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College (Latin collegium) is a term most often used today to denote an educational institution. More broadly, it can be the name of any group of colleagues (see, for example electoral college, College of Arms, College of Cardinals). Originally, it meant a group of persons living together under a common set of rules (con- = "together" + leg- = "law" or lego = "I choose"); indeed, some colleges call their members "fellows". The precise usage of the term varies among English-speaking countries.
1. The Origin of the United States Usage:
The founders of the first institutions of higher education in the United States were graduates of the 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 came to be graduated, these "colleges" assumed the right to confer degrees upon them, usually with authority -- for example, the College of William and 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."
Contrast this with Europe, where only universities could grant degrees. 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 which 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.
Eventually, several prominent colleges/universities were started to train Christian ministers. Harvard, Yale, Princeton, and Brown all started to train preachers in the subjects of Bible and theology. However, now these universities teach theology as a more academic than ministerial discipline.
With the rise of Christian education, renowned seminaries and Bible colleges have continued the original purpose of these universities. Criswell College and Dallas Theological Seminary in Dallas; Southern Seminary in Louisville; Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois; and Wheaton College and Graduate School in Wheaton, Illinois are just a few of the institutions that have influenced higher education in Theology in Philosophy to this day.
2. Origin of U.S. State Colleges: The Morrill Act:
In addition to private colleges and universities, the U.S. also has a system of government funded, public universities, also, in many cases, known as State Colleges. This system arose in order 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.”
In the 1860s, when this act was established, the original colleges on the east coast, primarily those of the Ivy League and several religious based colleges, were the only form of higher education available, and were often confined only to the children of the elite. A movement arose 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.” In 1862 Congress passed a measure that “…made it possible for the new western states to establish colleges for the citizens.”. This was 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 Land-Grant Colleges Act have since gone on to become full universities. Some are amongst the elite of the world.
3. The Rest of the English-Speaking World:
Influenced by their origins in the British Empire, by contact with and sometimes imitation of U.S. academia, and even by modern American pop culture, the rest of the English-speaking world seems to have adopted a mix of the U.S. and British practices.
4. United Kingdom:
British usage of the word "college" remains the loosest, encompassing a range of institutions:
* Colleges of further education and adult education.
* "Sixth form colleges", where students study for A Levels, and some specialist schools
* The constituent parts of collegiate universities, especially referring to the independent colleges that make up the * Universities of Oxford, Cambridge and the London, and which provide accommodation and pastoral services at St Andrews and Durham.
* The non-independent constituent parts of collegiate universities such as Kent, Lancaster and York.
Universities, such as Imperial College London (officially a university) and University College London and King's College London (which are universities de facto).
* A name given to large groupings of faculties or departments, notably in the University of Edinburgh, and possibly the University of Birmingham under restructuring plans.
* University Colleges — independent higher education institutions that have been granted degree-awarding powers but not university status.
* Certain private schools (known as "Public" schools in England) for children such as Eton and Winchester.
* Professional associations such as the Royal College of Organists, the Royal College of Surgeons and other various Royal Colleges.
* The College of Justice or Court of Session of Scotland
In general use, a "college" is an institution between secondary school and university, a college of further education and adult education. These institutions were usually called technical colleges, or tech. Recently, however, with the differences in functionality between universities and colleges becoming less clear-cut, and with the phasing out of polytechnical colleges, many people are starting to call such institutions "universities". Many types of institutions have "college" in their names but are not colleges in the general use of the word; Eton College, for example, would be called not a college, but a school, or by its full name.
In relation to universities, the term college normally refers to a part of the university which does not have degree-awarding powers in itself. Degrees are always awarded by universities, colleges are institutions or organisations which prepare students for the degree. In some cases, colleges prepare students for the degree of a university of which the college is a part (eg colleges of the University of London, University of Cambridge, etc.) and in some cases colleges are independent institutions which prepare students to sit as external candidates at other universities (e.g. many higher education colleges prepare students to sit for external examinations of universities). In the past, many of what are now universities with their own degree-awarding powers were colleges which had their degrees awarded by either a federal university (eg Cardiff University) or another university (e.g. many of the post-1992 universities).
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