I tend to agree with the gist of Harry’s above statement:
And I also like the pretty clear distinction made in the following (leaving out all the fill on buildings, faculty, etc.):hsargent wrote: I always thought a University is a collection of individuals Colleges; Engineering, Agriculture, Fine Arts, etc.
AMERICAN HERITAGE DICTIONARY
An institution for higher learning with teaching and research facilities constituting a graduate school and professional schools that award master's degrees and doctorates and an undergraduate division that awards bachelor's degrees.
a) An institution of higher learning that grants the bachelor's degree in liberal arts or science or both.
b) An undergraduate division or school of a university offering courses and granting degrees in a particular field.
c) A school, sometimes but not always a university, offering special instruction in professional or technical subjects.
A word on ‘liberal arts colleges’ and other confusing things:
AMERICAN HERITAGE DICTIONARY
LIBERAL ARTS noun: Academic disciplines, such as languages, literature, history, philosophy, mathematics, and science, that provide information of general cultural concern: “The term ‘liberal arts’ connotes a certain elevation above utilitarian concerns. Yet liberal education is intensely useful” (George F. Will). [[Note that this seems to conflict with the use of ‘liberal arts or science’ in their COLLEGE definition in (a) above. I’ve always taken liberal arts and science degrees to be separate cases. Seem to me liberal arts folks major in things like English, history, math, and philosophy. Science types major in things like physics, chemistry, and biology. However, a ‘liberal arts college’ could easily offer undergraduate degrees in all of these.]]
Liberal arts colleges (e.g., Amherst College, Oberlin College, Swathmore College, Vassar College, William’s College, . . .), as in (a) above, mainly cater to undergraduates although some do have graduate programs. They are also not generally research institutions, but teaching institutions – that is their main mission.
However, to muddy the waters here, some schools call themselves ‘universities,’ when they may or may not be one in the usual sense defined above. For example, Bucknell University is a traditional, primarily undergraduate ‘liberal arts college,’ and is always labeled as such, even though its name includes the word ‘university.’ Wesleyan University, on the other hand seems to be a ‘university’ in the traditional sense with extensive graduate and research programs, but it is also labeled as a ‘liberal arts college.’
And then there are what are sometimes referred to as ‘baccalaureate colleges,’ which emphasize undergraduate education but wouldn’t be considered a ‘liberal arts college’ because degrees granted in ‘liberal arts’ disciplines are in the minority (e.g. the famed Cooper Union, in NYC, offers degrees in architecture, fine arts, and engineering)
To even further confuse things there are some institutions which call themselves colleges but appear to be universities. When I sat down with the head of the math department at Dartmouth College when I took my son there for parents weekend after he accepted (its a long story but in his undergraduate sojourn he ended up going to Berkeley and then Northwestern), he insisted that Dartmouth was a liberal arts college dedicated to undergraduate education and that in places like Harvard this was not the case and undergraduates got shortchanged. But Dartmouth does have extensive graduate and research programs, so which is it? Dartmouth's brand new president, Dr. Jim Yong Kim, says that the institution is 'unique' and has duel missions that are not incompatible – the college can also be a great university.
Every year U.S. News & Word Report puts out an issue titled America's Best Colleges. But as one reads on, one learns that the ‘college’ in the title is being used loosely, since the breakdown includes ‘universities’ as well as ‘liberal arts colleges.’ This is an example of college and university being used interchangeably, but from all the evidence, I would still say that this is a minority usage. Interestingly, though, if one goes on to view another one of their issues titled ‘World's Best Colleges and Universities,’ one wonders why they separated the two on the world stage title and not on the national. Perhaps they were trying to accommodate the U.K. (I mused). But doesn’t the U.K. follow a similar pattern as we do (e.g. Cambridge University or the University of Cambridge is made up of various colleges?). Also, in the U.K. isn’t a college also a private secondary school? But, we’re ‘Mericans, talkin’ U.S. English here and we don’t need to pander to no limeys or other far'ners in choosin’ our choice of words. But it does seems as though U.S. News & World Report is a bit college/university schizo here, as are a significant number of the rest of us – go figure!
As far as who was the first to use the word UNIVERSITY, I’ve changed my mind. I now believe its earliest use was in reference to the diversity of unicorns!
Wiz, I just added it up (and I’ve never actually done this before) and was surprised to find that I spent 15 years as a full-time student and teacher in a college/university. And I spent 7 years teaching and taking classes in a college/ university part time. Hmm, 22 years in college – that’s a f***ing long time in what's reputed to be ‘higher education.’ And you know what? It did give me lots of interesting book-learnin,’ but I don’t think it made me a whit smarter. My father just made it through the 7th grade, but in general smarts department, I didn’t hold a candle.
Ken – July 2, 2009