Political analysis

A letter to the editor of the Wall Street Journal:

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Perhaps Mr. or Ms. Stansbury is British, but in Los Gatos and the rest of the U.S., we say “college.”

21 responses to “Political analysis

  1. College is not the same as Uni in the UK

  2. and, by the way, going to either may mean you have studied more but it does not make you smarter

  3. College *is* however, the same as University in the US. That was the point. Anecdotally, I’ve noticed that there’s a slight uptick in Americans saying “University,” but it remains pretty rare.

  4. Curious that Americans speak of “going to college”, yet the institutions refer to themselves as Universities (Yale, Harvard etc.) And of course while Oxford and Cambridge refer to themselves as Universities, they are made up of individual colleges.

    I understand that the US also has “community colleges”, which appear to be the equivalent of our colleges of further education.

  5. The name “Dale” sounds more likely to be American than British to me. The insertion of an initial between forename and surname is also much more common in the US.

  6. Nick L. Tipper

    Pete Seeger sang ‘Little Boxes’ (written in 1962) which includes:
    And the people in the houses
    All went to the university,
    Where they were put in boxes
    And they came out all the same…

    and later

    …And the children go to summer camp
    And then to the university,
    Where they are put in boxes
    And they come out all the same.

    The songwriter, Malvina Reynolds was born in San Francisco in 1900.

    ‘University’ is a fine, five-syllable word to put in a song and might have been chosen because it scans so nicely.

    • Note, however, that these are references to going to “THE University,” not going to University.

    • But there’s a different between going “to university” (British) and “to the university” (what an American might say if one went to a university [an institution that grants advanced degrees]) as opposed to a college [an institution that only grants bachelor’s degrees]).

  7. I like “Uni” !

  8. I must say, Im a little curious about what kind of place Los Gatos CA is. I suppose I could google it…. I also wonder if the editor seriously edited Dale’s “Letter.”…. or is that it!

  9. Maybe Dale specifically used University to exclude community colleges.

  10. Canadians say university, and Dale is not uncommon on the prairies. And plenty of Canadians are arrogant about their politics. I know. I’m Canadian and I went to University

  11. In my limited experience, an awful lot of Americans seem to say ‘school’ for university, which I find really confusing. For example, if you’re reading Reddit posts, and someone says their marriage is in trouble because their spouse resents them going back to school at the age of 28. (I know – classy reading material.) In the UK, some universities (relatively few – Oxford, Cambridge, Durham, London spring to mind) have colleges, of course, but you don’t say you’re at college when you’re at university. You say you’re at Yew-Nee (bleurgh).

  12. Michael Moore is an American who says “university” at least once, but maybe because he is travelling abroad for his docco Where To Invade Next : “Slovenia is one of dozens of countries where it is essentially free to go to university”. Clip from his film where he says that at about 18:19 on the BBC Radio4 Film Programme at http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b07dnqjp

  13. A Brit, I probably refer to college more than most Brits, but that’s presumably because I worked for some years for (the international division of) college textbook publisher Prentice Hall. Last year I asked my (British) nephew how he was doing at college and he corrected me to “university”.

    As for school, that seems to crop up at all levels: primary school, school of thought, school of fish, Vienna School, medical school, art school (or art college, but never art university, even if you’re doing a Master’s or PhD), School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), grad school. Ski school. But yes, no-one in Britain refers to going to “school” as a general term for tertiary education, and I expect that’s true even if they are going to SOAS.

  14. Perhaps when Americans go to “College” they get a ‘general’ education but if they go to “University” they only ‘major.’ And that’s why they prefer to go to College.

    • Incidentally, in the UK you don’t “major”, you read. I read physics at Leeds University.

      I’m not exactly sure how US university education is organised but I understand you don’t have to decide your major until late. I had to choose what I was reading at university almost a year before I went up. (And I guess “went up” is another Britishism.)

  15. @Dormouse
    In my day (admittedly a long time ago), we didn’t have to declare a major until the beginning of the third of our four years at college/uni. In fact, we couldn’t. We spent the first two years in a large variety of required core courses–one semester of philosophy or religion, one semester of art or music, one year of at least mid-level foreign language, one year of math (unless you had taken 3 yrs of math in high school), one year of sociology or anthropology, freshman (i.e., first-year) English, one year of science, etc.

    • Yes, totally different to what I remember in the UK (and I graduated from university in 1973).

      I’d known I wanted to do physics for a long time by the time I applied, but I recall that there was some leeway if someone felt they really didn’t like the course, they could change. Don’t remember if that extended beyond the first year.

      When I got to university, I discovered that as well as physics lectures, there would be two years of maths lectures, which was fine by me, I enjoyed maths. (The maths curriculum also involved computer programming, which is what I ended up doing as a living.)

      For the first year, there was also a requirement to do a year of another subject. I chose psychology, but I can’t recall what the other options were. No foreign languages were required, which was just as well as I’m abysmal at foreign languages and failed French O-level at secondary school.

  16. In English Canada, (Quebec is different) the terminology is specific.

    If you are going to college, you are attending a post secondary diploma granting school that has one to three or four year courses, earning a diploma or certification in things like welding, fashion design, legal secretary, computer technician, aircraft mechanic, or accounting clerk.

    If you are going to university, it is an accredited degree granting school giving at least undergraduate degrees in things like math, physics, psychology, classics, various languages, philosophy, etc.

    As noted, some universities have colleges, which are administrative subunits, sometimes with limited or specialized teaching roles… and some private high schools have the word ‘college’ in their name, but that’s one thing they are not.

    At various times and places some universities admitted to a faculty, other to a course. In the latter case, choices in early years could be highly constrained, until specialization in later years opened up choices of subfield of study (everyone in a science program will be taking algebra, analysis, and statistics in the first year or two, and if in physics, will take mechanics (including relativistic mechanics), basic quantum theory, statistical physics, and electromagnetism. Not everyone will take advanced particle physics, for example.

    Less intense courses of study often allow a general first year before specializationl, and in some courses and schools that may persist into later years. On the other hand, if you are trying to fit in 8 or more math courses and a similar number of courses in physics, or a full set of life sciences and chemistry courses, you can’t really afford to waste a year meandering about in random courses.

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