American Higher Education and the 'Collegiate Way of Living' (美国高等教育和 '学院制生活')

Community Design (Tsinghua University), 30(2): 10-21

12 Pages Posted: 9 Feb 2015

Date Written: 2011


Institutions of higher education in the United States are remarkably diverse in their educational purposes, their organizational structure, and their architectural styles. But underlying all this diversity are two distinct historical models: the decentralized British “collegiate” model of university education, and the centralized Germanic university model. Early American higher education grew out of the British collegiate tradition and emphasized the comprehensive development of students’ intellect and character, while the Germanic university tradition, introduced in the late 1800s, shifted the focus to technical scholarship and research. The Germanic university model held sway for much of the twentieth century, but there is now a widespread renewal of interest in the older decentralized British collegiate model, and in universities across the United States and around the world, small “residential colleges” like those at Oxford and Cambridge are now being planned and built. These residential colleges or “houses” (as they are sometimes called) provide small, stable, faculty-led, home-like environments for a few hundred students each, and their social and architectural design seeks to counteract the impersonal bureaucratic experience that students often have in large Germanic-style universities. This revival of the collegiate model of university organization is one of the most important trends in the design of educational communities in the world today.

Note: Downloadable document is in English and Chinese.

Keywords: architecture, colleges, collegiate universities, decentralization, dormitories, education reform, higher education, house systems, housing, liberal education, residential colleges, student life, university administration

JEL Classification: I20

Suggested Citation

O’Hara, Robert J., American Higher Education and the 'Collegiate Way of Living' (美国高等教育和 '学院制生活') (2011). Community Design (Tsinghua University), 30(2): 10-21, Available at SSRN:

Do you have negative results from your research you’d like to share?

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics