Higher Education


There is no national system of higher education in the United States. Basically, American higher education developed its own pattern by the adaptation of two traditions: the collegiate tradition of England and the university tradition of the Continent.

In the USA there is no consistent distinction between the terms “college’’ and “university’’. The general tendency, however,is to call a college a higher educational institution offering mainly courses of instruction leading to the Bachelor’s degree; a university is a college or group of colleges or departments under one control offering courses of instruction leading not only to the Bachelor’s degree but also to the Master’s and the Doctor’s degrees. The term “college’’ is also sometimes loosely applied to institutions which are actually only secondary schools.

The American college, although it is the outgrowth of the English colleges of Oxford and of Cambridge, has developed into an institution which has no counterpart in Europe. The college course of study, at first three years in duration, was soon extended to four years and the classes are uniformly known as the freshman, the sophomore, the junior and the senior.

The traditional degree which crowns the college course is that of Bachelor of Arts (B. A.). The studies ordinarily insisted on in case of candidates for this degree are Latin, Greek, mathematics, English, philosophy, political economy, history, at least one modern European language (French or German) and at least one natural science.

The degrees of Bachelor of Science (B. S.), Bachelor of Philosophy (Ph. B.), and Bachelor of Letters (B. L.) are often conferred by colleges upon students who have pursued systematic courses of study which do not include Greek or the amount of Latin required for the degree of Bachelor of Arts.

The administration of higher education is the responsibility of both staff and faculty, but the work is divided between these two groups. The former group of officials and clerical personnel takes care of the non-academic functions of the institution. Their role is not in instruction but in organisation, classiffication, public relations, and financial management. The members of the university community whose role is instruction and research are called faculty members.

University instruction properly so called, and though found elsewhere, is given chiefly at the following institutions: California University, Catholic University of America, Cornell University, Harvard University, John Hopkins University, Stanford University, Wisconsin University, Yale University and some others. The combination of collegiate and university instruction under one corporation and one executive administration is distinctive of higher education in theUnited States.

The crowning honour of the university students is the degree of Ph. D. (Doctor of Philosophy) although that of M. A. (Master of Arts) obtainable in less time and much easier condition is also sought. The minimum period of study accepted for the degree of Ph. D., is two years after obtaining the bachelor’s degrees, but in practice, three, and even four years of study are found necessary. Inaddition to carrying on an investigation in the field of the main subject of study, the candidate for the degree of Ph. D. is usually required to pass examinations in one or two subordinate subjects, to possess a reading knowledge of French and German (often of Latin as well) and to submit — usually in printed form — the dissertation which embodies the results of his researches.

The methods of instruction in the universities are the lecture discussion and work in laboratory or seminary. The degree of Master of Arts is conferred upon students who, after one year of university residence and study, pass certain prescribed examinations. This ‘degree like those of DD (Doctor of Divinity) and LD (Doctor of Laws) is often conferred by colleges and universities as a purely honorary distinction.

To meet the demands for higher education two-year junior colleges have been opened. They were originally designed to provide two years of education beyond high school, but now are being used by hundreds of thousands of students as the first two years of a four-year college education. Today the junior college is the fastest-growing part of the American educational structure. The two years of study are divided into four semesters, called alpha, beta, gamma and delta to differentiate from the four-year colleges’ yearly divisions. It usually offers courses related to local industry, agriculture or crafts.Many of the students who take these courses at night have day-time jobs related to them.

In the liberal arts college,* even if part of a large university, the first two years are devoted to general education. This prescribed program consists of English literature and composition, a foreign language, science, social science and mathematics. Often too, the program includes broad survey courses for general knowledge from which the student can go on to a specialised interest in the junior year. This interest is usually termed a “major’’,* or “field of concentration’’. A second field of interest, in which one takes almost as many courses, is ofter called a “minor’’.

The undergraduate “major’’ may be in any one of a large number of academic fields or disciplines. In addition to those fields considered “liberal arts’’, the Bachelor’s degree may be earned in a number of professional or applied fields such as nursing, agriculture, education, engineering, or business. administration.

During one term or semester, a student will study, concurrently, four or five different subjects. The students’ progress is often evaluated through quizzes (short oral or written tests), term papers, and a final examination in each course. Each part of a student’s work in a course is given a mark which helps to determine his final grade. A student’s record consists ot his grade in each course. This system is unlike that of most European countries.

College grades, determined by each instructor on the basis of class work and examinations, are usually on a five-point scale, with letters to indicate the levels of achievement. “A’’ is the highest mark, indicating superior accomplishment, and the letters go through B, C, D, to E or F, the last two denote failure. Many schools assign points for each grade (A-5, B-4, etc.) so that gradepoint averages may be computed. Normally, a minimum gradepoint average is required to continue in school and to graduate.