A collegiate university is a university whose functions are divided between the central administration of the university and a number of constituent colleges.
A collegiate university differs from a centralized university in that its colleges are not just halls of residence; rather, they have a substantial amount of responsibility and autonomy in the running of the university. The actual level of self-governance exercised by the colleges varies greatly among institutions, ranging from nearly autonomous colleges in federated institutions to dependent colleges that are integrated with the central administration itself. Often, but not always, colleges within universities will have their own specific students' unions.
Over time, some federated schools may formally end their relations with the parent university to become degree-awarding universities. Examples include Cardiff University (formerly named the University of Wales, Cardiff) and Imperial College London. University of Wales, Lampeter (formerly St David's College, Lampeter), ceased to confer its own degrees when it joined the University of Wales, but retains the right to confer degrees and other qualifications, and still awards the Licence in Theology (LTh) in its own right. The National University of Ireland was a federation of three constituent colleges and other recognised colleges until 1997 when the colleges, along with Maynooth, a recognised college, became constituent universities.
Historically, the University of Dundee and the University of Newcastle upon Tyne were colleges of the University of St Andrews and the University of Durham, respectively, before they became independent.
At the undergraduate level, independent colleges usually provide most, if not all accommodation and bursaries. They often have their own halls for meals, libraries, sports teams and societies. This fosters loyalty to the college among its students—an undergraduate might state the name of his or her college before the name of the university when asked where he or she studied. This spirit is often maintained through college-based alumni organizations.
Examples include the colleges of Harvard University, Yale University, University of Toronto, Rice University, Princeton University, the University of York, the University of Lancaster, the University of Kent and the University of Durham (at Durham, most of the colleges are not independent of the parent university, as many of them were established later in the 20th century, without the endowment funds needed to be independent).
At Uppsala University and Lund University, students are organised into nations, historically determined by the region of origin in Sweden. The Chinese University of Hong Kong was founded as a loose federation of three colleges, but the founding colleges had later become dependent on the central administration, and new colleges were established as dependent colleges.