Template talk:Infobox university

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WikiProject Higher education (Rated Template-class)
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Alumni parameterEdit

The alumni parameter is undocumented, but from the archives here, it appears to be used for documenting the number of alumni an institution has. This doesn't really seem like an infobox-worthy piece of data to me, since it's basically just a function of an institution's size and age, and we have both of those already listed. Would there be support for removing it? {{u|Sdkb}}talk 09:59, 21 December 2020 (UTC)

Yes. It doesn't seem like a very informative or defining piece of information for readers. For US institutions, it's also not something that is included in any of the standard data sources so it's not only difficult to include consistently comparable information but also difficult to include if we ever move to more maintainable automated processes. ElKevbo (talk) 22:58, 21 December 2020 (UTC)
Alright, I went ahead and deprecated it. {{u|Sdkb}}talk 15:26, 18 January 2021 (UTC)

Required fieldsEdit

In the documentation, name, established and city are "required" fields. In reality, I don't see this in the code, and in fact, in many cases these fields are missing with no detrimental effect or even a warning notice. Should the documentation be changed, or otherwise these fields made mandatory in some way? --Muhandes (talk) 14:37, 6 January 2021 (UTC)

Those parameters being marked as "required" in the Template Data is an error. The template code does not require any of those parameters. You are welcome to fix the error. – Jonesey95 (talk) 15:16, 6 January 2021 (UTC)
All right, done. --Muhandes (talk) 15:41, 6 January 2021 (UTC)
I've reverted that. The "required" attribute works with Visual Editor and designates those fields which the VE will present to be filled in when an editor first inserts the template. If you remove all of the "required" fields, the VE will not suggest any fields to the editor and that is not desirable behaviour. --RexxS (talk) 22:53, 15 January 2021 (UTC)
Okay, I've tried to restore as much of the edit as I can. Setting the flag to "suggested" instead of "required" will allow the fields to be skipped in the VE, although it will still request them to be filled in. I've left the "required": false flag for address and postcode to hint that they are only to be used in rare cases. See if that is working for you now. --RexxS (talk) 23:27, 15 January 2021 (UTC)

Should the "chairperson" parameter be removed?Edit

Does anyone have any information about the history and use of the chairperson/chairman parameters in this template? In the U.S. context, that label is used almost exclusively to refer to the head of the institution's board of trustees. That is certainly an important organization for most institutions but given the role of the board it doesn't seem like the name of the chair is an essential institutional characteristic that readers should know immediately (or at all). Does it have a different meaning and context in other countries? In those other contexts, is it essential information that merits inclusion in the infobox? ElKevbo (talk) 03:44, 18 January 2021 (UTC)

Please note that ElKevbo has brought his question here, but that a consensus discussion is underway at Talk:Cooper Union#Removing "Chairperson" regarding ElKevbo's removal of the name of the Chairperson from the infobox of that article, and my objection to the removal. I think this is something that, in all fairness, ElKevbo might have mentioned. Beyond My Ken (talk) 04:02, 18 January 2021 (UTC)
The world doesn't revolve around you. Moreoever, I explicitly told you in that discussion that this was something that I had been meaning to bring up for some time. It's entirely appropriate to ask the broader questions about the utility of this parameter separate from a discussion of its use in one article.
Can you answer my questions or otherwise contribute to the discussion? ElKevbo (talk) 04:21, 18 January 2021 (UTC)
My answer to your question in regard to Cooper Union is relevant to the general case as well. With Cooper Union, the Board of Directors, of which the Chairperson is the head, was heavily involved in the decisions which lead to the Cooper Union financial crisis and tuition protests, and that's because the Boards of Directors of colleges and universities make higher-level decisions than does the President, those involving budgets, tuition, endowments, etc. Because they make these basic fiscal decisions, there certainly must be other instances in which the Boards of other colleges and universities instigated controversy, criticism, and protests. Consider also Liberty University and their relationship with Jerry Falwell Jr. and his eventual resignation. The name of the Chairperson would be extremely relevant to that situation. Other similar instances involving the firing (and hiring) of high-level school officials are also Board matters, and in many cases these decisions can be highly controversial and publicly debated -- and the name of the Chairperson is certainly, therefore, as relevant as the name of the President.
I see no valid reason to drop the "Chairperson" parameter. Many infoboxes will, of course, not make use of it, but it should be there for editors to use. Beyond My Ken (talk) 04:44, 18 January 2021 (UTC)
Two unusual examples doesn't rise to the level of inclusion of a parameter in an infobox used in all of these articles. We can easily cite the names of other people at institutions who have been as influential but that doesn't mean that we should add a parameter to the infobox so we can add their titles and names to those articles (especially not when there are free parameters that could be used in those highly unusual situations). It's extremely rare that trustees play prominent roles in the histories and operations of institutions, even the chairs. In the U.S., at least. I'm not certain if this is the case in other countries and that is why I am asking these questions. ElKevbo (talk) 04:55, 18 January 2021 (UTC)
You're a scholar of American higher education, and you don't know of any other instances where university board activities would make the name of the chairperson of the board relevant information?? I find that very difficult to believe.
In any case, you've made up your mind, and I've made up my mind, it's up to other editors to make the decision. I judge your argument to be the weaker one, so I'll back off and allow you to proselytize for your POV. Beyond My Ken (talk) 04:58, 18 January 2021 (UTC)
The UK equivalent would be "Chair of Council". I don't think they aren named on many Wikipedia pages, although this could be because neither "chairman" nor "chairperson" is commonly used to refer to them. They certainly have a number of responsibilities, similar to the Non-executive chairs of corporations – who do seem to be generally named if a company has split CEO and chair positions (e.g. Marks & Spencer) following the advice for Template:Infobox company. It would seem best to treat universities like other corporations and include this information in the infobox, and it would also be good to have an option for "chair" for those places that use this form. Robminchin (talk) 03:37, 19 January 2021 (UTC)
Do the UK publications that summarize colleges and universities typically include this information in their summaries? (Some examples of US-focused publications include the federal government's College Navigator and U.S. News & World Report's rankings.) ElKevbo (talk) 03:59, 19 January 2021 (UTC)

Improving the use of the "Affiliation" and "Academic affiliation" parametersEdit

The guidance provided in the documentation for this template is lacking in helpful details for most parameters. There are four "affiliation" parameters: affiliation, religious_affiliation, academic_affiliation, and sporting_affiliation. The religious and sporting affiliation parameters have some natural, built-in clarity (there are still significant issues with each of these but they can be dealt with separately at a different time). The generic affiliation parameter and academic affiliation parameter have no clarity and there is significant heterogeneity in how they're used in articles. The definition for the generic affiliation parameter in the current documentation is "The institute's affiliation (if not specifically religious or academic)." and the definition for the academic affiliation parameter is "Use if the institution has an academic affiliation." These are so vague that they're not helpful for editors and have resulted in very inconsistent usage in articles that is not informative for readers.

(I have previously discussed this briefly in the past but am going into more detail now with organized proposals.) ElKevbo (talk) 06:39, 1 February 2021 (UTC)

Proposal for the academic affiliation parameterEdit

I propose revising and tightening the definition for the academic affiliation parameter: "Academic organizations of which the institution is a member and provide essential definition of the institution (mission, values, activities, etc.)." The objective would be to limit this parameter to data that provide meaningful information about the institution. This would place the parameter and its usage in line with how we already think about categories as "essential—defining—characteristics of a topic." It would ensure that the data included in this parameter is not superfluous or unnecessary.

In practice, this would limit the entries in this parameter to organizations that are focused, specialized, or selective. In the U.S. context, this would mean omitting organizations such as the American Council on Education (ACE), Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U), and Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) as those organizations have such broad memberships and missions that they don't provide meaningful information about their members. On the other hand, membership in organizations such as the Association of American Universities (AAU) or Association of Franciscan Colleges and Universities (AFCU) do provide meaningful information to readers as they have membership criteria that ensure that members share essential characteristics.

If this proposal is accepted by the community then it seems like there would two natural next steps. First, we'd want to identify the organizations whose membership appears to satisfy the criteria that we establish for either inclusion or exclusion in this parameter. Second, we'd then edit the infoboxes of articles to add or remove the organizations (and if we have criteria that is close or identical to what is used for categorization then we could also be adding and removing articles from categories at the same time). This second step sounds like a good job for a bot if we can properly organize everything. ElKevbo (talk) 06:39, 1 February 2021 (UTC)

Having heard no objections, I have (a) edited the documentation for this template to match the proposed language above and (b) edited many articles about U.S. colleges and universities to remove affiliations that appear to be minor or non-exclusive. I kept some notes about these affiliations in my sandbox. ElKevbo (talk) 23:13, 26 March 2021 (UTC)

Proposal for the generic affiliation parameterEdit

I'm not sure what to do with the generic affiliation parameter. It seems like a good idea to have a generic parameter given the extremely wide scope of this infobox; I am skeptical that anyone can predict all of the possible needs of editors and readers even in this relatively narrow area. However, it seems like it would be good to have language similar to what is proposed for the academic affiliation parameter with the obvious removal of "academic:" "Organizations of which the institution is a member and provide essential definition of the institution's core mission and values." The same reasoning for the academic affiliations proposal applies.

In practice, I am unsure what effect this would have on many articles. That is because for every article that I've recently edited to change this parameter I've placed nearly every listed organization in the academic affiliations or sporting affiliations parameters. The only exception I can think of offhand are tribal colleges where we have their tribal affiliation in this parameter (in some cases, at least; I would not be surprised if this were placed in one of the free parameters in some cases). ElKevbo (talk) 06:39, 1 February 2021 (UTC)

I'm on board with reforming and better defining these parameters. While we do so, I'd like us to consider the placement, per the post I made that's now in archive 16.
The "essential definition" standard seems alright. One question that comes to mind is how we'd want to handle memberships that might be defining but also redundant to other information. For insurance, membership in the 568 Group is basically just saying need-blind, and it'll be a lot easier to just state that directly than to use the group as a proxy. {{u|Sdkb}}talk 06:59, 1 February 2021 (UTC)
Having heard no objections, I have made the proposed change in the template documentation. I kept in and tweaked the previous existing language that also points editors to the more specific academic and religious affiliation parameters, too. ElKevbo (talk) 23:14, 26 March 2021 (UTC)

Proposal to add "accreditation" parameterEdit

Accreditation - whether an institution is accredited and by whom - is a critical fact that is not currently matched with a parameter in this template. It could conceivably be added to the "academic affiliation" parameter but there is language in older versions of the documentation for this template that specifically barred that practice. I don't know why that decision was made but even though the language is no longer present it still established the norm that accreditors are not included in the infobox (I have even helped enforce this norm by removing the handful of instances I have seen).

This seems like a critical oversight that is easily remedied. I propose we add an "accreditation" parameter to this infobox with the description "Institution-wide accreditor(s)." The intent is to include only those accreditors that accredit the entire institution and exclude those that only accredit part of the institution. For large or complex U.S. institutions with hundreds of degree programs, there can be a few dozen accreditors who each accredit only some programs (sometimes just one specific program). But in most cases there is only one accreditor that accredits the entire institution; until recently, these were "regional accreditors" and "national accreditors" but a few months ago those categories were collapsed into a single "institutional accreditor" label.

Does this make sense, especially in a non-U.S. context? Does the title of the parameter or the suggested description need to be changed (e.g., the proposed title is "accreditation" but the discussion is almost entirely about "accreditor(s)")? ElKevbo (talk) 23:22, 26 March 2021 (UTC)

Agree. It won't make sense in most non-US contexts, but not all parameters have to be used all the time. Eccekevin (talk) 23:41, 26 March 2021 (UTC)
  • ElKevbo, thanks for the starting this discussion. Could you add the parameter to the sandbox (we need to decide where to put it if we do want it) and give a few examples of what it would look like on different pages? We should particularly flesh out how we'd want it to display for institutions with no accreditation or with some sort of probationary status, as those are likely flashpoints. Also, for those of us not as much in the weeds of accreditation, could you clarify what value listing the accreditation has for readers? Especially for somewhere like Stanford, I could see someone reacting "well duh, of course it's accredited, since it's Stanford. And it seems WASC is the accrediting body for all the California schools, so why do we need to put it infobox when we already list the location?"
    Given that accreditation statements often have a lot of information about an institution's status beyond just a thumbs up/down decision, something else to think about is whether we want to have external links to an institution, either as part of the infobox or in the EL section. I'd say putting it in the EL section might be a good idea. {{u|Sdkb}}talk 23:49, 26 March 2021 (UTC)
Sdkb – there are also 'national' accreditors in the US besides the 'regional' accreditors such as WASC (I'm putting those in quotes as the distinction has officially been abolished). But just knowing a college is in California doesn't necessarily tell you that WASC is their accreditor.
I'm wonder if "quality assurance" might be a more generic term that could be useful? I forsee editors on the pages of non-US institutions using the "accreditation" label to put in the responsible quality assurance authority.
Linked to this is the issue of accrediting bodies such as Accreditation Service for International Colleges, which mainly accredits non-degree-awarding colleges, many of which run courses leading to degrees validated by universities. This would lead to the situation where the article for the London School of Commerce says (correctly) that it is accredited but, under a strict definition of accreditation, the London School of Economics article would not. Robminchin (talk) 01:42, 27 March 2021 (UTC)
Just to be clear, I am in favour of including all accreditation parameter, but there are a lot of details that need to be worked through. Robminchin (talk) 01:45, 27 March 2021 (UTC)
Would it perhaps be more clear if it were explicitly labeled "Institutional accreditation?" That might help with some potential confusion (among both readers and editors). We can't address all of the complexities of accreditation for specific programs in the infobox or lede. If there are institutions that are institutionally accredited that also offer programs that should be programmatically accredited (e.g., teacher education, nursing) then that should probably be mentioned in the body. But I think that would be pretty rare; institutional accreditors, state education bodies, and the federal government do not look kindly on institutions that deceive students by offering programs that the institution knows are deficient. (That is usually how students succeed in lawsuits against "predatory" institutions: demonstrate that the institution overpromised, misled, or lied to them and took their money anyway.)
@Sdkb: I'm not sure that I agree with your characterization of accreditation as being either simple to determine from an institution's geographic location or accreditation status being too complex for an infobox. As Rob mentioned, we can't assume that institutions are accredited by their (former) regional accreditor; it's a safe assumption for public institutions and many older private institutions but a lot of private institutions, especially the more specialized ones, are accredited by a (former) national accreditor. Moreover, when the Department of Education collapsed "regional" and "national" accreditation into one category they also explicitly permitted the former regional accreditors to work outside of their historical geographic boundaries (this was positioned as an "anti-trust" issue). A few of those accreditors have already amended their policies/bylaws/standards to allow for institutions anywhere in the country to apply for accreditation. Who knows how widespread that will be and how quickly it will happen but it's a possibility that at some future point the old geographic boundaries will be completely meaningless. (And it's also worth noting that selecting an institution in California is a particularly bad example as it has two former regional accreditors, one for colleges that award certificates and associate degrees and one for colleges and universities that award more advanced degrees. So we'd have to know location and institutional type to make a guess as to a California institution's accreditor. :) )
With respect to complexity, the good news is that institutional accreditation is a binary state: an institution is either accredited or it is not. There are many kinds of warning statuses that an accreditor can place on an institution, most prominently "probation" and "on notice," but even with those statuses the institution remains accredited. Realistically, most institutions remain accredited at least temporarily even when an accreditor formally revokes an institution's accreditation because the next step is to go to court to immediately apply for a temporary injunction forcing the accreditor to continue accrediting the institution while the rest of the lawsuit plays out; given the high and permanent stakes of losing accreditation - closure for most institutions - that motion is almost always granted.
I do think it would be interesting to consider noting those other statuses in the infobox, perhaps as a parenthetical or something similar. I think it's important to note those statues and the underlying causes and I've often added them to the lede of articles whenever I can as that information is critical for readers. But I think that perhaps we should start just with the institutional accreditor(s) in the infobox, something that rarely changes, before we begin to work on adding and removing information that can change much more frequently. In other words, what system(s) would we use to monitor changes in accreditation status? (Reading Inside Higher Ed every day isn't a half-bad system; it's what I typically use but I don't know if their coverage is comprehensive and systematic.) ElKevbo (talk) 02:37, 27 March 2021 (UTC)
ElKevbo, thanks for those explanations. I'm definitely not very familiar with all the details about accreditation, as illustrated with my goof with the California example. But I'm still looking for an answer to the core question: what value does listing the accreditation have for readers? It seems that for most institutions, full accreditation can be assumed, and if it's missing or there are issues, those are discussed in the article in a way that provides context the infobox probably could not. For accredited institutions, what significance does it have that a school was accredited by one association versus another that would be meaningful to readers? {{u|Sdkb}}talk 02:59, 27 March 2021 (UTC)
I suppose the same thing can be said parameters such as "faculty" and "location:" Yes, they're so common that they can be assumed for (legitimate) institutions but nonetheless they're still essential pieces of information. ElKevbo (talk) 03:49, 27 March 2021 (UTC)
ElKevbo, I don't really follow; the faculty size and location both seem to have clear value for the reader, and while I assume the accreditation has some value, too, I'd be more comfortable giving full support to this if I understood what it was. To phrase the question another way: why is the particular body that accredited an institution an important enough piece of information to warrant inclusion in the infobox? {{u|Sdkb}}talk 05:00, 27 March 2021 (UTC)
It's critical that we indicate if an institution is accredited and it's trivial to do by simply including the specific institutional accreditor(s) in the infobox. Right now we're only doing this for unaccredited institutions by shoving "unaccredited" into both the type parameter and the lede sentence. This information is certainly much more important than parameters that is already in the infobox e.g., president, chair of the board of trustees (that several editors defended as being critical just a few months ago in a section above), five different parameters focused on athletics (many of which are so ill-defined that no one agrees on how to use them), an excruciatingly vague "symbol" parameter. ElKevbo (talk) 21:42, 28 March 2021 (UTC)
Is there an issue with putting it in the type parameter? Sorry to keep harping on with questions, but the more I think about this, the more I can see why past editors at some point seemingly didn't feel that it should have a parameter. For unaccredited institutions, the information is clearly essential, but for the vast majority where it is not specified in the lead, it can be safely assumed, and adding the specific accreditor seems like it could be infobox bloat. Putting it in the body where context like probationary status can be given, and/or the external links where readers will go to it directly, seem like better options. {{u|Sdkb}}talk 17:44, 29 March 2021 (UTC)
"Infobox bloat" is far away in the rearview mirror for this template. It's inevitable when many editors believe that it's helpful and appropriate to have one infobox template for every college, university, and postsecondary institution in the world. It's further exacerbated when discussions and edits are so dominated by amateurs (not a knock on the volunteers who spend their time; more of a frustration with my fellow scholars and researchers who remain passionately uninvolved).
I'm skeptical that it would be widely accepted to add this to "External links" section because I think that many editors would object to this as an appropriate link. Additionally, several accreditors don't provide useful URLs that we could use to directly link to their directory entry for a specific institution (sorry for not providing any concrete examples; I know this is the case but I haven't explicitly kept notes on this particular issue). In some cases, we'd have to decide if we're okay linking to one or more pdf documents instead of a webpage(s).
Currently, I see this being handled in a few places in articles. A minority of articles include the institutional accreditor(s) in the lede; in my experience, many of these are lesser known institutions and the accreditation information is a clear attempt to convince readers that the institution is legitimate. In some other cases, the institutional (and often programmatic) accreditor(s) is included in either the "History" or "Academics" section; my recollection is that this is more common in the "Academics" section.
For institutions that are not accredited, many have "unaccredited" prepended to their institutional type in both the infobox and lede sentence. Institutions whose accreditation is currently threatened - currently on probation, currently on show cause status, etc. - often have that indicated in the lede. When I add that information, I also (try to remember to) explicitly note that the institution is still accredited and briefly summarize the major issues that the accreditor has cited for their action(s). One area where we're very inconsistent is what happens to that information when the status(es) is removed; in many cases the information about the challenge is completely removed with no indication that this major challenge ever existed.
If you're totally opposed to including this in the infobox - a position I find perplexing given all of the other parameters already there, especially the many parameters that are rarely used and vaguely defined - then I think it would be best to modify WP:UNIGUIDE to explicitly recommend that:
(a) the institutional accreditor (or lack thereof) be mentioned in the lede,
(b) institutional accreditor and programmatic accreditors (or lack thereof for programs that typically require programmatic accreditation) be discussed in the "Academics" section,
(c) current, formal accreditation statuses (e.g., probation, show cause) and their underlying issue(s) be summarized in the lede and described further in the "Academic" section or "History" section as appropriate, and
(d) previous, formal accreditation challenges (e.g., probation, show cause, removals) and their underlying issue(s) be described in the "Academic" section or "History" section as appropriate.
That doesn't answer the typical Wikipedia questions of "Who will do this work and how will we ensure that it's up-to-date?" but it's a good framework for moving forward. ElKevbo (talk) 19:57, 29 March 2021 (UTC)
As a non-US editor I'm struggling a little to understand why we need to address accreditation on all articles. In many countries the higher education sector is regulated such that an institution can only be a "university" and use that word in its name if it has degree awarding powers and in turn can only get them if approved by a state run process. The only times accreditation really comes up is for various colleges that don't have the powers in their own right but run a small number of degree programmes that are formally awarded by another institution. But for actual universities it becomes a bit "water is wet". By all means have something for countries where regulation is messy but for many countries it's about as relevant as a university's sports performance. Timrollpickering (talk) 21:33, 29 March 2021 (UTC)
This is one reason why I have objected and continue to object to imposing one infobox template for all colleges and universities in all countries. There is not a "U.S. system" of higher education and institutions are often free to label themselves as they please without seeking approval from any government agency. Accreditation is the key indicator that an institution is (mostly) legitimate and has passed some sort of peer review to meet minimum standards. (There are typically a handful of institutions that are not accredited but are still legitimate; accreditation is often conflated with federal financial aid and all of the policies and laws that come with that but some institutions reject those for political or religious reasons.) ElKevbo (talk) 22:56, 29 March 2021 (UTC)
Accreditation is also used outside of the US by (typically non-university) institutions in the private higher education sector to show their legitimacy, and internationally by institutions that want to demonstrate comparable standards to Western universities. The UK's Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education, for example, provides accreditation for international (i.e. non-UK) higher education institutions to show they meet the European standards.[1]] I don't think the proposed parameter is limited to the US in its scope, even if it doesn't apply to the quality assurance systems often used for national HE systems (and, as I said above, I think this needs to be explicitly addressed – many of these bodies are included in the list of recognized higher education accreditation organizations). Robminchin (talk) 06:35, 30 March 2021 (UTC)

So where do we stand on this proposal? I know that someone above asked for this to be tried out in a sandbox so we can see it in action but I want to see if this has a chance of being accepted before doing that (unless someone is sitting on the fence and needs to see it in action before making a decision). It sounds like there is skepticism that would be useful for all countries but that doesn't seem like a reasonable objection as long as the parameter is optional (which is certainly the proposal I am making with the likely exception of institutions in the U.S.). There may be lingering questions about (a) whether a new parameter is needed or if this information can be added to an existing parameter ("type" has been mentioned and "affiliations" and "academic affiliations" are also possible options) and (b) whether "Accreditation" is the best title or if it needs to be something more generic like "Quality assurance". (For the record, I am strongly opposed to "Quality assurance" or anything similar; it's original terminology made up by Wikipedia editors and thus unrecognized by others, at least in the U.S.)

Is implementing this in a sandbox and then creating a few different examples the most appropriate next step? ElKevbo (talk) 00:34, 5 April 2021 (UTC)

Support adding the parameter. Whether a institution is accredited would certainly qualify as "key information" in places where that cannot be assumed or is otherwise not obvious. Looking at project-wide practice, there are many infoboxes with parameters that are only used in a minority of their tranclusions; project consensus is to have fewer, more generic infoboxes, even if that means some parameters are used in only a small subset or certain geographical area. MB 02:09, 5 April 2021 (UTC)
"Quality assurance" is used by organisations such as the International Network for Quality Assurance Agencies in Higher Education, which includes all of the major US accreditors, and accreditation is included as a system of quality assurance in the literature, e.g. [2] where it is defined as "Quality assurance is an all-embracing term covering all the policies, processes and actions through which the quality of higher education is maintained and developed (Campbell and Rozsnyai, 2002, p. 32". This chapter explicitly includes US accreditation in its definition of quality assurance. It is most certainly not WP:OR. Having said that, if the term is not widely recognised in the US, it might be better to combine both terms in at least the display text of the parameter, e.g. "Institutional accreditation/quality assurance" or something similar. Robminchin (talk) 03:46, 5 April 2021 (UTC)
Why not just add both parameters and let editors use the one that is most appropriate? ElKevbo (talk) 05:14, 5 April 2021 (UTC)
Return to "Infobox university" page.