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Institution that offers postsecondary education. The term has various meanings. In Roman law a collegium was a body of persons associated for a common function. The name was used by many medieval institutions, including guilds. In most universities of the later Middle Ages, collegium meant an endowed residence hall for university students. The colleges kept libraries and scientific instruments and offered salaries to tutors who could prepare students to be examined for degrees. Eventually few students lived outside colleges, and college teaching eclipsed university teaching. In England, secondary schools (e.g., Winchester and Eton) are sometimes called colleges. Canada also has collegiate schools. In the U.S., college may refer to a four-year institution of higher education offering a bachelor's degree, or to a two-year junior or community college with a program leading to the associate's degree. A four-year college usually emphasizes a liberal arts or general education rather than specialized technical or vocational preparation. The four-year college may be an independent private institution or an undergraduate division of a university.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on college, visit Britannica.com.