If a university is named by a place, like "the Univerisity of Bonn". Can I call it "Bonn University"? When saying the former, is the mistake serious if without definite article "the" before "university"?

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    This is a matter of legal rather than general English usage. The establishment will have specified the format they desire to be used. One British university spent thousands on style advice on naming their institution; the issue eventially boiled down to choosing between 'University of X' and 'X University'. That having been said, I've never heard of someone being fined for using the wrong form. Their application letters might be placed lower down the pile. Apr 2, 2018 at 10:37
  • As more of a lingust than grammarist, I'm inclined to say that you can do whatever you want if it is clear and consistent with whomever you wish to communicate. E.G. I wouldn't put "UB" on a resume or official correspondence just as I would not use "The State University at Buffalo" [sic] in conversation with a fellow student. To get to the point of your question, though; among acquaintances, the question "Where did you study?" Could certainly be answered "At Buffalo." But that only works because we both know there is only one Uni there... Apr 2, 2018 at 15:37

1 Answer 1


No. The University of Chicago is a proper name and is not known as the Chicago University, though it may be a Chicago university among several. Rice and the University of Houston, for instance, are both Houston universities. Boston University is a proper name, however, and you would not refer to it as the University of Boston.

When a university's proper name takes the form X University/College, it's common to call it X:

They studied at Ohio State, Texas A&M, Harvard, Swarthmore.

If the official name of a university includes the name of a city, like Boston University, you'd likely use the full name to avoid confusion.

The proper name in German of the University of Bonn is:

Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Bonn
The Rhine Friedrich Wilhelm University of Bonn

In older works in English, the name was also translated into the Frederick William University of Bonn. The name of the river was added because at one time there were three German universities named for Kaiser Friedrich Wilhelm III, one in Berlin, now the Humboldt University, and another in Silesia, now a part of Poland. This name rarely appears in the press, where the names of universities are often shortened to Uni Bonn, Uni Trier, etc.

This means you should still refer to it in English as the University of Bonn.

  • As someone who works at a German university, let me mention that very few academics adhere to the official names. Instead, the various possible translations are used quite freely in slides, grant applications, etc. A simple way out is to just use the German name. Apr 2, 2018 at 13:01
  • @painfulenglish As someone who frequently works with academic grant applications, I’d also mention that there are many funds that are very much sticklers for formalities and view incorrect (i.e., unofficial) names as an immediate dealbreaker. Apr 2, 2018 at 13:20

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