"My children are at school" means "My children are attending a school".

"My son is at university" means "My son is attending a university". (Source)

So, "university" & "school" have this similar usage.

But "school" also has other usage,

"school" also means "[uncountable] (used without the or a) the time during the day when children are working in a school"

Shall I meet you after school today?

School begins at 9.

The kids are at school until 3.30. (means "Right at this moment, my children are at that school in person" & have not come back home yet) Source

My question is:

does "university" mean "(Uncountable Noun) the time during the day when students are working in a university"

So, does "My son is at university until 3.30." mean "Right at this moment, my son is at that university in person" & has not come back home yet?

does "shall I meet you after university" mean "shall I meet you after you finish your university class today"

  • No. The noun University does not refer at all to a period of time. University does not mean "the time during the day when students are working in a university". But "My son is at university until 3.30" does mean "Right at this moment, my son is on the campus of the university in person and has not come back home yet." Your question is phrased very peculiarly. Can you clarify exactly what you imagine the noun university to mean? Commented Jun 21, 2017 at 1:35
  • @P.E.Dant, I edited my questiom. I just want to know if "university" & "school" have similar usages.
    – Tom
    Commented Jun 21, 2017 at 1:42
  • What does your dictionary tell you about the noun? Commented Jun 21, 2017 at 1:44
  • @P.E.Dant, the dictionary only has 1 meaning for "university" ("an educational institution at the highest level, where you study for a degree"). But it also say "at university=studying at a university"
    – Tom
    Commented Jun 21, 2017 at 1:45
  • How does that definition conflict with the definition of school? Commented Jun 21, 2017 at 1:52

2 Answers 2


In your example, the usage of

at school
at university

are analogous as referring to the time one is studying / taking classes, however

after school
Meet you today after school.

is a commonly thought of time of day

after university
After university, I will bee seeking employment.

would be more thought of as a time of life, more analogous might be

after classes
Meet your today after classes at the coffee shop.

In common use BrE the shortened form of "uni" (you-nee) is often used.

University is a type / form of schooling.

  • This is a little misleading (from a British English point of view). To say "my daughter is at school" would imply (without more information) that she would return home later today. "My daughter is at university" would imply she had gone to university for the entire term - in other words it is not a time of day, but a period of days or weeks. Commented Apr 6, 2021 at 8:29

Yes, university and school have similar uses - in most circumstances.

The reason why the use of school and university may differ is that the time spent there is structured differently. This means that the idiomatic use of after school and after university are different (try searching for them).

After school - the time of the day after school has finished (see after school clubs, for example)
After university - the time after you have graduated from university

When attending school, students are in the school site between set hours that are always the same, and they generally can't leave during those hours. The teaching is all very structured and the school site is generally relatively small, and not where the students live (unless it's a boarding school). Therefore, during the day, there is a very definite at school and not at school.

University tends to be somewhat different. Often students will live on the university site, or in university owned accommodation. The teaching is much less structured (more of the time is self-study), is often less regular (one day lectures could be 9-11, the next may have no lectures, but a seminar from 2-4) and is generally more diverse (there are lectures, seminars, labs, etc). The site is much bigger and either will be dispersed throughout a city, or will make up a campus that a student might not leave very often (because they live there).

It therefore often doesn't make that much sense to say "after university" in the same way as "after school", because that could mean many different things and refer to many different times. Many students will not consider themselves as leaving university at any point during the day. You are much more likely to hear "after lectures" or possibly "after class" (although I think of that as being more of an American phrase). You might also hear something like "See you after I've finished with uni (work) for the day".

That said, there is nothing to stop you from using university to mean the time during the day during which someone is at university, you would just have to make it clear from the context that that's what you mean. It would generally require more explanation than saying "after school" would, and there is probably a better way of saying it.

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