A college (Latin: collegium) is an educational institution or a
constituent part of one. A college may be a degree-awarding tertiary
educational institution, a part of a collegiate or federal university,
or an institution offering vocational education.
In the United States, "college" may refer to a constituent part of a
university or to a degree-awarding tertiary educational institution,
but generally "college" and "university" are used interchangeably,
whereas in the United Kingdom, Oceania,
South Asia and Southern
Africa, "college" may refer to a secondary or high school, a college
of further education, a training institution that awards trade
qualifications, a higher education provider that does not have
university status (often without its own degree-awarding powers), or a
constituent part of a university (See this comparison of British and
American English educational terminology for further information).
2.1 Higher education
2.2 Further education
2.3 Secondary education
College by country
3.6 Hong Kong
3.11 New Zealand
3.15 South Africa
3.16 Sri Lanka
3.17 United Kingdom
Secondary education and further education
3.17.2 Higher education
3.18 United States
3.18.1 Residential colleges
3.18.2 Origin of the U.S. usage
3.18.3 Morrill Land-Grant Act
3.18.4 Benefits of college
4 See also
In ancient Rome a collegium was a club or society, a group of people
living together under a common set of rules (con- = "together" + leg-
= "law" or lego = "I choose" or "I read").
Aside from the modern educational context - nowadays the most common
use of "college" - there are various other meanings also derived from
Latin term, such as Electoral college.
Within higher education, the term can be used to refer to:
a constituent part of a collegiate university, for example King's
College, Cambridge, or of a federal university, for example King's
an institute providing specialised training, such as a college of
further education, for example Belfast Metropolitan College, a teacher
training college, or an art college.
In the United States, college can be a synonym for university, e.g.
Dartmouth College, one of the eight universities in the Ivy League
College London, established by a
Royal Charter in 1829, is one
of the founding colleges of the
University of London.
Main article: Sixth form college
A sixth form college or college of further education is an educational
institution in England, Wales, Northern Ireland, Belize, The
Caribbean, Malta, Norway, Brunei, or Southern Africa, among others,
where students aged 16 to 19 typically study for advanced school-level
qualifications, such as A-levels, BTEC, HND or its equivalent and the
International Baccalaureate Diploma, or school-level qualifications
such as GCSEs. In
Singapore and India, this is known as a junior
college. The municipal government of the city of
Paris uses the phrase
"sixth form college" as the English name for a lycée.
Scotch College, Melbourne
Scotch College, Melbourne is an independent secondary school
In some national education systems, secondary schools may be called
"colleges" or have "college" as part of their title.
In Australia the term "college" is applied to any private or
independent (non-government) primary and, especially, secondary school
as distinct from a state school.
Melbourne Grammar School, Cranbrook
School, Sydney and
The King's School, Parramatta
The King's School, Parramatta are considered
There has also been a recent trend to rename or create government
secondary schools as "colleges". In the state of Victoria, some state
high schools are referred to as secondary colleges, although the
pre-eminent government secondary school for boys in
Melbourne is still
Melbourne High School. In Western Australia, South Australia and
the Northern Territory, "college" is used in the name of all state
high schools built since the late 1990s, and also some older ones. In
New South Wales, some high schools, especially multi-campus schools
resulting from mergers, are known as "secondary colleges". In
Queensland some newer schools which accept primary and high school
students are styled state college, but state schools offering only
secondary education are called "State High School". In
the Australian Capital Territory, "college" refers to the final two
years of high school (years 11 and 12), and the institutions which
provide this. In this context, "college" is a system independent of
the other years of high school. Here, the expression is a shorter
version of matriculation college.
In a number of Canadian cities, many government-run secondary schools
are called "collegiates" or "collegiate institutes" (C.I.), a
complicated form of the word "college" which avoids the usual
"post-secondary" connotation. This is because these secondary schools
have traditionally focused on academic, rather than vocational,
subjects and ability levels (for example, collegiates offered Latin
while vocational schools offered technical courses). Some private
secondary schools (such as Upper Canada College, Vancouver College)
choose to use the word "college" in their names nevertheless. Some
secondary schools elsewhere in the country, particularly ones within
the separate school system, may also use the word "college" or
"collegiate" in their names.
In New Zealand the word "college" normally refers to a secondary
school for ages 13 to 17 and "college" appears as part of the name
especially of private or integrated schools. "Colleges" most
frequently appear in the North Island, whereas "high schools" are more
common in the South Island.
St John's College, Johannesburg
In South Africa, some secondary schools, especially private schools on
the English public school model, have "college" in their title. Thus
no less than six of South Africa's Elite Seven high schools call
themselves "college" and fit this description. A typical example of
this category would be St John's College.
Private schools that specialize in improving children's marks through
intensive focus on examination needs are informally called
Sri Lanka the word "college" (known as Vidyalaya in Sinhala)
normally refers to a secondary school, which usually signifies above
the 5th standard. During the British colonial period a limited number
of exclusive secondary schools were established based on English
public school model (Royal
College Colombo, S. Thomas' College, Mount
Lavinia, Trinity College, Kandy) these along with several Catholic
schools (St. Joseph's College, Colombo, St Anthony's College)
traditionally carry their name as colleges. Following the start of
free education in 1931 large group of central colleges were
established to educate the rural masses. Since
Sri Lanka gained
Independence in 1948, many schools that have been established have
been named as "college".
As well as an educational institution, the term can also refer,
following its etymology, to any formal group of colleagues set up
under statute or regulation; often under a Royal Charter. Examples are
an electoral college, the
College of Arms, a college of canons, and
College of Cardinals. Other collegiate bodies include professional
associations, particularly in medicine and allied professions. In the
UK these include the
Royal College of Nursing
Royal College of Nursing and the Royal
Physicians. Examples in the
United States include the American College
of Physicians, the American
College of Surgeons, and the American
College of Dentists. An example in Australia is the Royal Australian
College of General Practitioners.
College by country
See also: Category:
Higher education by country
In Australia a college may be an institution of tertiary education
that is smaller than a university, run independently or as part of a
university. Following a reform in the 1980s many of the formerly
independent colleges now belong to a larger universities.
Referring to parts of a university, there are residential colleges
which provide residence for students, both undergraduate and
postgraduate, called university colleges. These colleges often provide
additional tutorial assistance, and some host theological study. Many
colleges have strong traditions and rituals, so are a combination of
dormitory style accommodation and fraternity or sorority culture.
Most technical and further education institutions (TAFEs), which offer
certificate and diploma vocational courses, are styled "
or "Colleges of TAFE".
Some senior high schools are also referred to as colleges.
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In Canada, the term "college" usually refers to a trades school,
applied arts/science/technology/business/health school or community
college. These are post-secondary institutions granting certificates,
diplomas, associate's degree, and in some cases bachelor's degrees. In
Quebec, the term is seldom used; the French acronym for public
CEGEP (Collège d'enseignement général et professionnel,
"college of general and professional education"), is colloquially all
collegiate level institutions specific to the
Quebec education system,
a step that is required to continue onto university (unless one
applies as a "mature" student, meaning 21 years of age or over, and
out of the educational system for at least 2 years), or to learn a
Ontario and Alberta, there are also institutions which are
designated university colleges, as they only grant undergraduate
degrees. This is to differentiate between universities, which have
both undergraduate and graduate programs and those that do not. In
contrast to usage in the United States, there is a strong distinction
between "college" and "university" in Canada. In conversation, one
specifically would say either "They are going to university" (i.e.,
studying for a three- or four-year degree at a university) or "They
are going to college" (suggesting technical/career training or
university transfer courses).
The Royal Military
College of Canada, a full-fledged degree-granting
university, does not follow the naming convention used by the rest of
the country, nor does its sister school Royal Military College
Saint-Jean or the now closed Royal Roads Military College.
The term "college" also applies to distinct entities within a
university (usually referred to as "federated colleges" or "affiliated
colleges"), similar to the residential colleges in the United Kingdom.
These colleges act independently, but in affiliation or federation
with the university that actually grants the degrees. For example,
College was once an independent institution, but later became
federated with the
University of Toronto, and is now one of its
residential colleges (though it remains a degree-granting institution
through its Faculty of Divinity). In the case of Memorial University
of Newfoundland, located in St. John's, the
Corner Brook campus is
called Sir Wilfred Grenfell College. Occasionally, "college" refers to
a subject specific faculty within a university that, while distinct,
are neither federated nor affiliated—
College of Education, College
College of Dentistry,
College of Biological Science
There are also universities referred to as art colleges, empowered to
grant academic degrees of BFA, Bdes, MFA, Mdes and sometimes
PhD degrees. Some of them have "university" in their
name (NSCAD University,
OCAD University and Emily Carr
Art and Design)and others do not. In some Canadian provinces, the word
"college" may also be seen in the proper name of a high school,
especially one with a history as a private school, but these
institutions would not actually be considered colleges in the more
general sense of the term.
Online and distance education (E-learning) use "college" in the name
in the British sense, for example : Canada Capstone
One use of the term "college" in the American sense is by the Canadian
Football League (CFL), which calls its annual entry draft the Canadian
College Draft. The draft is restricted to players who qualify under
CFL rules as "non-imports"—essentially, players who were raised in
Canada (see the main CFL article for a more detailed definition).
Because a player's designation as "non-import" is not affected by
where he plays post-secondary football, the category includes former
players at U.S. college football programs ("universities" in the
Canadian sense) as well as
CIS football programs at Canadian
In Chile, the term "college" is usually used in the name of some
bilingual schools, like Santiago College, Saint George's
International Association of "Tourists and Travelers" College.
International association "tourists and travelers" is a
non-commercial, non political and non industrial organization, which
is created to develop tourism in Georgia.
Kollegio (in Greek Κολλέγιο) refers to the Centers of
Lyceum Education (in Greek Κέντρο
Μεταλυκειακής Εκπαίδευσης, abbreviated as
KEME), which are principally private and belong to the Greek
post-secondary education system. Some of them have links to EU or US
higher education institutions or accreditation organizations, such as
the NEASC. Kollegio (or Kollegia in plural) may also refer to
private non-tertiary schools, such as the Athens College.
See also: Education in Hong Kong
In Hong Kong, the term 'college' is used by tertiary institutions as
either part of their names or to refer to a constituent part of the
university, such as the colleges in the collegiate The Chinese
University of Hong Kong; or to a residence hall of a university, such
as St. John's College,
University of Hong Kong. Many older secondary
schools have the term 'college' as part of their names.
See also: Colleges and institutes in India
The modern system of education was heavily influenced by the British
starting in 1835.
In India, the term "college" is commonly reserved for institutions
that offer degrees at year 12 ("Junior College", similar to American
high schools), and those that offer the bachelor's degree; some
colleges, however, offer programmes up to
PhD level. Generally,
colleges are located in different parts of a state and all of them are
affiliated to a regional university. The colleges offer programmes
leading to degrees of that university. Colleges may be either
Autonomous or non-autonomous. Autonomous Colleges are empowered to
establish their own syllabus, and conduct and assess their own
examinations; in non-autonomous colleges, examinations are conducted
by the university, at the same time for all colleges under its
affiliation. There are several hundred universities and each
university has affiliated colleges, often a large number.
The first liberal arts and sciences college in
India was C. M. S.
College Kottayam, Kerala, established in 1817, and the Presidency
College, Kolkata, also 1817, initially known as Hindu College. The
first college for the study of Christian theology and ecumenical
Serampore College (1818). The first Missionary institution
to impart Western style education in
India was the Scottish Church
College, Calcutta (1830). The first commerce and economics college in
India was Sydenham College,
Parliament Square, Trinity College, Dublin
See also: List of universities in the Republic of Ireland
In Ireland the term "college" is normally used to describe an
institution of tertiary education.
University students often say they
attend "college" rather than "university". Until 1989, no university
provided teaching or research directly; they were formally offered by
a constituent college of the university.
There are number of secondary education institutions that
traditionally used the word "college" in their names: these are either
older, private schools (such as Belvedere College,
Gonzaga College and
St. Michael's College) or what were formerly a particular kind of
secondary school. These secondary schools, formerly known as
"technical colleges," were renamed "community colleges," but remain
The country's only ancient university is the
University of Dublin.
Created during the reign of Elizabeth I, it is modelled on the
collegiate universities of Cambridge and Oxford. However, only one
constituent college was ever founded, hence the curious position of
Trinity College, Dublin
Trinity College, Dublin today; although both are usually considered
one and the same, the
College are completely distinct
corporate entities with separate and parallel governing structures.
Among more modern foundations, the National
University of Ireland,
founded in 1908, consisted of constituent colleges and recognised
colleges until 1997. The former are now referred to as constituent
universities – institutions that are essentially universities in
their own right. The National
University can trace its existence back
to 1850 and the creation of the
Queen's University of Ireland
Queen's University of Ireland and the
creation of the
Catholic University of Ireland
Catholic University of Ireland in 1854. From 1880, the
degree awarding roles of these two universities was taken over by the
University of Ireland, which remained until the creation of the
University in 1908 and Queen's
The state's two new universities
Dublin City University
Dublin City University and University
of Limerick were initially National Institute for Higher Education
institutions. These institutions offered university level academic
degrees and research from the start of their existence and were
awarded university status in 1989 in recognition of this.
Third level technical education in the state has been carried out in
the Institutes of Technology, which were established from the 1970s as
Regional Technical Colleges. These institutions have delegated
authority which entitles them to give degrees and diplomas from the
Higher Education and Training Awards Council in their own name.
A number of Private Colleges exist such as DBS, providing
undergraduate and postgraduate courses validated by HETAC and in some
cases by other Universities.
Other types of college include Colleges of Education, such as the
Church of Ireland
College of Education. These are specialist
institutions, often linked to a university, which provide both
undergraduate and postgraduate academic degrees for people who want to
train as teachers.
A number of state funded further education colleges exist - which
offer vocational education and training in a range of areas from
business studies, I.C.T to sports injury therapy. These courses are
usually 1, 2 or less often 3 three years in duration and are validated
FETAC at levels 5 or 6 or for the BTEC Higher National Diploma
award - validated by
Edexcel which is a level 6/7 qualification. There
are numerous private colleges (particularly in Dublin and
Limerick) which offer both further and higher
education qualifications. These degrees and diplomas are often
certified by foreign universities/international awarding bodies and
are aligned to the National Framework of Qualifications at level 6, 7
Main article: List_of_universities_and_colleges_in_Israel
In Israel, any non university higher-learning facility is called a
college. Institutions accredited by the Council for Higher Education
in Israel (CHE) to confer a bachelor's degree are called "Academic
Colleges." These colleges (at least 4 for 2012) may also offer
master's degrees and act as Research facilities. There are also over
twenty teacher training colleges or seminaries, most of which may
award only a
Bachelor of Education (B.Ed.) degree.
Academic colleges: Any educational facility that had been approved to
offer at least bachelor's degree is entitled by CHE to use the term
academic college in its name.
Engineering academic college: Any academic facility that offer at
least bachelor's degree and most of it faculties are providing an
Engineering degree and Engineering license.
Educational academic college: After an educational facility that had
been approved for "Teachers seminar" status is then approved to
provide a Bachelor of Education, its name is changed to include
"Educational Academic college."
Technical college: A "Technical college" is an educational
facility that is approved to allow to provide P.E degree (14'th
class) or technician (טכנאי) (13'th class) diploma and licenses.
Training College: A "Training College" is an educational facility
that provides basic training allowing a person to receive a working
permit in a field such as alternative medicine, cooking, Art,
Mechanical, Electrical and other professions. A trainee could receive
the right to work in certain professions as apprentice (j. mechanic,
j. Electrician etc.). After working in the training field for enough
time an apprentice could have a license to operate (Mechanic,
Electrician) . This educational facility is mostly used to provide
basic training for low tech jobs and for job seekers without any
training that are provided by the nation's Employment Service
Following the Portuguese usage, the term "college" (colégio) in Macau
has traditionally been used in the names for private (and
non-governmental) pre-university educational institutions, which
correspond to form one to form six level tiers. Such schools are
usually run by the Roman Catholic church or missionaries in Macau.
Examples include Chan Sui Ki Perpetual
Help College, Yuet Wah College,
and Sacred Heart Canossian College.
University of Otago
The constituent colleges of the former
University of New Zealand
University of New Zealand (such
University College) have become independent
universities. Some halls of residence associated with New Zealand
universities retain the name of "college", particularly at the
University of Otago
University of Otago (which although brought under the umbrella of the
University of New Zealand, already possessed university status and
degree awarding powers). The institutions formerly known as
"Teacher-training colleges" now style themselves "
Some universities, such as the
University of Canterbury, have divided
University into constituent administrative "Colleges" – the
College of Arts containing departments that teach Arts, Humanities and
College of Science containing Science departments,
and so on. This is largely modelled on the Cambridge model, discussed
United Kingdom some professional bodies in New Zealand style
themselves as "colleges", for example, the Royal Australasian College
of Surgeons, the Royal Australasian
College of Physicians.
Secondary school is often referred to as college and the term is used
interchangeably with high school. This is reflected in the names of
many secondary schools such as Rangitoto College, New Zealand's
Higher education in the Philippines
In the Philippines, colleges usually refer to institutions of learning
that grant degrees but whose scholastic fields are not as diverse as
that of a university (
University of Santo Tomas,
University of the
Philippines, Ateneo de Manila University, De La Salle University, Far
Eastern University, and AMA University), such as the San Beda College
which specializes in law,
AMA Computer College
AMA Computer College whose campuses are
spread all over the Philippines which specializes in information and
computing technologies, and the
Mapúa Institute of Technology
Mapúa Institute of Technology which
specializes in engineering, or to component units within universities
that do not grant degrees but rather facilitate the instruction of a
particular field, such as a
College of Science and
Engineering, among many other colleges of the
University of the
A state college may not have the word "college" on its name, but may
have several component colleges, or departments. Thus, the Eulogio
Amang Rodriguez Institute of Science and Technology is a state college
Usually, the term "college" is also thought of as a hierarchical
demarcation between the term "university", and quite a number of
colleges seek to be recognized as universities as a sign of
improvement in academic standards (Colegio de San Juan de Letran, San
Beda College), and increase in the diversity of the offered degree
programs (called "courses"). For private colleges, this may be done
through a survey and evaluation by the Commission on Higher Education
and accrediting organizations, as was the case of Urios
is now the Fr. Saturnino Urios University. For state colleges, it is
usually done by a legislation by the Congress or Senate. In common
usage, "going to college" simply means attending school for an
undergraduate degree, whether it's from an institution recognized as a
college or a university.
When it comes to referring to the level of education, college is the
term more used to be synonymous to tertiary or higher education. A
student who is or has studied his/her undergraduate degree at either
an institution with college or university in its name is considered to
be going to or have gone to college.
Main article: Education in Portugal
Presently in Portugal, the term colégio (college) is normally used as
a generic reference to a private (non-government) school that provides
from basic to secondary education. Many of the private schools include
the term colégio in their name. Some special public schools - usually
of the boarding school type - also include the term in their name,
with a notable example being the
Colégio Militar (Military College).
The term colégio interno (literally "internal college") is used
specifically as a generic reference to a boarding school.
Until the 19th century, a colégio was usually a secondary or
pre-university school, of public or religious nature, where the
students usually lived together. A model for these colleges was the
College of Arts and Humanities, founded in
Coimbra by King John
Portugal in 1542.
The term "college" in
Singapore is generally only used for
pre-university educational institutions called "Junior Colleges",
which provide the final two years of secondary education (equivalent
to sixth form in British terms or grades 11–12 in the American
system). Since 1 January 2005, the term also refers to the three
campuses of the
Institute of Technical Education
Institute of Technical Education with the introduction
of the "collegiate system", in which the three institutions are called
College East, ITE
College Central, and ITE
The term "university" is used to describe higher-education
institutions offering locally conferred degrees. Institutions offering
diplomas are called "polytechnics", while other institutions are often
referred to as "institutes" and so forth.
Although the term "college" is hardly used in any context at any
university in South Africa, some non-university tertiary institutions
call themselves colleges. These include teacher training colleges,
business colleges and wildlife management colleges. See: List of
universities in South Africa#Private colleges and universities; List
of post secondary institutions in South Africa.
There are several professional and vocational institutions that offer
post-secondary education without granting degrees that are referred to
as "colleges". This includes the
Law College, the many
Technical Colleges and Teaching Colleges.
University of London
Secondary education and further education
Further education (FE) colleges and sixth form colleges are
institutions providing further education to students over 16. Some of
these also provide higher education courses (see below). In the
context of secondary education, 'college' is used in the names of some
private schools, e.g.
Eton College and Winchester College.
See also: Colleges within universities in the United Kingdom,
Residential college, and
University college § United Kingdom
In higher education, a college is normally a provider that does not
hold university status, although it can also refer to a constituent
part of a collegiate or federal university or a grouping of academic
faculties or departments within a university. Traditionally the
distinction between colleges and universities was that colleges did
not award degrees while universities did, but this is no longer the
case with NCG having gained taught degree awarding powers (the same as
some universities) on behalf of its colleges, and many of the
colleges of the
University of London
University of London holding full degree awarding
powers and being effectively universities. Most colleges, however, do
not hold their own degree awarding powers and continue to offer higher
education courses that are validated by universities or other
institutions that can award degrees.
In England, as of August 2016, over 60% of the higher education
providers directly funded by
HEFCE (208/340) are sixth-form or further
education colleges, often termed colleges of further and higher
education, along with 17 colleges of the
University of London, one
university college, 100 universities, and 14 other providers (six of
which use 'college' in their name). Overall, this means over two
thirds of state-supported higher education providers in
colleges of one form or another. Many private providers are
also called colleges, e.g. the
New College of the Humanities
New College of the Humanities and St
Patrick's College, London.
Colleges within universities vary immensely in their responsibilities.
The large constituent colleges of the
University of London
University of London are
effectively universities in their own right; colleges in some
universities, including those of the
University of the Arts London
University of the Arts London and
smaller colleges of the
University of London, run their own degree
courses but do not award degrees; those at the
Roehampton provide accommodation and pastoral care as well as
delivering the teaching on university courses; those at Oxford and
Cambridge deliver some teaching on university courses as well as
providing accommodation and pastoral care; and those in Durham, Kent,
Lancaster and York provide accommodation and pastoral care but do not
normally participate in formal teaching. The legal status of these
colleges also varies widely, with
University of London
University of London colleges being
independent corporations and recognised bodies, Oxbridge colleges,
colleges of the
University of the Highlands and Islands
University of the Highlands and Islands (UHI) and some
Durham colleges being independent corporations and listed bodies, most
Durham colleges being owned by the university but still listed bodies,
and those of other collegiate universities not having formal
recognition. When applying for undergraduate courses through UCAS,
University of London
University of London colleges are treated as independent providers,
colleges of Oxford, Cambridge, Durham and UHI are treated as locations
within the universities that can be selected by specifying a 'campus
code' in addition to selecting the university, and colleges of other
universities are not recognised.
The UHI and the
Wales Trinity Saint David (UWTSD) both
include further education colleges. However, while the UHI colleges
integrate FE and HE provision, UWTSD maintains a separation between
the university campuses (Lampeter, Carmarthen and Swansea) and the two
colleges (Coleg Sir Gâr and Coleg Ceredigion; n.b. coleg is Welsh for
college), which although part of the same group are treated as
separate institutions rather than colleges within the
A university college is an independent institution with the power to
award taught degrees, but which has not been granted university
College is a protected title that can only be used
with permission, although note that
University College, Oxford
University College, Oxford and
University College, Durham
University College, Durham are colleges
within their respective universities and not university colleges (in
the case of UCL holding full degree awarding powers that set it above
a university college), while
University College Birmingham
University College Birmingham is a
university in its own right and also not a university college.
College of New York
Saint Anselm College
Agnes Scott College
University of Notre Dame
Higher education in the United States
Community college § United States
In the United States, there are over 7021 colleges and
universities. A "college" in the US formally denotes a constituent
part of a university, but in popular usage, the word "college" is the
generic term for any post-secondary undergraduate education. Americans
"go to college" after high school, regardless of whether the specific
institution is formally a college or a university. Some students
choose to dual-enroll, by taking college classes while still in high
school. The word and its derivatives are the standard terms used to
describe the institutions and experiences associated with American
post-secondary undergraduate education.
Students must pay for college before taking classes. Some borrow the
money via loans, and some students fund their educations with cash,
scholarships, or grants, or some combination of any two or more of
those payment methods. In 2011, the state or federal government
subsidized $8,000 to $100,000 for each undergraduate degree. For
state-owned schools (called "public" universities), the subsidy was
given to the college, with the student benefiting from lower
tuition. The state subsidized on average 50% of public
Colleges vary in terms of size, degree, and length of stay. Two-year
colleges, also known as junior or community colleges, usually offer an
associate's degree, and four-year colleges usually offer a bachelor's
degree. Often, these are entirely undergraduate institutions, although
some have graduate school programs.
Four-year institutions in the U.S. that emphasize a liberal arts
curriculum are known as liberal arts colleges. Until the 20th century,
liberal arts, law, medicine, theology, and divinity were about the
only form of higher education available in the United States.
These schools have traditionally emphasized instruction at the
undergraduate level, although advanced research may still occur at
While there is no national standard in the United States, the term
"university" primarily designates institutions that provide
undergraduate and graduate education. A university typically has as
its core and its largest internal division an undergraduate college
teaching a liberal arts curriculum, also culminating in a bachelor's
degree. What often distinguishes a university is having, in addition,
one or more graduate schools engaged in both teaching graduate classes
and in research. Often these would be called a School of
Law or School
of Medicine, (but may also be called a college of law, or a faculty of
law). An exception is Vincennes University, Indiana, which is styled
and chartered as a "university" even though almost all of its academic
programs lead only to two-year associate degrees. Some institutions,
Dartmouth College and The
College of William & Mary, have
retained the term "college" in their names for historical reasons. In
one unique case,
Boston College and Boston University, both located in
Boston, Massachusetts, are completely separate institutions.
Usage of the terms varies among the states. In 1996 for example,
Georgia changed all of its four-year institutions previously
designated as colleges to universities, and all of its vocational
technology schools to technical colleges.
The terms "university" and "college" do not exhaust all possible
titles for an American institution of higher education. Other options
include "Polytechnic" (Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute), "Institute
of Technology" (Massachusetts Institute of Technology), "academy"
United States Military Academy), "union" (Cooper Union),
England Conservatory), and "school" (Juilliard
School). In colloquial use, they are still referred to as "college"
when referring to their undergraduate studies.
SUNY Purchase College
The term college is also, as in the United Kingdom, used for a
constituent semi-autonomous part of a larger university but generally
organized on academic rather than residential lines. For example, at
many institutions, the undergraduate portion of the university can be
briefly referred to as the college (such as The
College of the
University of Chicago,
Harvard College at Harvard, or Columbia College
at Columbia) while at others, such as the
University of California,
Berkeley, each of the faculties may be called a "college" (the
"college of engineering", the "college of nursing", and so forth).
There exist other variants for historical reasons; for example, Duke
University, which was called Trinity
College until the 1920s, still
calls its main undergraduate subdivision Trinity
College of Arts and
Some American universities, such as Princeton, Rice, and Yale have
established residential colleges (sometimes, as at Harvard, the first
to establish such a system in the 1930s, known as houses) along the
lines of Oxford or Cambridge. Unlike the Oxbridge colleges, but
similarly to Durham, these residential colleges are not autonomous
legal entities nor are they typically much involved in education
itself, being primarily concerned with room, board, and social
life. At the
University of Michigan,
University of California, San
Diego and the
University of California, Santa Cruz, however, each of
the residential colleges does teach its own core writing courses and
has its own distinctive set of graduation requirements.
Many U.S. universities have placed increased emphasis on their
residential colleges in recent years. This is exemplified by the
creation of new colleges at
Ivy League schools such as Yale
University and Princeton University, and efforts to strengthen
the contribution of the residential colleges to student education,
including through a 2016 taskforce at Princeton on residential
Origin of the U.S. usage
The founders of the first institutions of higher education in the
United States were graduates of the
University of Oxford
University of Oxford and the
University of Cambridge. The small institutions they founded would not
have seemed to them like universities – they were tiny and did not
offer the higher degrees in medicine and theology. Furthermore, they
were not composed of several small colleges. Instead, the new
institutions felt like the Oxford and Cambridge colleges they were
used to – small communities, housing and feeding their students,
with instruction from residential tutors (as in the United Kingdom,
described above). When the first students graduated, these "colleges"
assumed the right to confer degrees upon them, usually with
authority—for example, The
College of William & Mary has a Royal
Charter from the British monarchy allowing it to confer degrees while
Dartmouth College has a charter permitting it to award degrees "as are
usually granted in either of the universities, or any other college in
our realm of Great Britain."
The leaders of
Harvard College (which granted America's first degrees
in 1642) might have thought of their college as the first of many
residential colleges that would grow up into a New Cambridge
university. However, over time, few new colleges were founded there,
and Harvard grew and added higher faculties. Eventually, it changed
its title to university, but the term "college" had stuck and
"colleges" have arisen across the United States.
In U.S. usage, the word "college" embodies not only a particular type
of school, but has historically been used to refer to the general
concept of higher education when it is not necessary to specify a
school, as in "going to college" or "college savings accounts" offered
In a survey of more than 2,000 college students in 33 states and 156
different campuses, the U.S. Public Interest Research Group found the
average student spends as much as $1,200 each year on textbooks and
supplies alone. By comparison, the group says that's the equivalent of
39 percent of tuition and fees at a community college, and 14 percent
of tuition and fees at a four-year public university.
Morrill Land-Grant Act
In addition to private colleges and universities, the U.S. also has a
system of government funded, public universities. Many were founded
Morrill Land-Grant Colleges Act
Morrill Land-Grant Colleges Act of 1862. A movement had
arisen to bring a form of more practical higher education to the
masses, as "...many politicians and educators wanted to make it
possible for all young Americans to receive some sort of advanced
education." The Morrill Act "...made it possible for the new
western states to establish colleges for the citizens." Its goal
was to make higher education more easily accessible to the citizenry
of the country, specifically to improve agricultural systems by
providing training and scholarship in the production and sales of
agricultural products, and to provide formal education in
"...agriculture, home economics, mechanical arts, and other
professions that seemed practical at the time."
The act was eventually extended to allow all states that had remained
with the Union during the American Civil War, and eventually all
states, to establish such institutions. Most of the colleges
established under the Morrill Act have since become full universities,
and some are among the elite of the world.
Benefits of college
Selection of a four-year college as compared to a two-year junior
college, even by marginal students such as those with a C+ grade
average in high school and SAT scores in the mid 800s, increases the
probability of graduation and confers substantial economic and social
The term college is mainly used by private or independent secondary
schools with Advanced Level (Upper 6th formers) and also Polytechnic
Colleges which confer diplomas only. A student can complete secondary
education (International General Certificate of Secondary Education,
IGCSE) at 16 years and proceed straight to a poly-technical college or
they can proceed to Advanced level (16 to 19 years) and obtain a
General Certificate of Education (GCE) certificate which enables them
to enrol at a University, provided they have good grades.
Alternatively, with lower grades the GCE certificate holders will have
an added advantage over their
GCSE counterparts if they choose to
enrol at a Poly-technical College. Some schools in Zimbabwe choose to
International Baccalaureate studies as an alternative to the
IGCSE and GCE.
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gains of 22 percent between eight and fourteen years after high school
completion. These gains outstrip the costs of college attendance, and
are largest for male students and free lunch recipients.
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