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This page is for describing and exploring conceptions of "university".

A university is a space, either physical or virtual (or a blend of the two), in which to study a particular subject at an advanced level.

The word university is derived from the Latin phrase universitas magistrorum et scholarium, roughly meaning "community of teachers and scholars".[1]

How does a university work?[edit]

Oxford University degree ceremony. The Pro-Vice-Chancellor in Master of Arts gown and hood, Proctor in official dress and new Doctors of Philosophy in scarlet full dress. Behind them, a bedel, a Doctor and Bachelors of Arts and Medicine graduate.

Universities have traditionally conducted education via lectures, seminars, tutorials, research groups, and laboratories. Its lecturers are usually engaged in research, which they are encouraged to publish regularly. Universities confer degrees on students who conform to certain academic standards. Degree types include the Bachelor, Masters and Doctorate (PhD) levels in the United States, though university systems differ quite widely from country to country.

How a university doesn't work[edit]

It has been found that between 40% and 50% of higher education students do not complete their degrees.[2] It is therefore particularly important that universities understand student motivations, capabilities, and interests so as to adjust content and pedgagogical processes in order to optimise student engagement and retention.

Research points to satisfaction with the college experience as a major contributor to students’ motivation and commitment.[3] Satisfied students study harder, perform better and are therefore more motivated than less satisfied students.[4]


Consider the following two quotes:

There is no longer a universe of knowledge as the term university might imply. Knowledge in the modern university is to be found in separate subject paradigms, which manage to coexist in the same university by not speaking to each other.[5]

One needs only to encounter a professional organization or interdepartmental politics at a university to be reminded of the degree to which specialization and isolation are basic facts of institutional life.[6]

These perspectives tell us something about the way that knowledge is produced, preserved, and transmitted through time by universities.

University of universities[edit]

One idealized or imagined conception of University is that of a University of Universities, an educational singularity.

See also[edit]


  1. Encyclopedia Britannica. p. 748. 
  2. Hatcher, L., Kryter, K., Prus, J.S., & Fitzgerald, V. (1992). "Predicting college student satisfaction, commitment, and attrition from investment model constructs". Journal of Applied Social Psychology 22: 1273-1296. 
  3. Suhre, C., Jansen, E., & Harskamp, E. (2007). "Impact of degree program satisfaction on the persistence of college students". Higher Education 54: 207-226. 
  4. Orpen, C. (1990). "The measurement of student university satisfaction: a consumer behavior perspective". Journal of Human Behavior and Learning 7: 34-37. 
  5. Tiffin, J., Rajasingham, L. (2003). The global virtual university. London: Routledge Falmer. pp. 85-86. 
  6. Wertsch, J. (1998). Mind as action. New York: Oxford University Press. p. 4. 


  • Lamport, M. A. (1993). "Student-faculty informal interaction and the effect on college student outcomes: A review of the literature". Adolescence 28: 971-990. 
  • Marginson, S. (2006). "Dynamics of national and global competition in higher education". Higher Education 52 (1): 1-39. doi:10.1007/s10734-004-7649-x.