I am writing biographies for some of my doctors. I have asked several people and have received several different answers. Here are a couple examples: Lee is a 2005 graduate of the University of Pittsburgh or should it read Lee is a 2005 graduate of University of Pittsburgh. The latter sounds wrong to me. I have several of these to write and would love to do it correct the first time. Then should "the" be capitalized?

  • Browsing a couple of U web sites, I see "the" used without capitalization. I would regard omitting "the" to be less formal. – Hot Licks Nov 11 '14 at 21:08
  • @HotLicks Every institution has a preferred orthography. It's The University of Chicago but the University of Houston; for that matter, the same institution is known as Stanford University and the Leland Stanford Junior University (but not The Leland Stanford Junior University or the Stanford University and so on). – choster Nov 11 '14 at 22:42
  • My comment was mainly targeted to schools named "University of ...". Eponymous schools would generally not have "the" if only the last name is used, but would be more likely to have "the" if both first and last name are used. – Hot Licks Nov 11 '14 at 23:00

Generally speaking, it's the University of (for example) Durham or Durham University.

If the University is named after a person, only the second style is used: John Moores University.

  • 1
    This is correct in general, but not across the board. When I was growing up in Columbus, the local university was known as Ohio State University. Later, the school began deliberately to style itself as The Ohio State University. Other schools have made the transition in the opposite direction. I still upvoted, however, since this is the most standard general rule, and applies in the vast majority of cases. – Chris Sunami Nov 11 '14 at 21:15
  • @ChrisSunami. Yes, I was careful to say 'generally speaking'. I could not think offhand of an example such as "The Ohio State University", so thanks for that. – tunny Nov 11 '14 at 21:18

Different schools do it differently. A good way to tell is to search for the school on Google. If the school's official website uses the article, use it. If not, skip it. It's pretty arbitrary otherwise. For example:

  • The Ohio State University
  • Ohio University
  • The University of Akron
  • University of Dayton

There are a few dozen more conflicting examples all right here in Ohio. :)

When you do include the article, capitalize it if it's the first word of the sentence. Otherwise don't. It's an article, not part of the school's name. Do not talk about The Ohio State University. Talk about the Ohio State University.


As one example, "the" is considered part of the name of the University of British Columbia:

Below you will find some of the rules that can help you identify which proper nouns must take the article “the.”

Rule #1: If the word of is part of the name, you need to use the. For example, we say:

the University of British Columbia, but we say
Simon Fraser University.

In this example, the preposition “of” helps specify which university we are talking about (of British Columbia).

It appears that the leading article is capitalized like a normal word rather than as a word in a proper noun.

This is confirmed in the government of Canada's translation style guide:

When the article The appears at the beginning of an institution's name as part of the official name, the corresponding article is not part of the name in French:

  • The University of British Columbia = Université de la Colombie-Britannique
  • The University of Winnipeg = Université de Winnipeg

I think most universities in the UK vary the inclusion of the article with its omission, depending on context.

If you Google the University of London, for example, a layout will appear on the Google answers page, headed University of London alongside its arms.


Note that the narrative begins The University of London is a collegiate research university... - including the article.

So in the form of a title the article is omitted but, in narrative, it seems the use or non-use of the article follows similar rules to that of any noun, of which it is indeed one.

However if the style John Moores University is employed, I would not expect to see an article. Perhaps because in that form the name takes on some of the attributes of a proper noun. see below.


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