Universities in the USA

University system in the US
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Harvard, Yale, Stanford, MIT – many of the world’s most prestigious universities are located in the USA.

What many people don’t know: At the end of the 19th century, the concept of German research universities served as a model for universities in the USA. To this day, many research universities have defined themselves by the Humboldt ideal of the unity of research and teaching.

From the late 19th century onwards, the number of universities in the USA increased rapidly. This is due to the fact that many of the colleges originally founded as Liberal Arts Colleges have been transformed into universities. Existing degree programmes were assigned to the field of undergraduate studies. Today there are over 1000 universities in the USA that award graduate degrees. With the introduction of the Graduate Schools, the research-oriented study programmes followed.

To establish universities in the United States and the title of “university.”

Universities in the USA differ from community colleges and four-year colleges in that they also offer graduate programs. Generally speaking, US universities are composed of different schools or faculties:

  • Undergraduate colleges: often part of universities. They offer training up to a Bachelor’s degree in humanities, engineering, economics and natural sciences.
  • Professional Schools: practically oriented and professionally oriented faculties that award different degrees in law, medicine or business.
  • Graduate Schools: humanities, natural and social sciences disciplines that do not qualify for a specific profession. Often it is a more in-depth, scientific study. Students can obtain higher education qualifications such as Master’s or Doctorate degrees.

In the USA there is not always a university in every university. The word “university” is not protected by law. This is why it happens that colleges in the USA claim to be universities, although they differ in content. In contrast, some technical universities in the USA call themselves Institutes of Technology. The name therefore says little about the institution.

The Carnegie Classification System

Accreditations are a more suitable criterion for identifying the “real” universities in the USA with graduate level courses of study. The so-called Carnegie Classification System lists all universities in the USA that award academic degrees and are accredited by the US Department of Education. Among others, the following categories can be distinguished:

  • Doctoral / Research Universities: Institutions offering a certain number of doctoral and master degrees per year.
  • Master’s Colleges and Universities: Higher education institutions that do not award doctorates at all or only a few, but offer a wide range of Master’s degrees.
  • Baccalaureate Colleges: Institutions with undergraduate degree programmes. A certain percentage must be Bachelor’s degrees.
  • Associate’s Colleges: Colleges that only award a small number of Bachelor’s degrees and mostly associate degrees.

Types of universities in the USA

The U. S. universities can be classified in many different ways: as state or private institutions, as research-oriented institutions or with a focus on teaching.

There were also various alliances and university systems in the United States. Each federal state supports at least one state university. In California alone, there are two world-renowned state university systems: the University of California System and the California State University System.

Many of the most prestigious universities in the U. S. – above all the members of the Ivy League – are private colleges. On the other hand, there are the so-called Public Ivies. These also stand for excellent academic education.

Research Universities

Most of the so-called elite universities in the USA are research universities. These focus on research and science rather than teaching. For this reason, they offer a large number of specialized graduate programs.

The Association of American Universities brings together 62 universities from the USA and Canada. They deal with topics such as research funding or research policy issues. The organisation is similar to the universities of the Russell Group in Great Britain.

From Land Grant Universities to Technical Universities – an overview

In the USA, different types of universities have also emerged because they wanted to address specific target and subject groups with their courses of study. The following types of universities are common in the USA:

  • Land Grant Universities: public universities with a predominantly agricultural science degree programme. They were originally founded to promote industrialization in the USA. The aim was to train more people for agriculture and industry and to make academic education available beyond the humanities and natural sciences.
  • Technical Universities: Universities that mainly offer technical courses of study. These are often research-oriented institutions. They are optionally called Institutes of Technology, Polytechnic Institutes or Polytechnic Universities.
  • Denominational Universities: Universities founded by a particular denomination, usually with a particularly wide range of philosophical-religious courses of study.