In some Asian countries where English is not native or official languages, some universities are named XXX(Name of Place) Normal University in which the majority or all of the programs are intended to educate students who are expected to work as teachers after graduation. But there seems no such institutes of the same purpose so named in English-speaking countries.

  • It is worth noting that, for example Beijing Normal University is one of the oldest and most prestigious universities in China, and is a research university, not a college of education. In the UK, all teacher training colleges were merged or shut in the 1980s, as not being effective or cost-effective.
    – James K
    Jun 20, 2021 at 6:37
  • There is actually a town in Illinois called Normal because it was the site of the state normal college (now Illinois State University).
    – The Photon
    Jun 20, 2021 at 14:53

1 Answer 1


My guess is that native speakers of English in the US would just think "oh, okay, so that's the name of the university" and it wouldn't present a big problem. However, they are very unlikely to realize that "Normal" signals that it's a school for training future teachers.

You don't see (many?) schools in the US with "Normal" in their names nowadays, but many if not most famous US universities grew out of teacher-training schools and originally had "Normal" in their name. I'm in my mid-thirties and wasn't aware of this until I started hunting for academic jobs and spent a lot of time researching the universities I was applying to. To be honest, my reaction was to think that the "Normal" names sounded a little silly (as if these were being compared to "abnormal" schools), and I suspect that other people who are unfamiliar with the concept might feel the same way. (And I suspect that most people in the US fall into the "unfamiliar with it" category, or at least most people under age 40 or even under age 60.) I just asked my partner for his opinion on this and he said that he thinks "fewer than 1%" of Americans would realize that it means a school for teachers.

I don't know what the intuitions of native speakers outside the US might be.

Examples of US universities that used to be "Normal" schools: UCLA and the entire California State University (CSU) system came out of the "California State Normal Schools," for example. The CSU system is the largest four-year university system in the country.

  • 2
    Normal isn't used in this sense in Britain any more, and the "Teacher training colleges" were all closed or merged to universities in the 1980s in the UK.
    – James K
    Jun 20, 2021 at 6:31
  • 3
    I first came across the expression in French (they still have an 'Ecole Normale Superieure'), and later discovered that it had sometimes been used in England in the past. Jun 20, 2021 at 8:01
  • CSU started as a normal college, but UC originated as a "Agricultural, Mining, and Mechanical Arts College" that merged with a private liberal arts college.
    – The Photon
    Jun 20, 2021 at 15:02
  • Oops, yes, I stand corrected. I was confusing the start of UCLA with the start of the UC in general. (UCLA started as a second campus/school of the California State Normal School and then became independent, whereas the start of the UC in general involved a merger with the Agricultural, Mining, and Mechanical Arts College -- which existed as a legal entity if not also as a functioning school -- from 1866 to Oct. 9, 1867.) I edited my answer accordingly. Jun 21, 2021 at 0:39

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