The Medieval period was not one of rampant ignorance. The 14th century saw the beginnings of the Renaissance. The engines of this rebirth were the universities. Some were already several centuries old by the early 14th century, and it had now become popular to assist in founding new ones. By 1500, nearly 70 had been founded. While theology and law were the major fields of study, medicine and "natural philosophy" (science) were becoming increasingly popular, and some universities even offered courses in estate management. Medieval universities were quite different from modern ones, which owe their organization to German reforms of the 19th century. Initially, universities were little more than guilds of teachers who settled down in a building provided by a city or local bishop. By the 15th century, many of these universities were becoming independent entities. Basically, the university provided a place for the teachers and students to live together, as well as lecture halls and a library. The original purpose of a university degree was that it served as a licence to teach. But the courses of instruction were so long (a Doctor of Theology degree could take 16 years to obtain) that many students stayed until they thought they had learned all they needed (or could afford) and then went on to get a job based on their having "attended university" for so many years.
Below is a list of the universities present in Western Europe in 1337:
Fief Institution (not necessarily the name of
G0000 Amalfi, Salerno, Naples
ILA00 Piacenza, Vercelli
IVR00 Vicenza, Padua
L0000 Palencia, Salamanca
PPS00 Rome, Bologna
The only other universities in Europe at this time are at Lisbon and Coimbra, in Portugal, and at Constantinople. Several more were created during the Hundred Years' War: two in Spain, eight in Italy, three in Scotland, about a dozen in France, etc.