduation ceremony, although this was a great moment to the students, but they need to pay the fee for the ceremony and also a banquet afterwards, and that was a huge sum of money, and many students choose some Universities which the graduation was cheaper.


In general, I can conclude that not many students can enter to the University and completed the course and obtained a doctoral degree, especially the doctoral degree in the University of Paris.


But the game is fair, if you afford more, you can get more reward.  After the students completed their completed their studies, they could went to the other Universities to teach, if they had a license.  If they completed the doctoral degrees in medicine or law, they would become a doctor or a lawyer, and entered to the professional group.


Moreover, if the students completed the doctoral degree in divinity, especially in the University of Paris, the reward was very much.  According to the statistics about the famous students or graduates of this program, which is shown on the following table1:-


Peter Lombard

Famous Writer and Archbishop

Innocent III

The Pope

Gregory IX

The Pope

Urban IV

The Pope


The Pope

Thomas Aquinas

Writer of  “Summa Theologica


As we seen that, many popes and theologians are the graduated of this program, even some of them may not complete the program and got the doctorate.  Besides, the doctorates will promote the person to the high positions in government or in church.


Therefore, we can conclude the medieval education is the gift only to the elite, and I can say that this group of elite can influence the country, even the church a lot.  That’s why the University, especially the University of Paris, because its famous divinity program, became the battlefield between the Kings and the Church, because if any one can control the University, and they can control this group of elite.


1.     Daly S.J. (1960) pp.211-212


Firstly, the King needed to provide some privileges to the students, or the prospective elites of the country.  For example, all students were exempted the tallia, the toll to enter the city of Paris1.


Besides, after the students obtained his license, according to the “jus ubique docendi” principle, the graduates had the rights to teach in anywhere without restriction from the other Universities.


One of the reason behind the privileges were the many graduates became the tutor and the advisors of the Kings or Emperor, for example Honorius III had been a tutor of Emperor Frederick II1.


Besides, the University had a weapon to cope with the Kings, it was because there were many students studied in the University, the students generated a lot of economical benefits to the city, because the students and masters spent in the city, and they possibly not engage any part-time job and affect the employment of the citizens, if the University claimed “cessation”, the cessation of class, then the students left the city and moved to another University, then the economy of the city would have negative effect.


Therefore, in the human resources and economic aspects, the Kings needed to cooperate or even control the University.  The most effective way was controlled the degree granting system of the University, because the students wanted to study in the University not only the knowledge, and also the degree, once they got it, they could climb and became the elite.


From the church aspects, because many Popes are Archbishops were doctorates as I mentioned before, in order to protect the tradition and not to be controlled by the Kings, the church needed to do was also gained control the degree granting system.


Therefore, the Statues of Gregory IX needed to mention about the degree granting of the University.



1.     Daly S.J. (1960) p.211


Part Four




From the study of the degree granting system, we know that to become a doctorate was not easy, not only wealth, but also the competence and also the intelligence, but after they graduated, they became the elite of the society and influence the policies of the Empire or even the Church.


To conclude, University is not only place to study, but also a place where the elite stayed, from the beginning to now.  From the Status from Gregory IX, we can realize that was a conflict between the King and the Church.


As we know that before the Statues, the University was undergo cessation, not only stopped the spread of the knowledge, but the stopped the communication between the elite and production of those elite.


In order to solve the problem, Gregory IX proclaimed the Statues to the University of Paris in order to maintain the new order and also demonstrated to King that the University belonged to the Church.




Daly, S.J. (1961) The Medieval University 1200-1400, Sheed and Ward: New York, United States


Graves, F.P, (1965) A History of Education during the Middle Ages, Chinese Edition, Commercial Press: Taipei, Taiwan


Haskins, C.H. (1965), Rise of Universities, Cornell University Press: Ithaca, United States


Van Engen, J. (2000) Learning Institutionalized, University of Notre Dame Press, Notre Dame, United States


Wieruszowski, H. (1966) The Medieval University, D. Wan Nostrand Company, Inc.: Princeton, United States


Wilson, A (2003) Teach yourself Latin and English Dictionary, Hodder and Stoughton: London, United Kingdom