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The Division of University Mission and Ministry

Religion & the Academy: A Brief History

exploring the jesuit and catholic dimensions of the university's mission

Photo of Devlin Hall

The earliest universities of Europe, such as Bologna, Paris, and Oxford, were so thoroughly interconnected with church structures and the Christian culture out of which they arose that they were, in effect, ecclesiastical institutions. After the Protestant Reformation some of these universities retained formal religious associations (Leuven, for example) but in the ensuing political transitions of Europe the greater number of them gradually assumed secular identities.

Today, there are some 268 Catholic colleges and universities in the U.S. and several hundred institutions affiliated in varying degrees with Protestant denominations. There are also a small number of Jewish institutions of higher education and a sprinkling of institutions affiliated with other religious groups. But the total of institutions of higher education in the U.S. is more than 6,500, so religiously affiliated ones still constitute a relatively small percentage of the whole.

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