The first university in the history of mankind was created during the Islamic civilisation and was founded on endowments, especially from women.
Zayed University: the Islamic university that inspired the world
The Islamic world has a long history of endowments, founded in education.
Nasr Arif, director of the Institute for Islamic World Studies at Zayed university said: "The first university in the history of mankind was created during the Islamic civilisation and was founded on endowments established by society, especially women.
"When the Europeans returned from the Crusades, they tried to replicate these ideas and systems into European societies."
The University of Qarawiyin in Morocco was established in 859 through an endowment fund created by Fatima al Fihri, the daughter of a local merchant.
The first known European endowment was founded in the late 13th century by Walter de Merton, chancellor to Henry III and later Edward I, in what became Oxford University.
The university was given independent status with an endowments system to support it.
Dr Arif said: "The text of the endowment document was copied verbatim from the Islamic endowment. This was the beginning of the spread of endowments within the European universities."
However, it is today's highly lucrative system in the US that countries such as the UAE and the UK hope to emulate.
The top US endowments - with Harvard at the top, last year topping $27 billion - dwarf their UK equivalents, Oxford and Cambridge.
Between the two universities, their funds are still only in the region of $11bn but below that, in third place, the University of Edinburgh's fund is significantly less, worth around $264 million.