I'm looking at the words college and university. They essentially both mean tertiary education with some differences like class size, degree programs, funding, etc. Will one word become archaic? Will we prefer using one word?

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    College means more than just 'tertiary education', at least in my dictionary. Why do you want to vandalise the English language? You would abolish all subtlety. May 24 '21 at 19:24
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    College and University don't mean the same thing, so no, I don't think we will pretend that they are the same thing and then try to agree on which one we are going to use. Why would English devolve from the most expressive language in the world toward grunting and pointing? New ways to tell someone they suck are being added to Urban dictionary every day, so I don't understand what magical force is going to make people agree to express "you suck" in only one approved way.
    – ColleenV
    May 24 '21 at 20:52
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    Meanwhile, English has plenty of words that do mean the same thing; consider "closed" and "shut", or "small" and "little". It's managed to maintain them all for a thousand years. May 24 '21 at 21:15
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    Are you asking about American or UK English? The word "college" means different things in different countries.
    – nick012000
    May 25 '21 at 0:29
  • @nick012000 American English
    – Sponge bob
    May 25 '21 at 2:16

Will one word become archaic? Will we prefer using one word?

While it's true that language has a tendency to be simplified for the sake of speed and conveniency, the nuances and subtleties of the English language continue to resist against its nemeses: social media, texting, and lackadaisical journalism.

I feel it safe to say that the terms college and university in the US will resist for at least the next 25 years. Also, the most prestigious colleges in the US, such as Harvard, Yale, Princeton and Stanford will unlikely remove “university” from their official names any time soon.

However, it's possible that an ever-increasing number of American-English speakers may substitute “university” and “college” with the ubiquitous term school.

To support my belief, below are two excerpts where "school" is used for higher education institutions.

At a basic level, the Ivy League is an athletic conference consisting of eight private colleges and universities. But the Ivy League refers to much more than just college athletics.
The schools that comprise the Ivy League boast centuries of history, tradition, and prestige

Best Colleges


In the United States, the word "school" describes any place where people learn. You can call a college a "school." You can even call a university a "school." You can use the word "school" for any English language institute, undergraduate or graduate program, or secondary ("high") school.
(Study in the USA)

N.B I chose not to answer the question in the title which bears little resemblance to the original question asked and the one asked in the body.


First thing to clarify is that 'university' and 'college' can be nouns for institutions, part of the proper noun for a specific institution, or even just refer to the buildings that they operate out of. But when people say "I'm at university" or "I'm at college" without specifying which college or university, they are referring to the type of study currently being undertaken.

Using these terms to refer to the type of study:

  • In Britain, "college" is an extension of secondary, non-advanced education, and "university" is tertiary, advanced education.

  • In the USA, both "colleges" and "universities" offer tertiary education.

In Britain, children complete their 'general' secondary education at 16, and then have a choice of non-advanced education to continue in until age 18. Options include "college" (an institution similar to a school), "6th form" (basically the same but operated as an extension to a secondary school, and sometimes called '6th form college') or some other vocational training. Education after age 18 is non-compulsory, and "university" is usually a 3-year programme to obtain a degree.

In the USA, I understand that children school until age 18, and then optionally go to "college" or "university" to obtain a degree. I believe the difference is that 'colleges' are run by the state, while 'universities' may be independent and with a focus on research.

Note that there can be a disparity between what a learning institute is named and how one might refer to the type of study they are doing. For example, in the UK, "Kings College" is a university (from their own website: "King's is ranked in the top 10 UK universities in the world").

  • @rjpond mmm not really... that's the NAME of the institution, but I still think someone in Britain would say "I'm at University" if they were studying at King's college. I think i need to make a distinction between the buildings and the concept.
    – Astralbee
    May 25 '21 at 8:40

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