In the eight and early ninth century, Charlemagne had an enormous impact on education and learning. He reformed his own palace school for his children and other youths. Before his reign, the school taught young nobles court manners, how to fight and wage war. He introduced the liberal arts into the curriculum.
Charlemagne invited Paul the Deacon (an Italian Benedictine) to become head of the Palace School. He also induced Paulinus of Aquileia (theologian), and Peter of Pisa (Grammarian) to teach there. He, himself, attended lectures of Peter of Pisa.
It was after the arrival of Acuin of York to the court of Charlemagne that real educational reform began. Alcuin became Charlemagne’s advisor, teacher and minister of education.
In 787 Charlemagne issued his famous capitulary informing the Bishops and Abbots of the empire that he wished them to pursue the education of the monks and clergy with more zeal and dedication to scholarship, noting that letters he had received from various monasteries were crude and potentially a source of error in religious matters. He also made it clear that the Bishops and Abbots were to set up local schools for boys from the surrounding districts where they could be taught, at least the rudiments of general education and Christian doctrine. These schools were free.
After Charlemagne died in 814 the Empire began to slowly disintegrate and without his influence the interest in education began to diminish. Some monastic and cathedral schools remained and by the 12th century emerged as famous universities like Bologna, Paris, Montpellier and Oxford.
according to Thomas Cahill, in his modestly titled, yet convincing book, How the Irish Saved Civilisation, (Random House NY, 1996) – Charlemagne also received assistance and council from Irish scholar-clergy, and their successors in the 10th century were also instrumental in the establishment of the University of Paris/the Sorbonne.
Irish monks were definitely in demand during this period. I think the Irish monks, in particular, were Greek scholars which gave them access to the older Greek philosophical writings. Thanks for the reference to Thomas Cahill.