College students, but complicated. Institutions of higher education are traditionally “universities” in the U.K. but in the U.S. (and Scotland!), the term “college,” the OED notes, “has come to be interchangeable with ‘university.'” The traditional English meaning of “college,” meanwhile, is given by the OED as a “society of scholars incorporated within or in connection with a University”; more recently, it has been used to refer to some specialized, often technical or vocational institution. In any case, undergraduates have traditionally been collectively referred to as “university students” in the U.K,. “college students” in the U.S. The usages are difficult to chart precisely because of the various meanings of the terms, because of instances where both graduate students and undergraduates are being referred to (and where “university students” would be traditionally used even in the U.S.), and because many search engine hits for “university students” will be on the order of “Penn State University students.” But my gut tells me “university students” is on the rise in the U.S. Incidentally, Google Ngram suggests that “college students” is on the rise in the U.K.! “I still hope to lure him abroad for an occasional video piece, but mostly he will be in Los Angeles recovering from the last five years’ journeys. He will continue to work with university students, promoting web video and showing them how to develop their own multimedia, and he also would like to do more with not-for-profits.” (Nicholas Kristof, New York Times, April 8, 2008)/“’I think that we as university students should get some sort of deal,’ Jennifer Friedmann ’13 said of the paywall. ‘I hope the library grants full access to the [New York Times] website.’” (Yale Daily News, March 23, 2011. Note that Ms. Friedmann is a college sophomore.)
AbbreviationsOED=Oxford English Dictionary AmE=American English BrE=British English
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