In this article, we will attempt to answer why American students say they go to “college” while British students say they go to “university” when in fact both groups of students attend post-secondary institutions that give them degrees when they graduate.
Some universities in the United Kingdom, including Oxford (c. 1096) and Cambridge (c. 1209), had been existing for hundreds of years even before Harvard University (1636), America’s premier university, was established. In fact, these two British universities are still among the top universities in the world today.
American universities started as colleges and up to this day there are still tertiary institutions in the United States that are categorized as colleges and not part of any university.
The expression “go to college” has been passed down from generation to generation in the US and the phrase “attend university” in the UK.