Yes, writes Megan Sauter, but their role changed after the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 C.E. The original synagogues seem to have been intended mainly for study, while post-Temple ones became centers of ritual and prayer, as changes in their construction attest:
Did Jews Have Synagogues While the Temple Still Stood?
At America’s Best Universities, Biblical Religion Is a Curiosity, if Not a Menace
At the time of Columbia University’s founding in 1784, notes Meir Soloviechik, the leader of the local synagogue, Gershom Mendes Seixas, was made a member of its board of regents. A Jewish student even gave a commencement address, composed by Seixas, in Hebrew. In the 20th century, Columbia attracted numerous Jews with the relaxation of quotas, and was the first secular university to create a chair in Jewish history. Barnard College, Columbia’s all-women’s school, was itself founded by a Jewish woman, and today has a large number of Orthodox Jewish students.