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Institution of higher education, usually comprising a liberal arts and sciences college and graduate and professional schools that confer degrees in various fields. A university differs from a college in that it is usually larger, has a broader curriculum, and offers advanced degrees in addition to undergraduate degrees. The first true university was the University of Bologna, founded in the 11th century; the first in northern Europe was the University of Paris, which served as a model for the universities of Oxford, Cambridge, Heidelberg, and others. One of the first modern universities, in which secular objectivity and rationalism replaced religious orthodoxy, was the University of Halle (founded 1694 in Halle, Ger.). The liberalism of Halle was adopted by Göttingen, Berlin, and many other German universities. The German model of the university as a complex of schools and research institutes also exerted a worldwide influence. The growth of universities in the U.S., where most colleges had been established by religious denominations, was greatly spurred by the Morrill Act of 1862.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on university, visit Britannica.com.