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Higher Education News from the Collegiate Way

These news items about residential colleges, collegiate houses, and the renewal of university life are posted for readers of the Collegiate Way website. For more about residential colleges and collegiate universities please visit the main Collegiate Way page.

House Systems and Residential College Systems

[Arms of the Hogwarts Houses: Gryffindor, Slytherin, Ravenclaw, and Hufflepuff] — Since many people are coming to the residential college idea today by way of the “house systems” of secondary schools—and especially the celebrated house system of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry in the popular Harry Potter novels—I have added a brief page to the Collegiate Way website that describes house systems and residential college systems in schools and universities.

At the university level, the term house system and the term residential college system are generally synonymous. Both are means of dividing a large school into smaller, human-friendly components. The house system at Harvard University and the residential college system at Yale University, for example, are identical in every respect but name. Where such structures exist within secondary schools rather than universities, or where they exist within a post-secondary institution that uses “college” as part of the institution’s name, the term “house system” is generally preferable, simply to avoid confusion. But whatever the nomenclature, the principles and practices of house systems and residential college systems are essentially the same, and the recommendations offered throughout the Collegiate Way website apply equally to both.

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© Robert J. O’Hara 2000–2021