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Education Blog



11 February, 2016

A university is an institution of higher education and research, which grants academic degrees in various subjects.

A university is an organization that offers both undergraduate education and postgraduate education. The word university is derived from the Latin universitas magistrorum et scholarium, which roughly means “community of teachers and scholars.”


The definition of a university differs widely even within some countries. For example, there is no nationally standardized definition of the term in the United States although the term has traditionally been used to designate research institutions and was once reserved for research doctorate-granting institutions. Some states, such as Massachusetts, will only grant a school “university status” if it offers at least two doctoral degrees. In the United Kingdom, the Privy Council is responsible for approving the use of the word “university” in the title of an institution, under the terms of the Further and Higher Education Act 1992. In India, a new tag deemed universities was created a few years ago, by the cabinet minister Arjun Singh during his tenure as the Minister for Human Resource Development. Through this provision many universities emerged in India, which are commercial in nature and have been founded just to exploit the demand of higher education.

Colloquial Usage

Colloquially, the term university may be used to define a phase in one’s life: “When I was at university…” (in the United States and Ireland, college is often used instead: “When I was in college…”). In Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands and the German-speaking countries university is often contracted to uni. In New Zealand and in South Africa it is occasionally called “varsity” (although this has become uncommon in New Zealand in recent years), which was also common usage in the UK in the 19th century.


Although each institution is organized differently, nearly all universities have a board of trustees; a president, chancellor, or rector; at least one vice president, vice-chancellor, or vice-rector; and deans of different divisions. Universities are normally divided into a number of academic departments, schools or faculties. Public university systems are ruled over by government-run higher education boards. They review financial requests and budget proposals and then allocate funds for each university in the system. They also approve new programs of instruction and cancel or make changes in existing programs. In addition, they plan for the additional coordinated growth and development of the various institutions of higher education in the state or country. However, many public universities in the world have a considerable degree of financial, research and pedagogical autonomy. Private universities are privately funded and generally have a broader independence from state policies. However, they may have less independence from business corporations depending on the source of their finances.