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In an example like:

Aristotle University upon recommendation from College of Nursing and by authority of the Board of Governors of Aristotle University hereby "confer" upon Mr. John Williams the Bachelors of Science in Nursing Degree.

Please suggest if ("confer" upon) as used above is right or it is better to use ("confers" upon)

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    If you see the University as an indivisible whole (as Americans typically do), then "confers upon" is correct. If you see a university as a collection of individuals (as Brits typically do), then "confer upon" is correct. Bottom line: either is fine, which will pass better depends on the dialect of your readers. – Dan Bron Aug 15 '14 at 1:42
  • @Dan Brown While I'm (almost) all for logical concord, I think 'The University ... confer' sounds almost mixed-register. I'd prefer 'The Academic Bigwigs of A U ... confer' (or equivalent). – Edwin Ashworth Aug 15 '14 at 8:05
  • @DanBron - I'm rather puzzled by your assertion that the British see a university as a collection of individuals rather than as an institution. I'm not aware that either Americans or Brits take such a nationality-based view. What are the grounds for your perception? – Erik Kowal Aug 15 '14 at 8:33
  • @edwin I was trying to say the "University as a unit" takes the -s form, and the "University = a collection of individuals" takes the no-S form. In the US, we would say "NYU conferS upon John Smith..." – Dan Bron Aug 15 '14 at 10:47
  • @Dan Bron It's the psycholinguistics I'm querying, as Erik mentions. 'The University are divided over ...' sounds very strange to me – I'd expect some fine structure – whereas 'The jury are divided over ...' makes perfect sense. There are far more layers 'in a University'. – Edwin Ashworth Aug 15 '14 at 10:54
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The query sentence is sloppily composed, and reflects poorly on the institution that generated it. Much better would be this:

Aristotle University, upon recommendation from the [or its] College of Nursing, and by authority of its Board of Governors, hereby confers upon Mr. John Williams the degree of Bachelor of Science in Nursing.

(Boldface indicates changed text and/or any associated punctuation.)

In my opinion, there needs to be a very good reason to treat university as a plural noun. No such reason is apparent here, as the degree is being awarded by the institution, not by individual members of its staff.

  • The institution cannot accept recommendations (or listen to music, watch TV, walk the dog ...). I'd say that the subject needs expanding here, as I agree that 'The University confer' sounds at best incongruous. – Edwin Ashworth Aug 15 '14 at 8:00

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