The US has a large and diverse higher education system. There are more than 3,500 higher education institutions. School leavers can continue their education in four-year colleges, universities, community colleges, professional institutes, performing and visual arts schools.

In the United States, it is generally assumed that young people should have at least two years of university education. Hence, there are a great number of ‘junior colleges’, and ‘community colleges’, which provide two years of undergraduate study. Often less expensive than traditional four-year colleges and universities, community colleges do not grant bachelor’s degrees but issue associates’ degrees.

The traditional universities and colleges provide four-year study courses for a degree and postgraduate study in a ‘graduate school’ (one to three years). Universities are either privately funded or funded by the government. Private universities and colleges depend largely on tuition fees paid by students. The state governments fund the system of state universities, which provide higher education to the vast majority of those who wish and are academically qualified to receive it.

Post-secondary education in the US differs from that in Europe in a number of ways. One of the differences is the great diversity of subjects, programs, and degree levels in different majors.

The four-year, or bachelor’s degree, is ordinarily obtained not by passing examinations, or finals, but by the accumulation of course credits, or hours of classroom study. The quality of work is assessed by means of a record of grades in a course transcript.

Another difference between US-based higher schools and those abroad is governance. Most US schools are private, non-governmental, self-governing. Others are affiliated with federal, state, and government agencies, but even they have some of these characteristics. US Universities are headed by presidents and/or chancellors. Within this system, deans, provosts, and/or vice-presidents are responsible for academic affairs.

A marked feature of American education is the de-emphasis on lecture and examination. Students are assessed according to their performance in individual courses where discussion and written essays are important.

Many people know about a high reputation of the Ivy League schools, which are elite private universities, Harvard and Massachusetts Institute of Technology being among them. They are often named as the world’s leading universities.

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