The idea of university and higher education originated in the Middle Ages. The first universities were founded in the 12th and 13th centuries in Europe, although some universities existed in the Islamic world before this time. Higher education was seen as a way to promote knowledge, research, and scholarship. This was in contrast to the education of the Middle Ages, which was largely vocational and focused on preparing people to enter the workforce. Over the centuries, universities have evolved as the primary means of providing higher education, with a focus on research and scholarship. Today, universities are institutions of learning and research that offer undergraduate and postgraduate degrees.