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The 18th century signaled the beginning of the age of enlightenment. At least it was for some people. For others, it probably felt more like the age of colonization, slave trading, and human trafficking. Still, there were many people of note from this era. These include John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Katherine The Great, Sarah Ewing Hall, Hannah Adams, and others.

While not every person of note in the 18th century obtained an advanced education many did. In fact, there were many colleges and universities of high regard during this period. Here, we’ll look at some of the most renowned.

The Colonial Colleges

The Colonial Colleges are nine institutes of higher learning created in the original 13 Colony states. Seven of these schools make up the Ivy League. The other two are the College of William And Mary, and Rutgers University. Here are some pertinent facts about a few of these schools.

New College (Now Harvard)

New College was founded in 1636 it was renamed Harvard in 1639. The original purpose of New College was to educate members of the clergy. The university is still active today. It is located along the Charles River.


In 1755 future president, John Adams graduated from Harvard. In addition to this, the school housed Continental soldiers in 1775. In 1776, seven of the signers of the Declaration of Independence were Harvard graduates. Finally, Harvard officially became a university when it opened the Harvard School of Medicine in 1780.

College of William And Mary

The College of William And Mary was founded in 1693. The school is home to the Sir Christopher Wren building. This is the oldest building at a college or university that is still in use today.


John Tyler, Thomas Jefferson, and James Monroe were all students at the school. George Washington obtained his surveyor’s license from William and Mary. In 1781, the College of William And Mary effectively became the first university in the United States when it brought together the faculty members of the schools of law, medicine, and the arts.

Collegiate School (Now Yale)

Yale University began in Connecticut in 1701. It was dubbed Yale University in 1718. In 1750, Connecticut Hall was built on the campus. It remains the oldest building in New Haven today. In addition to this, Yale began accepting students on scholarship during the 18th century. This continues today as the school accepts students based on merit alone, not financial ability.


In 1776 25 men from Yale were part of the inaugural Continental Congress. In 1792 James Hillhouse conceived the Brick Row campus plan. This made Yale the first planned campus in the United States.

College of New Jersey (Now Princeton)

Princeton was chartered in 1746 as the College of New Jersey. It was renamed in 1896 when it became a fully realized university. Today, Princeton is the fourth oldest college in the United States. Today, it is one of the most rigorous universities in the United States. Its graduates are highly sought out for their insights at each of the many academic writing services around the world.


In 1777 the British surrendered to General George Washington on the campus after the Battle of Princeton. The school relocated from New Jersey to Princeton in 1756.

College of Rhode Island (Now Brown University)


The College of Rhode Island was founded in 1764. It later became Brown University during the early 19th century. The school was founded by Baptists who had settled on Rhode Island. Notably, the school was briefly closed for six years during The Revolutionary War.


The school was permanently settled in Providence, RI between 1770 and 1779. In 1790, George Washington famously visited the campus where he was greeted with celebratory cannon fire and bell ringing.

Early Modern Universities in Europe

As might be expected, some of the most famous universities during this Era were founded in Europe. Many of these are still operating today. Universities in Europe in the 1700s were part of the Early Modern era of higher education. These schools include the following.

Istanbul Technical University

Istanbul Technical University was founded in 1773. It was initially called Mühendishane-i Bahr-i Hümayun” (Imperial School of Naval Engineering). Even today students attend the school to study architecture and engineering.


In 1795 the Faculty of Civil Engineering was founded. Other schools at the university were founded in the 19th and 20th centuries.  Today, the school is one of the most respected in Turkey.

Dijon Faculty of Law (Now University of Burgundy)

The Dijon Faculty of Law was founded in 1722. Other faculties were added to the school starting in the early 19th century. It was formerly called the University of Dijon. It is one of many early modern universities founded in Europe. It is one of many older universities in France.


This university was founded in 1743 by Margrave Friedrich. The school was founded with the purpose of enhancing the education of civil servants. Members of German royalty also attended Erlangen as a way to enhance their reputations with the citizens. When the school was initially founded, there were only 200 students and around 16 professors. The original schools at the university were theology, law, philosophy, and medicine.


The University of Modena was founded in the 12th century.  However, the school really came of note in the 18th century.  In 1772, the school was split into four separate faculties. These were Theology, Law, Medicine, Philosophy, and Arts. Prior to that, students at the school were able to study Criminal Institutions and Public Law. It was during the 18th century that the school began to offer doctorate degrees.


The campus became home to a botanical garden in 1758. A national history museum was established in 1786.


There were clearly several colleges and universities of high regard in the 18th century. Many were founded in the 1700s while others achieved significant milestones during this period. These early modern universities are noteworthy for educating several notable historical figures.



Author’s bio.

Daniela McVicker is a contributor to Essayguard. She has a master's degree in English Literature, and she is truly passionate about learning foreign languages and teaching. Daniela works with the students helping them to reveal the writing talent and find one true calling.