The Medieval Latin word universitas has no reference to the scope of the curriculum of studies; it stands for the whole gathering, the whole body, of a particular class of persons, and indeed stands very near in meaning to the modern ‘union’ in the term ‘trade union.’ It is all but synonymous, for legal purposes, with the Latin term collegium, and for social comparisons, with the old English word guild. The universitas was first of all the whole body either of the masters or of the students, and then very naturally came to mean their self-governing guild or society. The word did not gain its local or educational connotation till the last phase of the middle ages.

David Knowles, The Evolution of Medieval Thought (1962)