Universities in the USA

Harvard, Yale, Stanford, MIT – many of the most prestigious universities in the world are located in the USA.

What many do not know: The concept of German research universities served as a model for universities in the USA at the end of the 19th century. To this day, many research universities define themselves through the ideal of the unity of research and teaching, coined by Humboldt.

From the late 19th century, the number of universities in the United States increased rapidly. This has to do with the fact that many of the colleges originally founded as Liberal Arts Colleges have been converted into universities. Existing courses were assigned to the area of undergraduate studies. Today there are over 1000 universities in the US that award graduate degrees. With the introduction of the Graduate Schools, the research-oriented study programs followed.

To build universities in the USA and the title “University”

Universities in the United States stand out from community colleges and four-year colleges in that they also offer graduate programs. In general, US universities are made up 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 science subjects.
  • Professional Schools: practical and professionally oriented faculties that award various 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 an in-depth, scientific study. Students canobtainhigher educational qualifications such as master’s or doctoral degrees.

In the United States, there is not a university on everything that says university. The word “university” is not legally protected. Therefore it happens that colleges in the USA pass themselves off as universities, although they differ from them in terms of content. In contrast, some technical universities in the USA refer to themselves as Institutes of Technology. The name says little about the institution.

The Carnegie Classification System

A more suitable criterion for identifying the “real” universities in the USA with courses on offer at graduate level are the accreditations. The so-called Carnegie Classification System lists all universities in the US that award academic degrees and that have been accredited by the US Department of Education. Among other things, the following categories can be distinguished:

  • Doctoral / Research Universities: Institutions that offer a certain number of doctoral degrees and master’s degrees each year
  • Master’s Colleges and Universities: Universities that award no or only a few doctoral degrees, but offer a wide range of master’s degrees
  • Baccalaureate Colleges: Institutions with undergraduate courses. A certain percentage must be bachelor’s degrees.
  • Associate’s Colleges: Universities with only a small percentage of bachelor’s degrees and mostly associate degrees.

Types of Universities in USA

The US universities can be classified in a wide variety of ways: as state or private institutions, as research-oriented institutions or those with a focus on teaching.

Various alliances and university systems also existed in the United States. Every state supports at least one state university. In California alone there are two world-famous state university systems: the University of California System and the California State University System.

Many of the most prestigious universities in the United States – especially the members of the Ivy League – are private universities. In contrast, there are the so-called Public Ivies. These also stand for an excellent academic education.

Research Universities

Most of the so-called elite universities in the USA are research universities. These focus on research and science and less on teaching. They therefore offer many specialized programs in the graduate area. Learn more about USA and North America on ehealthfacts.

62 universities from the USA and Canada have come together in the Association of American Universities. They deal with topics such as research funding or research policy issues. The organization is similar to the Russell Group universities in the UK.

From land grant universities to technical universities – an overview

In the USA, different types of universities have developed because they wanted to address specific target groups and subject groups with their courses. The following types of universities, among others, are common in the United States:

  • Land-Grant Universities: public universities with a predominantly agricultural science program. They were originally founded to promote industrialization in the United States. 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. Often these are research-oriented institutions. They call themselves either Institutes of Technology, Polytechnic Institutes or Polytechnic Universities.
  • Denominational Universities: Universities founded by a certain denomination, usually with a particularly wide range of philosophical-religious courses

Universities in the USA