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A public university or public college is a university or college that is in state ownership or receives significant public funds through a national or subnational government, as opposed to a private university. Whether a national university is considered public varies from one country (or region) to another, largely depending on the specific education landscape.
In Egypt, Al-Azhar University was founded in 970 AD as a madrasa, making it one of the oldest institutions of higher education in the world, formally becoming a university in 1961. It was followed by many universities opened as public universities in the 20th century, such as Cairo University (1908), Alexandria University (1912), Assiut University (1928), Ain Shams University (1957), Helwan University (1959), Beni-Suef University (1963), Benha University (1965), Zagazig University (1978), Suez Canal University (1989), where tuition fees are subsidized by the government.
In Kenya, the Ministry of Education controls all of the public universities. Students enroll after completing the 8-4-4 system and attaining a mark of C+ or above. Students who meet the criteria determined annually by the Kenya Universities and Colleges Central Placement Service (KUCCPS) receive government sponsorship. The government provides part of their university or college fees. Students are also eligible for a low-interest loan from the Higher Education Loan Board. However, students must pay back the loan after completing higher education.
In Nigeria, both the federal government and state governments may establish universities.
South Africa has 26 public tertiary educational institutions, categorised as traditional or comprehensive universities (providing theoretical and vocational training).
In Tunisia, the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research controls all public universities. For some universities, the Ministry of Higher Education coordinates with other ministries such as the Ministry of Public Health or the Ministry of Information and Communication Technologies. Tunisian public universities guarantee admission after a student earns a Tunisian Baccalaureate. Universities classify students according to a formula score based on their results in the baccalaureate. Then, the students make a wishlist with the universities they want to attend on a state website dedicated to orientation. Thus, the high-ranking students get priority to choose.
Many private universities have established themselves under the Private Universities Act of 2010, which governs Bangladesh private universities' operation and academics.
Almost all universities in Brunei are public universities.
People's Republic of China
In the People's Republic of China, nearly all universities and research institutions are public. All significant Chinese higher education centers are publicly administered.
Typically, provincial governments run public universities. Under some circumstances, the municipal governments administer the universities. Some public universities are national, which the central government directly administers.
Private undergraduate colleges exist, primarily vocational colleges sponsored by private enterprises. The majority of such universities are not entitled to award bachelor's degrees. Public universities usually enjoy higher reputation domestically and globally.
The University Grants Committee funds eight higher education institutions. The Academy for Performing Arts also receives funding from the government. The Open University of Hong Kong is also a public university, but it is largely self-financed. The Shue Yan University is the only private institution with the status of a university; however, it also receives government financial support.
In India, most universities and nearly all research institutions are public. Some private undergraduate colleges, mostly engineering schools, exist, but most affiliate with public universities. Some private schools are also partially aided by the national or state governments. India also has an "open" public university, the Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU), which primarily offers distance education, and in terms of the number of enrolled students, is now the largest university in the world with over 4 million students.
There are public and private educational institutes in Indonesia. The government, via the Ministry of Education, Culture, Research, and Technology, and the provincial and municipal governments provide public universities, institutes, high schools, and academies in each province. Religious organizations, public organizations, and large companies usually provide private educational institutions.
Some of Iran's public prestigious universities offer tuition-free and tuition-based programs. State-run universities are highly selective and competitive.
There are nine official universities in Israel. In addition, there are a few dozen colleges and other institutes of higher learning and about a dozen foreign university extensions. The Council for Higher Education in Israel (CHEI) academically supervises all. Only a university, not a college, can issue doctorate degrees in Israel. Theoretically, a college can apply to the CHEI to upgrade its status to a university.
In Japan, public universities are not national universities but are run by local governments, either prefectural or municipal. According to the Ministry of Education, public universities have "provided an opportunity for higher education in a region and served the central role of intellectual and cultural base for the local community in the region", and are "expected to contribute to social, economical and cultural development in the region"; this contrasts to research-oriented aspects of national universities.
As of 2010, there were 95 public universities, compared to 86 national universities and 597 private universities, and 127,872 students attended the schools. The number of public universities has significantly increased in recent years; in 1980, there were only 34 public universities; in 1993, there were 46. Since July 2003, when the Local Independent Administrative Institutions Law was implemented, public universities may incorporate. The average tuition in public universities for 2007 fiscal year was 536,238 yen, the average entrance fee 399,351 yen and the average application fee 17,095 yen.
University of Macau and Macao Polytechnic University are the public universities in Macau. Also, the Macao Institute for Tourism Studies is a public higher education institution that can offer undergraduate and postgraduate education.
There are 20 public universities in Malaysia, funded by the government but governed as self-managed institutions.
Tribhuvan University is the first public university in Nepal. The university runs various programs in a wide number of academic disciplines. It operates through six different schools and provides affiliation to various colleges. Kathmandu University is also a public university founded by a government act in 1991. The university offers science and technology curricula through different schools. The Pokhara University Act of 1997 established another government-funded school, Pokhara University. The Nepalese government finances Pokhara University, a non-profit autonomous institution, which affiliates with around 58 colleges for bachelor's, master's, and M.Phil. degree programs. Pokhara University has gained popularity in recent years. It has established relations with 42 national and international universities.
In Pakistan, universities receive guidance and recognition by the Higher Education Commission (Pakistan) (HEC) (formerly the University Grants Commission (Pakistan)). There are around 107 public and 76 private universities in Pakistan. University of the Punjab is the biggest public university followed by University of Karachi.
Universities and colleges in the Philippines are controlled and managed by the Commission on Higher Education, especially the University of the Philippines. There are more than 500 government-run higher education institutions, of which 436 are state colleges and universities, including satellite campuses, 31 local colleges and universities, and a handful of community colleges. In 2008, the Philippine Congress passed Republic Act 9500, declaring the University of the Philippines as the national university to distinguish it from all other state universities and colleges.
In addition to the University of the Philippines, the archipelago hosts other notable state colleges and universities. These include the Polytechnic University of the Philippines, Technological University of the Philippines, Philippine Normal University, and Mindanao State University.
Taiwan has more than 150 universities (two-thirds were established after the 1980s), while only a third of them are public universities. Tuition fees at public universities are less than half those of private universities because the Taiwanese government provides more funding to the public universities. Ten public universities (established before the 1980s) are more accredited and prestigious in Taiwan, and most top-ranking schools are public. Therefore, most students choose public universities for their tertiary education.
As of 2019, Thailand has 19 public universities.
In the late 19th century, there was a high demand for professional talents in the central government of Thailand. Siam was an aftermath of King Rama V's bureaucratic reforms, which aimed to transform the feudal Thai society into a modernized state. In 1899, the King founded the School for Training of Civil Officials (Thai: โรงเรียนสำหรับฝึกหัดวิชาข้าราชการฝ่ายพลเรือน) near the northern gate of the Royal Palace. Those who graduated from the school would become royal pages. A royal page was required to administrate by working closely with the King, a traditional entrance into the Siamese bureaucracy. Royal pages then may serve in the Mahattai Ministry or other government ministries.
Most Austrian universities are public. The state regulates tuition fees, the same for all public universities. Except for some studies, notably medicine, everybody who passes the "Matura" exam to attend university has the right to attend any public university. Overenrolled degree programs will introduce entrance exams that students must pass in the first year or before starting the degree. Especially scientific subjects such as biology, chemistry, and physics will have difficult exams in the first year of studies, introducing a specific barrier. Students must create timetables following the curriculum they choose. The universities provide options to combine studies and follow individually adjusted curricula. However, the organisation is obliged to the student, and the administration involved is high. Private universities have existed since 1999 but are considered easier than public universities and thus hold less esteem.
Communities run Belgian universities. Consequently, the Dutch-speaking Flemish Community, the French Community and the German Community determine which institutes of higher education to organise or recognise, and which may issue diplomas.
Until the 1970s, Belgium had two state universities: the University of Liège (ULiège) and the Ghent University (UGent), both founded in 1817 together with the State University of Leuven which closed down in 1835. These are often referred to as the two historic "state universities". In 1965, small specialised single-faculty institutions were recognised as universities: the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine (part of ULiège since 1969) and the Gembloux Agro-Bio Tech (part of ULiège since 2009). The Belgian state then founded smaller universities in Mons in 1965 (part of the University of Mons since 2009) and in 1971 in Antwerp (part of University of Antwerp since 2003), Hasselt (managed by the Province of Limburg, today Hasselt University), Arlon (managed by the Province of Luxembourg, part of ULiège since 2004). All these institutions were public universities managed by the national government until higher education was brought under the control of the Communities in 1990. Since 1891, private universities progressively became state-recognised and funded, while some private, mostly Catholic, organisations (called free institutions, as free from the state but state-funded) remain. As of 2022, the Communities fund all recognised universities which follow the same rules and laws.
The Croatian state runs most public universities. Academically well-performing students pay only administrative fees (less than €100 per year). Those who fail multiple classes in a year must retake them and pay a partial or full tuition fee.
Almost all universities are public and held in higher esteem than their private counterparts. Attending university is free in Denmark.
All universities are public and free of charge.
Most higher education organizations—(universities and grandes écoles)—are public and charge very low tuition fees (less than €1000 per year). Major exceptions are business schools such as HEC School of Management. Article L731-14 of the "Code de l'éducation" states that "Private higher education establishments can in no case take the title of "university". Nevertheless, many private institutions, such as the Catholic University of Lyon, use "university" as their marketing name.
Most higher education institutions are public and operated by the states. All professors are public servants. Public universities are generally held in higher esteem than their private counterparts. From 1972 through 1998, public universities were free of tuition fees; however, some states have since adopted low tuition fees.
In Greece, according to its constitution, higher education institutions (HEIs) comprise universities, technical universities (polytechnic universities), formerly technological educational institutes (TEIs) (1982–2019) or institutes of technology, and specialist HEIs. HEI undergraduate programmes are government-funded and do not charge tuition. A quarter of HEI postgraduate programmes are tuition-free. Thirty percent of students are entitled to attend all the statutory postgraduate programmes without tuition fees after being individually assessed. Private HEIs (universities, colleges, and other HEI types) cannot be operated in Greece, considered Greek universities, or recognised as degree-awarding bodies by the Greek government.
In Ireland, nearly all universities, institutes of technology, colleges of education and some other third-level institutions are public. The state pays the cost of educating its undergraduates. Students must pay a contribution fee of approximately €3,000, however. There are a few private institutions of higher learning (e.g., the National College of Ireland). However, none of them have university status and are highly specialised.
Almost all Italian universities are public but enjoy de jure institutional autonomy (limited by the state in practice, like in Greece). The Italian state provides the majority of university funding. Therefore, students pay relatively low tuition fees, decided by each university and related mainly to the student's family wealth, the course, and exam performance. A few scholarships, both at the undergraduate and postgraduate levels, are also available for the best low-income students. Even for research, private funding ranges from low to non-existent, compared to most European countries.
The Dutch Ministry of Education largely funds almost all public universities. Dutch citizens and citizens of other European Union countries who enroll for their first bachelor's or master's degree are subject to an annual tuition fee regardless of university or program. The fee was €1,951 in 2015. Non-European Union students, and students who want to complete a second bachelor's or master's degree pay the 'legal school fee' which should cover the additional costs of the student, which the government no longer funds. These fees range between approximately €7,000 (for relatively cheap bachelor programs) and €30,000 (for master's programs in medicine) a year. The Ministry of Education supervises all universities, including private institutions.
Almost all universities are public and state-funded.
In Poland, Acts of Parliament create public universities, while private citizens, societies, or companies operate private universities. The government pays all tuition fees and other costs of public university students. Most private universities charge tuition fees directly to students. These institutions are generally held in lower regard than public universities. A small number of private universities do not charge fees, such as John Paul II Catholic University of Lublin, founded in 1918 and property of the Roman Catholic Episcopacy of Poland; the Polish Government pays all costs.
There are 13 public universities, a university institute and a distance university. Higher education in Portugal provided by state-run institutions is not free, as students must pay a tuition fee. However, the fee is lower than that of private universities. The highest tuition fee allowed by law in public universities is €697 per year as of 2022. Public universities include some of the most selective and demanding higher learning institutions, noted for high competitiveness and nationwide reputation.
In Russia, about 7.5 million students study in thousands of universities.
A vast majority of students (over 85%) study at public universities that the Serbian state runs. Academically well-performing students pay only administrative fees (less than €100 per year), while those who fail multiple classes in a year, and have to retake them, pay a partial or full tuition fee (ranging from €500 to €2000 per year for full tuition fee, depending on which faculty). Private universities have existed since 1989 but are less academically rigorous than public universities and thus hold less esteem.
There are a total of 74 universities in Spain. The majority (52), including the most prestigious, are public and are funded by the autonomous community in which they are based. University funding may differ (though not significantly) depending on in which Spanish region the university is based. However, the central government establishes homogeneous tuition fees for all public universities. As such, university fees are much lower than those of their private counterparts. The highest tuition fee allowed by law was, as of 2010, €14.97 per academic credit, amounting to roughly €40/year for an average 60 credit full-time course; tuition fees in private universities might reach €18,000/year in comparison. Public universities are state-owned but granted a considerable degree of independence when it comes to self-government; they cannot, however, make free use of their assets (i.e., buy and sell assets as a private company would) and are subject to Spanish administrative law as any other public body of the state. Public university administrators, lecturers, and professors are granted civil servant status, which serves as a tenure. A Spanish civil servant can only be fired under exceptional and well-justified circumstances. Research funding can be allocated either by the autonomous community or the central government; in the former case, funding amount and conditions vary significantly from one autonomous community to another.
Most universities are public. Education in Sweden is normally free, so there are no tuition fees at any Swedish university.
In 2016, there were 183 universities and academies in Turkey: 118 state universities (five technical universities, two institutes of technology, and one fine arts university). Turkey's higher learning institutions, governed by the Ministry of Higher Education or YÖK Ministry, are accepting more and more international students. Of the 65 private foundation universities, seven are two-year granting institutions. In addition, there are "special" institutions, including four military academies and one police academy.
In the UK, all universities are autonomous bodies, legally independent of the state. However, universities and other higher education providers are regulated, and universities may be considered public bodies for some purposes. The degree of regulation varies between the countries of the United Kingdom. It varies depending on the constitutional form of the university and whether it receives public funding.
Historically, the University of London was a truly public university from its establishment as an examining board in 1836 to its reconstitution as a more traditional teaching university in 1900. It has been described as "what today would be called a quango", operating out of government premises, staffed by civil servants, and directly accountable to the Treasury for its expenditure.
The right to award UK degrees and use the title "university" or "university college" is controlled for all higher education providers. These rights are granted by the Privy Council for institutions in Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland and by the Office for Students for institutions in England. The Office for Students can also, with the agreement of parliament, revoke degree-awarding powers for institutions in England.
Almost all British universities, including all universities in Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland, receive public funding for teaching via block grants from the Office for Students (England), the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales, the Department for the Economy (Northern Ireland) or the Scottish Funding Council. Universities (and other higher education providers) receiving public funding in this manner are treated as public authorities for various purposes, including the public sector equality duty of the Equality Act 2010 and the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 for Scottish institutions), and are "likely to be public bodies for the purpose of the Human Rights Act 1998". Additionally, universities that are incorporated as higher education corporations are regarded as public authorities for some purposes regardless of whether they receive public funding.
Acceptance of public funding also brings government regulation of the level of tuition fees charged for courses. In principle, any university can leave the regulated fees system at any time by not accepting public funding; for most universities (those not incorporated as higher education corporations), this would also remove their status as public authorities. In England, the only jurisdiction in the UK to have non-publicly funded universities, registration as a higher education provider (which is obligatory for universities, whether or not they are publicly funded) requires adherence to public interest governance principles. Additional public interest governance principles apply to providers with degree awarding powers (which includes all universities) and to publicly funded providers. All registered providers in England must also be members of the Office of the Independent Adjudicator.
Universities that are constituted as civil corporations (Oxford and Cambridge), statutory corporations (Durham, London, Newcastle, Royal Holloway and the ancient universities of Scotland, some of which also have royal charters) or chartered corporations (all other institutions in the university sector before 1992, except the LSE) must, due to their constitutional form, obtain permission from the Privy Council to modify their statutes. This is unrelated to whether or not they receive public funding.
Direct government funding for teaching and research has been substantially reduced since 2012, with a study in 2012 indicating that annual government funding for teaching and research would make up just 15 percent of English universities' income by 2015. As of 2014, funding council grants made up 15 to 20 percent of the income of universities as disparate as UCL (18 percent; large research university, 2014 income £1 billion), Durham (17 percent; small research university, 2014 income £300 million) and Hertfordshire (15 percent; teaching focused university, 2014 income £240 million). By 2018, this had fallen to 15 percent at UCL, 11 percent at Durham and 8 percent at Hertfordshire. However currently there are only five fully fledged private universities in the United Kingdom.
Each of the four nations within the UK has responsibility for funding resident students. Scotland offers free tuition for residents for their first undergraduate degree studied in Scotland (meaning a Scottish student who chooses to study in England receives nothing)  with the potential to fund five out of four years (known as "false-start" funding) should a student be required to repeat a year or decide to change course. The Welsh Assembly chose to go the other way and has funding follow the Welsh student, even if they choose to study outside of Wales, however they only cover around two-thirds of tuition costs. England and Northern Ireland expect students to take out student loans to cover the cost of tuition.
In Australia, there are 37 public universities and 5 private universities. The private universities are Bond University, the University of Notre Dame Australia, University of Divinity, and Torrens University Australia, with one international private university with a campus in Adelaide: Carnegie Mellon University, Australia (USA). Adelaide formerly had campuses of Cranfield University (UK) (2007-2010), and University College London (UK) (2010-2017).
Some of Australia's public universities are variously grouped as below:
- The Group of Eight, which has some of the oldest public universities in Australia, including the Universities of Queensland, Sydney, Melbourne, New South Wales, Adelaide and Western Australia together with the Australian National University and Monash University. Three were established in the 19th and 20th centuries.
- The Australian Technology Network universities primarily grew from the former Institutes of Technology and include RMIT University, Queensland University of Technology, Curtin University, the University of Technology Sydney and the University of South Australia. They gained university status in the late 1980s to the early 1990s due to the reforms of the then Minister for Employment, Education, and Training, John Dawkins.
- Innovative Research Universities represent a number of research-intensive institutions, with most members being established in the 1960s and 1970s. The group includes Charles Darwin University, James Cook University, Griffith University, La Trobe University, Flinders University, Murdoch University, and Western Sydney University.
- The Regional Universities Network comprises seven regional Australian universities. The group includes Central Queensland University, Southern Cross University, Federation University, the University of Southern Queensland, the University of the Sunshine Coast, University of New England (Australia) and Charles Sturt University.
- The NUW Alliance is a group of three universities in New South Wales. The group consists of University of Newcastle, University of New South Wales, and University of Wollongong.
In New Zealand, all eight universities are public. Research grants support public funding. The oldest (University of Otago) was established in 1869 by Provincial Ordinance. From 1870 to 1961, there was effectively a single university structure-the University of New Zealand-with constituent colleges located in Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch, and Dunedin. In 1961, the constituent colleges were dissolved into four independent universities by the New Zealand Parliament to become the University of Auckland, Victoria University of Wellington, University of Canterbury, and University of Otago. This change also established a new university in Hamilton, the University of Waikato. Two associated agricultural colleges-Massey and Lincoln-subsequently became universities in 1963 and 1990, respectively. An eighth university (Auckland University of Technology) was formed in 2000 by an Order in Council under the Education Act 1989.
In Argentina, the national universities, also called "public or state-run universities", are all those institutions whose creation arose from the enactment of a National Congress Act, except for those whose creation preceded that of the state itself (as is the case of the National University of Córdoba and the University of Buenos Aires). They are Public Law legal entities. The Argentinian government determines the universities' regular operating funding through the annual national budget act.
National universities hold the largest share of the entire Argentine university system: with over 80% of the undergraduate population and with campuses stretched throughout all provinces comprising the national territory, they account for over 50% of the country's scientific research while additionally providing technical assistance to both the public and private sectors.
Public universities are free (students pay no fee during studies), as is the access to university libraries' books. However, students typically must purchase books and studying material, such as photocopies of common books. Various scholarships are available for low-income students.
In Brazil, the federal or state governments fund a few hundred public universities, including the country's most renowned universities, such as the University of São Paulo, University of Campinas, Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul, Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, Federal University of Minas Gerais, Federal University of Bahia, and the Federal Institutes. Professors are public servants, primarily tenured and selected by public contests, where international research publications are a significant hiring criterion. Public university professors' teaching load is usually modest and leaves time for research. In contrast, most private institutions are for-profit enterprises that hire teachers on an hourly basis and conduct comparatively little research; notable exceptions are certain private but non-profit universities, mostly affiliated with religious organizations, such as the Mackenzie Presbyterian University of São Paulo and the Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro.
Public universities are responsible for granting nearly all the graduate degrees in Brazil, such as doctorates and masters (called in Portuguese, respectively, "doutorado" and "mestrado"). These public university graduate programs are also the primary source of Brazilian academic research. The Brazilian Federal Constitution establishes the right to attend public universities free of tuition or entrance fees. However, because public universities have thousands of applicants annually, only the best students can pass the entrance examinations, being either the vestibular (a specific test for each university) or the country-wide ENEM. At many universities, there are quotas for students whose secondary (high school) education was made entirely in a public-funded school (generally, the quota is 50%). There are also racial quotas but usually restricted to students from public high schools.
Some universities, like UFMG, the largest federal university in Brazil, give extra points in their admission tests instead of quotas. In UFMG, a public high school student is granted a 10% bonus over their test grade if they previously agreed to receive this advantage. Public school students who declare themselves black or "pardo" (mixed-race) have a 15% bonus if they previously agreed to receive race-based benefits. In recent years public-funded higher education has grown. Since 2005, the Brazilian government has offered a limited number of tuition grants to enable students experiencing poverty to attend private universities.
In Canada, education is a constitutional responsibility of the individual provinces. Many early universities were privately endowed (e.g., McGill) or founded by church denominations (e.g., Laval, Saint Mary's, Queen's, Dalhousie, Mount Allison, McMaster, Ottawa) but in the 20th century became publicly funded and secular. Provincial governments established the University of Toronto on the Oxbridge model and elsewhere (e.g., Alberta, Manitoba) in the pattern of American state universities. All major Canadian universities are now publicly funded but maintain institutional autonomy, with the ability to decide on admission, tuition, and governance.
The U15 is an organization of fifteen leading research-intensive universities. Additionally, McGill University and the University of Toronto are members of the Association of American Universities, along with sixty public and private institutions in the United States. Private universities in Canada are relatively new and primarily exist at the undergraduate level.
In Chile, older, so-called "traditional" universities are more prestigious than the ones created after 1980. Even though some of those "traditional" universities are private non-profit entities, they belong to the same superior university council called Consejo de Rectores (Council of Chancellors); the Consejo de Rectores runs its admission system called Prueba de Selección Universitaria or PSU, which is roughly similar to SAT. Even though state-run universities are cheaper than private ones, they are not tuition-free. Remarkably, Chile spends only 4% on education, compared to the 7% of GDP recommended by the UN for developed nations. Moreover, in Chile, the financing of higher education, both private and public, is contributed by 75% by the self-effort of families. The most prestigious universities in Chile are the state-run Universidad de Chile, the private with state contributions Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, the private with state contributions Universidad de Concepción, and the private with state contributions Universidad Técnica Federico Santa María, these four universities admit the most significant numbers of high scoring students in the PSU admission test. They are responsible for the most extensive research portion (with the Universidad de Chile at the top). The non-traditional universities are, for the most part, for-profit universities and, with a few exceptions, do not have the same prestige as the above "traditional" ones.
In Costa Rica the University of Costa Rica, the National University, the Distance State University, National Technical University and the Costa Rica Institute of Technology, are all public universities.
In Mexico, the UNAM (Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México), sometimes simply known as the "National University of Mexico", was founded in 1910. It is the largest university in the country and one of the largest globally, with over 250,000 students, including its system of high schools. It contributes the most to the country's academic research and cultural development by percentage. However, other significant public institutions such as the Instituto Politécnico Nacional and the federal state-run universities.
In Panama, there are five public universities. However, the most prominent are the University of Panama and the Technological University of Panama. Public universities are state-funded with minimal (~US$1500 over four years) or no student funds. Public universities are run fully autonomously, without intervention from the state. They are also considered prestigious due to their free or low-cost nature, which allegedly removes financial incentives to pass students.
In Peru, to be admitted into one of the national public universities, a high score is required on the admission test. Historically, many of the prestigious universities in Peru have been public, exemplified by the most prestigious university in the country, National University of San Marcos, the oldest university in the Americas, founded in May 1551. Alongside the National University of San Marcos, many other public universities follow the same rigorous pattern, like the National Agrarian University, the National University of Engineering, the Federico Villarreal University and the National University of Education.
In 2002, the most prestigious public universities in Peru (National University of San Marcos, La Molina - National Agrarian University, the National University of Engineering, Federico Villarreal University and the National University of Callao), joined and created the Strategic Alliance of Peruvian Universities (es: Alianza Estrátegica), alongside other public and private universities who joined as associate and advisory members.
In the United States, most public universities and colleges are state universities or colleges founded and operated by state government entities. Additionally, there are public tribal colleges and universities operated by American Indian tribal governments, and some colleges where a municipal government is an owner or part of governance (e.g., City University of New York, Quincy College).
States generally charge higher tuition to out-of-state students. The higher fees are based on the theory that students from the state, or much more often their parents, have contributed to subsidizing the university by paying state taxes. In contrast, out-of-state students and their parents have not.
Every U.S. state has at least one public university, and the largest states have more than thirty. This is partly a result of the 1862 Morrill Land-Grant Acts, which gave each eligible state 30,000 acres (12,141 ha) federal land to sell to finance public institutions to offer courses in practical fields in addition to the liberal arts. With the help of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Higher Education Act of 1965 and the Education Amendments of 1972, public universities became even more accessible for women, minorities, and lower-income applicants.
Public universities generally rely on subsidies from their respective state governments. Robert Martin, economics professor emeritus at Centre College, has written, "The historical data for private and public institutions reveal that public institutions have always been more dependent on external support than have private institutions." Recently, state support for public universities has been declining, forcing many public universities to seek private support. The real level of state funding for public higher education has doubled from $30 billion in 1974 to nearly $60 billion in 2000. Meanwhile, the percent of state appropriations for schooling per student at public universities has fallen from 78% in 1974 to 43% in 2000. The increasing use of teaching assistants in public universities is a testament to waning state support. To compensate, some professional graduate programs in law, business, and medicine rely almost solely on private funding.
According to a 2020 study of the state university system in the U.S. state of Georgia, access to public universities had massively positive economic impacts on students, as well as led to net fiscal benefits for the state of Georgia.
The oldest public universities in the United States are the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, The College of William & Mary, and the University of Georgia. The College of William & Mary, founded in 1693, and Rutgers University, founded in 1766, were two of the nine colonial colleges. Both were private universities until the 20th century, when William & Mary became public in 1908 and Rutgers in 1945. Various other universities also claim to be among the oldest in the United States.[n 1]
Many U.S. public universities began as teacher training institutions, often named normal schools or teachers colleges, and eventually were expanded into comprehensive universities. Examples include UCLA, formerly the southern branch of California State Normal School; Arizona State University, originally the Tempe Normal School; the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee, formerly Milwaukee Normal School; and Missouri State University, formerly Southwest Missouri State Teachers College.
It has never been determined whether the U.S. Constitution would allow the federal government to establish a federal university system. The only federally chartered public universities that currently exist are the United States Service academies, military-associated educational institutions administered by the United States Department of Defense, and Haskell Indian Nations University, which the Bureau of Indian Affairs governs. In addition, Georgetown University was the first federally chartered private university in Washington, D.C. (1815) and was later followed by four other federally chartered private colleges and universities in the District of Columbia, which are Columbian College (1821) (now The George Washington University), Gallaudet University (1864), Howard University (1867), and American University (1893). The University of the District of Columbia is the public university in Washington, D.C., generally overseen by the Government of the District of Columbia under authority devolved from Congress under District of Columbia home rule.
Historically, many of the prestigious universities in the United States have been private, most notably the Ivy League. However, some public universities are also highly prestigious and increasingly selective: Richard Moll designated such prestigious public universities Public Ivies. UC Berkeley, for instance, is often ranked as a top-ten university in the world and the top public university in the United States. There are a number of public liberal arts colleges, including the members of the Council of Public Liberal Arts Colleges.
Community colleges in the United States are generally public colleges. They typically offer associate's degrees representing two academic years total post secondary school. In contrast, bachelor's degrees represent four academic years total post secondary school. In the 21st century, some community colleges have added bachelor's degree programs, particularly in applied career-focused subjects and often with titles such as Bachelor of Applied Arts and Sciences.
- The University of South Carolina (1801) is the longest continuously supported public university. Ohio University (1804) is the oldest public university in continuous operation.Vincennes University was founded in 1801 and has continuously operated. However, it did not become a public institution until 1806 and has been primarily a two-year institution since 1889. Rutgers, which did not become a public institution until 1945, closed twice before 1825. The University of Tennessee was chartered in 1794 but did not receive state funds until 1807 and closed from 1809 to 1820. William & Mary, North Carolina, Georgia, and South Carolina closed during the Civil War, with W&M not reopening until 1888.
- Media related to Public universities and colleges at Wikimedia Commons