The Von Humboldt model of a university came about in the early 1800's. Von Humboldt's thought that the fundamental purpose of the university was to promote scientific inquiry and to unify teaching and research. This idea implies, of course, that the purpose of a university is to create new knowledge
However, a previous SE question touches upon the idea that the initial goal of a university was not to discover new knowledge (as was Humboldt's view) but to transmit older knowledge.
With these ideas as context, where exactly were scientific advancements pursued prior to the Von Humboldt model?