In the past, most education centers were boarding schools in which students live full time. Still there are boarding school at high school or college level. However, for universities, students just tend to attend the class and leave the campus. Even, dormitories are just like rental projects rather than keeping the students to live in the campus.

Old-fashioned universities like Cambridge still have the so-called colleges which are responsible for student life (to live in the academic community). In this classic model, the university is investing in colleges to build an academic community outside formal education, which is conducted by technical departments.

Is it a formal policy for modern universities to keep students within the campus beside the formal education? OR they prefer if the students attend classes and leave the campus?

The reason that I ask this question is that social activities are conducted by student clubs. If students do not join clubs or somehow live in the campus, it is not responsibility of the university administration (and they normally do not care). In classical universities like Cambridge, keeping the colleges active is still responsibility of the university administration.

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    Even, dormitories are just like rental projects rather than keeping the students to live in the campus. — I don't understand the distinction. Yes, the students pay rent to live in the dorms, but then they do in fact live in the dorms.
    – JeffE
    Commented Oct 9, 2015 at 11:06
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    @JeffE: I could imagine the OP is referring to the difference between a provides-a-bed-for-sleeping-hotel and a provides-a-full-day-experience-full-of-activities-resort kind of accommodation. Commented Oct 9, 2015 at 11:52
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    Some universities do require students to live on campus the first year (or two). E.g., Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute has its First-Year Experience program, and "requires that all first and second-year students reside in Institute-owned or -leased residence halls.". Commented Oct 9, 2015 at 13:23
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    I don't know what you mean by "formal policy". There are certainly institutions that, as a matter of policy, try to make it possible and enjoyable for the majority of students to live on campus, and where, as a matter of preference, the majority actually do so, although it is not mandatory. I can add an answer about that if you like. Commented Oct 9, 2015 at 14:58

3 Answers 3


In the United States, it tends to depend strongly on the particular university and the population that it aims to serve. In general, the more local and "non-traditional" that students are expected to be, the less that a university will feel obligated to assist in the arrangement of housing and board.

Thus, for example, a place like Williams College, where the students are mostly "traditional" undergraduates coming from far away to a small isolated town in the mountains, expects to house, board, and provide a full campus life for essentially all of its students.

At the opposite end of the spectrum there are places like Suffolk University, which is in the middle of a big city (Boston) and historically focused strongly on professional postgraduate education and on students enhancing their education later in life. Suffolk doesn't even have a campus per se---it just has about a dozen buildings scattered around the center of Boston, and until quite recently did not have any dormitories at all.

Across the whole spectrum, most administrations will consider it their responsibility to provide a rich intellectual environment for students both inside and outside of the classroom, e.g., by supporting student groups. The degree to which this happens "on campus" and with direct university investment varies greatly depending on circumstance. No university in America, however, will attempt to confine students to a campus---some merely recognize that geography makes it more difficult for their students to leave.


Some American universities require students to live in dorms on campus for the first one or two years of their studies. This is probably the closest you get to the old system.

Among the practical considerations that enter this conversation is certainly that it is an enormous organizational and financial effort to house the number of students who attend university today. My university has 60,000 students. Imagine the effort to build enough dorms for all of them. Most universities will not have the financial resources to do so, and many will also not nearly have enough space on campus to build such dorms.


keeping the colleges active is still responsibility of the university administration

You don't seem to understand the role of colleges at Oxbridge. It is not the university's responsibility to maintain the students' social lives. In fact, the university is not directly responsible for the colleges at all, as they are technically separate entities, but that's minor details. Colleges do form a focus for social life, as being part of a community is beneficial to learning, but students are entirely free to socialise elsewhere or live elsewhere (just not too far away).

As jakebeal has said, the culture of a university community can be very dependent on what the university population is like, as different groups have different needs. Other factors can also play a part, eg. London universities mostly have less of a community feel because there are many other things on around that students can get involved with, and also because a large proportion of students travel home at weekends. In contrast, UCDavis makes up half of the town, so there's not much space for students to separate. Some universities have a policy of trying to create spaces for students to learn together, others don't. Many will offer activities beyond the curriculum because it attracts students (and hence money). But I have not personally come across any where the university is considered to be responsible for extra-curricular activities.

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