University is an educational institute of higher education which grants academic degrees in a variety of subjects or academic streams. The term 'University' has been derived from the Latin word 'Universitas Magistrorum Et Scholarium' which means 'A community of teachers and scholars'. A University is a 'Mecca of Education' as it is the highest institute of education. It's scope includes not just graduate and post-graduate education but also the authority to confer degrees in various fields of study. Not to forget the various research activities and other practical oriented pursuits. Though there is no limit to education but if we talk of formal education, a University can be called the 'Last Stop' or the 'Final Step or Level'. This is primarily because after the topmost level of degree provided by the university, there is no further certified education which a university can provide, unless one wants to redo a course of study. As about the Final Step, we can conclude that a 'School' is the 'First step of formal education', a 'College' being the 'Intermediate Step or Level' and the 'Final Step' being the topic of this piece.

University: Historical Perspective

Ancient Universities were medieval schools known as 'Studia Generalia' or 'Studium Generale', which meant 'School of Universal Learning'. These were Medieval Universities i.e., they were established during High Middle Ages (11th, 12th, and 13th centuries (c. 1001–1300) in various part of Europe. The earliest studia were also known as 'Christian Cathedral Schools' or 'Monastic Schools (Scholae monasticae) because monks and nuns taught the classes. Though religion featured prominently in the academics, these institutes emerged as a result of the efforts to provide education beyond the level of the cathedral and monastic schools. These were open to students from all parts of Europe. It was from these institutes that a more advanced form of institute emerged which had scholars from foreign countries. The earliest studia generalia were established in Italy, France, England, Spain and Portugal. These were considered the most esteemed institutes of education in whole Europe.

There were 9 universities which are generally considered as studia generalia in the 13th century.

  1. University of Bologna.
  2. University of Paris.
  3. University of Oxford.
  4. University of Cambridge.
  5. University of Montpellier.
  6. University of Salamanca.
  7. University of Reggio Emilia.
  8. University of Vicenza.
  9. University of Coimbra (founded in Lisbon in 1290).

There isn't accurate information regarding the University of Salerno having the status of studia generalia. The first universities with formally established guilds in Europe were the University of Bologna (1088), the University of Paris (c. 1150, later associated with the Sorbonne), the University of Oxford (1167), the University of Palencia (1208), the University of Cambridge (1209), the University of Salamanca (1218), the University of Montpellier (1220), the University of Padua (1222), the University of Naples Federico II (1224), the University of Toulouse (1229). The Vatican continues to use the term 'Studia Generalia' to name it's universities but overall this trend is declining.

Elsewhere, in Undivided India (Rawalpindi, Pakistan) existed one of the most ancient form of universities in the world and possibly the 'Oldest in the World'. It was known as Takshashila (also known as Taxila) and is considered to be as old as 5th century BCE. There is however, contradiction regarding it's status as a University. But never the less, Takshashila was an institute of higher learning where disciples from all over the world came to study. Only students aged 16 were allowed to study in this university. Takshshila wasn't the alone, Varansi was also a reputed place of learning but it's education was more inclined towards the philosophical issues pertaining to life and less towards the practical aspects pertaining to life. But none can surpass the university in Nalanda (Bihar) which is considered as 'One of the First Great universities in recorded history'. As per historical studies, the University of Nalanda was established during the reign of the Gupta emperor Kumaragupta during 415 CE. It is evident from the university seal discovered at the site and citations by both Xuanzang and Prajñavarman. Nalanda also had the reputation of being one of the 'World's First Residential Universities'.

Emergence of Modern Universities

End of the medieval period witnessed a transformation which was research based. Influences of philosophical periods like Humanism, Enlightenment, Reformation and Revolution further shaped these universities during their development. Earlier religion played an important role in university curriculum but with advent of research universities, religion became insignificant. By 19th century various European nations developed their own style of education system which was different from each other. Thus arose the British, French and German University models. The British model of university laid emphasis on science and engineering, the French university model involved strict discipline and control over every aspect of the university and the German University model concentrated on liberal approach towards science and research. The German University model gained prominence when Gottingen, Berlin, Leipzig, Munich, and other cities joined the exclusive group. This attracted the attention of American educators and they followed the German model as it was effective system of education. Soon universities became accessible to masses as European Universities started spreading their wings all over the world. In the late 19th and 20th centuries Great Britain and France established universities in many of their colonies in South and South-east Asia and Africa. Most of the independent nations that emerged from these colonies in the mid-20th century expanded their university systems along the lines of their European or American models. Women also benefited from the emergence of the modern universities as they were admitted to universities in the second half of the 19th century.

While there was transformation of Universities in Europe, in India, Takshashila was invaded by Persians, Greeks, Parthians, Shakas and Kushanas and finally from the Huns in AD 450. Nalanda University was destroyed by was Bakhtiyar Khilji in the 13th century. When East India company came to India and the universities established during it's rule catered to their colonial purposes. Some of the first Indian Universities are Mumbai University (1857) established under Wood's Education Dispatch, University of Madras and University of Calcutta. However, there was unrest amongst the Indian nationals regarding the British established universities. As a result, a few pre-independence universities, such as Banaras Hindu University (1916) and Rabindranath Tagore's Visva-Bharati (1921), were founded as alternatives to Western educational principles. Upon India's independence, Indian university system continues to remain influenced by the British University model.

Structure of a Typical University

Apart from the physical structure, a university is composed of various bodies, departments and academic skilled individuals. A University is an organisation just like other organisations, the difference with others is that it specialises in education. Just like other organisations, it too has an authority under which the university functions. These authority can be government, a board, group, trust, agency and so on. These are the highest authority of a university and are further divided into carious hierarchical orders and suborders.

Administrative Authority

Employees of the university who are entrusted with official duties pertaining to administration or governance of the university form the administrative authority of a university. But it is not necessary that the role of an administrative official is restricted to office work alone, he may assist his counterparts in the academic area and vice versa.

Some positions or bodies of administrative authority

  • Board of Trustees.
  • A President.
  • Chancellor or Rector.
  • Vice President.
  • Vice-Chancellor or Vice-Rector.
  • Deans of Various Divisions.

Academic Authority

Employees of the university who are entrusted with duties pertaining to academic activities form this authority.

Some positions or bodies of Academic Authority

  • Academic Departments.
  • Faculties.
  • Schools.
  • Professors.
  • Lecturer.
  • Principal.

Essentials of an Ideal or Good University

What is an ideal or a good university? The criteria of an Ideal or Good University varies from an individual to individual. Some might be impressed by mere infrastructural facilities while some doubt the academic brilliance of a university. It is difficult to come to a conclusion about the specificity of a university as per an individual’s choice. However, there are certain basic principles, features or qualities which make a university an ideal or a good university. These features are inclusive of both infrastructural facilities and academic finesse.

Variety of Courses - A university which provides a large variety of specialisations or courses has a wider platform to educate large number of pupils. Having a wide choice of courses or specialisations at one place is also convenient for students as they do not need to hop from one institute to another.

Teacher-Student Interaction - An ideal university will encourage a healthy Teacher-Student Interaction which is beneficial for both the university and the pupils as well. Intellectual growth of a person is also dependent on advice and opinions of experienced individuals. Students gain a wider perspective of life when their own experiences are multiplied by the advices of their teachers. This type of interaction is also helpful for the faculty as they also gets glimpse of a youth's mind and where they lack in teaching or behaviour which will enable smooth functioning of the institution.

Sanctuary of Moral Values - A university is a place of discipline and where ever there is discipline there is a code of conduct which further enhances certain values amongst those abiding it. Rules, regulations, rewards, punishments etc. inculcate good character and high moral integrity. These values are the basis of a peaceful and progressive society. Today’s students will one day become leaders of tomorrow. An ideal university embeds good character qualities such as kindness, cooperation, goodwill, honour, respect etc. which are the actual basis of an ideal nation as well.

Hostel - Residential facilities are the mainstay of any university. Without these prospective students face the problem of finding a suitable housing which is nearest to the institution. Residential facilities in the premises of the institution provides safe and secure environment. Even residential facilities outside the premises of the university which are directly under the administration of the university are better as compared to rented apartments.

Library - Libraries are 'Banks of literary knowledge', there are hardly any universities which do not have a library facility. Some of the books are saviours for students who cannot afford to buy extra books to study. Library also provides certain other facilities like reprographic, internet, book bank and other facilities catering to the needs of the students as well as the faculty.  

Laboratories - Laboratories facilitate research and as such are important component of any university set-up. It is here that the theoretical aspects of a study are put to practical usage. It is here that various discoveries and inventions have come forth. These are practice grounds for people with scientific bend of mind and to a larger extent those who are curious.  

Sports Facilities
- A university is not just a place for academic pursuits, it is also a place fit for sports and games. Majority of a student's life in an educational environment is dominated by studies. Sports play an essential role in studies in an indirect manner, this is because a 'Healthy Mind stays in a Healthy Body'. Research has proved that exercise is important not only for the body but also for the mind as well. Those who excel in sports get a chance to compete at both national and international level which acts as catalyst for a student’s ambition of becoming a professional sportsman.

Medical Centre
- Health is something with which everyone gets affected. Infections and seasonal changes breed diseases which affect the studies of students. Injuries are common not only amongst the sports person but even in other students. Some universities have hospital inside the campus which serves twin purpose of medical treatment and medical practice, both for the students and those living in the vicinity.

Scholarship - Scholarships are financial aid provided to students on the basis of academic merit. These are either sponsored by the university itself or by any organisation and by individuals as well. Scholarships are source of both reward and competitive spirit.

Placement - A very important aspect of an ideal university are the placements provided either off-campus or on-campus. Placements are an important component of a university as they highlight the university's role in creating a desired future for a student beyond the academic scenario.

Food Facility - Canteen, cafeteria, mess, food joint etc. are like waterholes where a variety of students can calm their appetite. Food is essential for physical growth and mental development as well and that also within the premises is both convenient and affordable. These facilities also become a meeting point where different minds can socialise and increase their intellect input and output.

Communication Centre - A phone booth or any other communication centre provides students a connection with their loved ones. Communication with family, friends and relatives serves more than just chatting, it acts as a source of inspiration, strength to carry on and never give up. Communication amongst various university departments also facilitate administrative functions including admissions.

Banking Facility
- Cash is a necessity which facilitates our daily routine affairs. If a bank is situated in the campus or even near the university provides us necessary funds when required. ATM's go one step ahead by providing cash 24x7.

Alumni - A university has to have an alumni and not just for the sake of it, but also for the far reaching networking. This networking along with the interaction of old and new students has multiple benefits in the form of guidance, inspiration, employment, friendship etc.

Extra-Curricular Activities - No university is complete in its entity if it just sticks to 'Study and no Fun' policy. Every student has a talent, hidden or known. Extra-Curricular Activities provide a platform for both types to show and hone their skills. This exposure provides a valuable information pertaining to careers for which skills are more important than studies. These activities also serve a purpose where in one realises his/her potential and how to act upon it.

Types of Universities

Affiliating University - A university which prescribes courses of study, conducts examinations and awards educational degrees but does not indulge in the actual teaching process is an Affiliating University. It is the duty of affiliated colleges to undertake the teaching process. There are also some 'Teaching-cum-Affiliating Universities' or 'Teaching and Affiliating University'. These universities are affiliating at the under-graduate level and a teaching one at the post-graduate level or vice versa. Majority of such universities are found in India and UK.

Some of the Affiliating Universities of the world

  • Universities of Oxford, U.K.
  • University of Cambridge, UK.
  • University of London International Programmes, U.K.

Some Teaching-cum-Affiliating Universities of the world

  • Dibrugarh University, India
  • Gujarat University, India.
  • Utkal University, India.

Central University - A university which is established or governed by the government, more specifically the central government, is known as a Central University. Most of these are established by an act of the Parliament. These can be under the direct control of the government, be autonomous in their functioning or a conglomerate of both private and government organisations. This types of university is also known as 'National University', 'Union University' or 'Federal University' depending upon the countries where they have been established. Some national universities are closely associated with national cultural or political aspirations. A form of Central University is ‘Prefectural University’. This form of University is run by a prefectural government. Such universities are common in Japan as this Prefectural system is practised there. Prefectures are governmental bodies larger than cities, towns, and villages. Some of these are Osaka Prefecture University, Kyoto Prefectural University, Akita Prefectural University apart from others.

Some of the Central Universities of the world

  • Australian National University.
  • Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
  • University of Dhaka, Bangladesh.
  • University of Delhi, India.

Catholic University - A private university which is run by the Catholic Church or by catholic organizations, such as Catholic religious order , is known as Catholic University. Congregation for Catholic Education is another catholic organization which runs such universities. Similarly, there is a type of Catholic University, Pontifical University which is established by the Holy See and is directly under the authority of the Holy See. Holy See refers to the district under the bishop or the official seat of bishop of the Catholic Church. As per the census conducted by Vatican's Congregation for Catholic Education, the total number of Catholic universities and higher education institutions around the world is 1,358. The Society of Jesus, a Catholic religious order has the highest number of Pontifical universities.

Some of the Catholic Universities of the World

  • Australian Catholic University.
  • Assumption University, Windsor, Canada.
  • Catholic University of America, U.S.A.
  • Christ University, Bangalore, India.
  • St. Mary's University College (Twickenham), London.

Some of the Pontifical Universities of the World

  • Pontifical Catholic University of Argentina.
  • Pontifical Institute of Medieval Studies, Canada.
  • Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas (Angelicum), Roma.
  • St. Peter's Pontifical Institute of Philosophy and Theology, Bangalore, India.

Distance Education University - Distance Education University is a name give to that university whose mode of education is especially meant for students who cannot be physically present in the institution to study educational courses. The term 'Distance Education' will not appear in the name of the University as 'Distance Education' is a separate Department, Directorate functioning under the university. The university has well prepared study material supplemented by audio-visual aids provided to the students thorough post or other means. This type of university is beneficial for various individuals, like those who don't have time to attend regular classes, individuals who were unable to pursue university education, individuals who have some health problems and so forth. This type of university is also known as 'Correspondence University' or 'Distance Learning University' as education material is mostly provided through mail. This type of university is different from a conventional university where education is imparted through regular classes. Here the students have to do self study based on the curriculum specified by the institute. Some Distance Education Universities, however do conduct classes for a few days once or more than once a year. Education and admission policies of these are lenient and flexible but the quality of education provided in Open universities is somewhat inferior as compared to other universities, in this sense these can be called 'Poor Cousins' of a conventional universities. Some of the means of education provided by Distance Learning University are web conferencing, video-conferencing ,direct-broadcast satellite, internet radio, live streaming, telephone and web-based VoIP.

Forms of Distance Education Universities

1. Open Universities - Open Universities are more or less the same as Distance Education University. Though the purpose of both is the same, the slight difference between Open and Distance Education university is that an Open University doesn't exist as a separate department or directorate but exists as an independent institution. Furthermore in India, the difference between these two apart from the above mentioned, is that the open university does not have affiliated colleges under its control where as the other universities have affiliated colleges under their control. In some countries the open universities conduct periodic sessions of residential or day teaching to supplement the distance teaching. In certain other cases, students' previous academic achievements are not taken into account for entry to most undergraduate courses.

Some of the Distance Education Universities of the World

  • North Carolina State University, USA.
  • Athabasca University, Canada.
  • The Open University, U.K.
  • Indira Gandhi National Open University, India.
  • Yashwantrao Chavan Maharashtra Open University, India.

2. Online Universities - One of the forms of distance education universities, are Online Universities. Online universities offer higher education programs through electronic media like television, radio and the Internet. Those which have their set-up online are known as 'Virtual Universities'. These have evolved as a result of the development of computers and the internet and have made distance learning distribution easier and faster. There isn't definite pattern of these forms of universities. These might exist as a part of the larger educational institute or these may exist as specific universities sticking to the virtual or online form of their mode of education. However, there are some exceptions with reference to 'Virtual Universities' as the entire education of a course is conducted online. Program delivery in a virtual university is administered through information communication technology such as web pages, e-mail and other networked sources. The concept of 'Virtual University' is relatively new, varied and there is certain amount of anonymity, doubt regarding the authenticity of these. As such, the authenticity of these need to be verified before taking admission in them.  

Some of the Online Universities of the World

  • Kaplan University, United States.
  • American InterContinental University, USA.
  • University of Phoenix, USA.
  • Canadian Virtual University.
  • BITS Virtual University, India.

Private University - Private University is primarily a University which is funded and or managed by a non-governmental organisation. A private university is established through a state or central act by a sponsoring body, such as a society registered under the Societies. The source of this funding comes from tuition, investments and private donors. Mostly appropriate, this definition however does have some exceptions. This is because some private universities receive public subsidies, especially in the form of tax breaks and public student loans and grants. These may exist as autonomous institutes or partially administered by a government agency depending on their location in the world map. Private universities generally have higher fees as compared to national or public universities and have a better repute than others. Additionally the facilities provided by these universities are better and numerous as compared to others.

Some of the Private Universities of the World

  • Bond University, Australia.
  • Noida International University, India.
  • Richmond University, U.K.
  • Brigham Young University, U.S.A.

Public University - A University which is predominantly funded by public means through a national or sub national government is known as a Public University. In simple word a Public University is partially funded by a Tax Payers. It is not necessary that a Public University will be a National University as it might appear from the definition. This is because some universities have institutional autonomy, with the ability to decide on admission, tuition and governance. Public Universities are mostly large as compared to other universities in view of organisation, structure, infrastructure and other amenities. The fees also tends to be lesser.

Some of the Public Universities of the World

  • University of Queensland, Australia.
  • McGill University, Canada.
  • University of North Carolina, USA.
  • Telangana University, India.

Agricultural University - A university whether private or public, which primarily impart education and conduct research in agriculture and related areas is known as Agricultural University. Apart from the above mentioned activities, these universities are also involved in various other activities like organising farm fairs, extension education, development of effective farming techniques and other related activities. In Unites States of America, a form of Agricultural University exists which is known as 'Land-Grant University'. These are publicly-funded agricultural and technical educational institutions. These are designated by each state to receive the benefits of the Morrill Acts of 1862 and 1890. As per the Act federal funds are provided to the states to establish a series of agricultural experiment stations under the direction of each state's land-grant college, as well as pass along new information, especially in the areas of soil minerals and plant growth. Some of the 'Land-Grant Universities' are University of the District of Columbia, University of Alaska, University of Arizona, Auburn University, University of Minnesota etc.

Some of the Agricultural Universities of the World

  • Punjab Agricultural University, India.
  • Warsaw Agricultural University, Poland.
  • Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University, USA.
  • Northeast Agricultural University, China.

Vocational University - As the term implies, a Vocational University is one which provides higher education in certain vocations/ vocation or occupations; especially providing or undergoing training in special skills. These universities focus both on practical skills and theoretical aspects of an occupation. In other terms these can loosely referred as 'Professional Universities' or more appropriately 'Technical and Vocational University', owing to the fact that they provide technical skills and education related to a profession. The concept of a Vocational University is still alien in many countries and as such there are very few Vocational Universities in the world. The reason being that vocational courses are mostly being handled by the separate division or department of a university or there are colleges and other educational institutes which specialise in imparting vocational courses.

Some of the Vocational Universities of the World

  • Urumqi Vocational University, China.
  • University of Vocational Technology, Sr Lanka.
  • Northern Caribbean University, West Indies.
  • Curtin University of Technology, Australia.

Collegiate University - A university where the administrative authorities and functions are divided between a central body and a number of constituent colleges is known as Collegiate University. Here the constituent colleges have a substantial amount of responsibility and autonomy in the running of the university. But this authority varies among institutions, some are almost autonomous colleges and while others are dependent on the central body of administration. Where there is autonomy the college performs almost all the duties of a university apart from awarding degrees. In the due course of time, these autonomous colleges may end their link with the parent university to become degree-awarding universities. For example - University College London and King's College London were colleges of the University of London and now they award their own degrees.

Some of the Collegiate Universities of the World

  • University of California, U.S.A.
  • University of London, U.K.
  • University of Texas, U.S.A.
  • University of Wales, U.K.

Deemed University - An institution of higher education which is acknowledged for it's high calibre of education is granted the status of a university. Such institutions are known as 'Deemed to be University', or 'Deemed University'. This type of university exists only in India. The status of a deemed university is accorded by the UGC. Some of these institutes retain their original name and Deemed university status enables not just full autonomy in setting course work and syllabus of those institutes and research centres but also allows it to set its own guidelines for the admissions, fees and instruction of the students. There are about 100 deemed universities in India.

Some of the Deemed Universities

  • National Institutes of Technology
  • Indian Institute of Information Technology and Management.
  • Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore are deemed universities.
  • Thapar University.

Urban University - An institute of higher learning which is meant for educating the citizens of the city or region in which it is located. As such the urban university must be situated within the territory of that particular city or region. This type of universities are exclusive to US. Though the term may be used to address any university informally, but here it is specific as per the Coalition of Urban and Metropolitan Universities criteria.

Criteria for an Urban University Coalition of Urban and Metropolitan Universities

  1. Location in a major metropolitan area.
  2. Dedication to achieving excellence through teaching, research, and public service.
  3. A diverse student body reflecting the demographic composition of the region.
  4. Responsiveness and service to the local region as part of the university's mission.
  5. Serves the region not only by providing an educated citizenry and workforce, but also as a cultural and intellectual resource.
  6. Engages in partnerships with other local organizations.
  7. Uses practical experience in the urban setting to enhance students' education.

Some of the Urban Universities

  • Columbia University.
  • University of Pennsylvania.
  • Wayne State University.
  • University of Chicago.
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