For example, University of Maryland, Baltimore County is said to be a research university. (Same thing for Rice University, for example.)

Are there "non-research universities" also? What is the difference?


3 Answers 3


There are research universities and there are teaching universities.

  • Research universities have graduate programs and their focus is on doing research. This means most professors teach one or two classes (some have 0!) but have other obligations.

  • Teaching universities on the other hand don't typically have graduate programs (if they do, it is just a Master's program) and the professors have full teaching loads (I think 3-4 courses is the norm) with little expectations to publish.

  • For example, Austin Peay State University, where I did my undergrad is considered a teaching university. Every professor has a full course load and not a single one of the professors I had has published in the past 5 years.

UPDATE: chronicle.com defines teaching university as one where professors have "a standard teaching load of four courses a semester", from Interviewing at a Teaching University.

  • Ok. Can you please list one or two Teaching universities?
    – user4271
    Commented Jan 25, 2013 at 4:09
  • @BROY Updated my answer! Commented Jan 25, 2013 at 4:53
  • see this, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Montclair_State_University it states that Montclair is a Reasearch University.
    – user4271
    Commented Jan 25, 2013 at 6:06
  • 4
    This is definitely not true for universities outside the USA. E.g., four courses a semester is not a necessary condition for being a teaching university outsides the USA. Edited.
    – Dilworth
    Commented Dec 2, 2021 at 2:36
  • 1
    I have again edited this previously erroneous answer who by mistake provided USA norms as universal ones, and added a note that the examples are relevant to the USA.
    – Dilworth
    Commented Dec 4, 2021 at 18:53

In the US, the Carnegie classification is used to describe different kinds of academic institutions. The system changed in 2005, but under the previous incarnation, universities that had significant research components were called "R1" universities. Under the new system, universities with research components are called "RU/H" or "RU/VH" (Research University/(V)ery (H)igh research). It's most likely that the term 'research university' is an indirect reference to this.

Update: The Carnegie classification has many categories of institution: only three of them are predominantly research-focused. So there are many more "non-research" institutions than there are research institutions.

  • Not sure what the contradiction is. The carnegie classification includes universities of the kind you describe in your answer.
    – Suresh
    Commented Jan 25, 2013 at 5:19
  • 1
    I retract my statement then. However you didn't answer his questions, Are there "non-research universities" also? What is the difference? Commented Jan 25, 2013 at 5:22
  • 1
    Yes. the classification I linked to is very comprehensive, and categorizes all institutions of higher learning in the US. The difference is specified in the category description: for example, Montclair State is categorized as "Master's L: Master's Colleges and Universities (larger programs)"
    – Suresh
    Commented Jan 25, 2013 at 5:50

In the US context (and many other countries) the difference can be somewhat foggy. However, in the past (1900-1930's), US university landscape adopted that invented in Germany (c.f. here, Chap. 2), therefore looking how Germans do it can be indicative.

In Germany, Austria and Switzerland you would see a distinction between a Universität and a Fachhochschule (or sometimes just called Hochschule), also translated as University of Applied Sciences. Citing from:

It (Fachhochschule) differs from the traditional university (Universität) mainly through its more application or practical orientation and less research. ... The Fachhochschule represents a close relationship between higher education and the employment system. ... Nevertheless, in Germany the right to confer doctoral degrees is still reserved to Universitäten.

I guess, the difference applies to different countries as well, though the nomenclature would differ.

  • However, Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule in Zurich is very much a research university.
    – Kostya_I
    Commented Dec 2, 2021 at 13:16
  • 2
    @Kostya_I that's true, although ETH Zürich is still a "Universität" not a "Fachhochschule". After the second world war, almost all "Technische Hochschulen" were renamed to "Technische Universität". ETH Zürich (as well as RWTH Aachen) kept the name for tradition. To make things more confusing, recently several Fachhochschulen with focus on engineering renamed themselves into Technische Hochschule. Further, some Fachhochschulen gained the right to confer doctoral degrees. It's complicated ...
    – LuckyPal
    Commented Dec 2, 2021 at 15:25

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