A public university is a university that is predominantly funded by public means through a national or subnational government, as opposed to private universities. A national university may or may not be considered a public university, depending on regions. In some regions of the world prominent public institutions are highly influential centers of research; many of these universities are ranked among the world best in the THES - QS World University Rankings and the Academic Ranking of World Universities.
In Argentina the National Universities, also called "Public or State-run Universities", is the name used to refer to all those institutions whose creation arose from the enactment of a National Congress Act, except for those whose creation preceded that of the state itself (as is the case of the National University of Cordoba and the University of Buenos Aires). They lie as Public Law legal entities and their regular operation funding comes from the national state, pursuant to what is set out on the annual national budget act.
National universities hold the largest share of the entire Argentine university system: counting over 80% of the undergraduate population and with campuses stretched throughout to all provinces comprising the national territory, they account for over 50% of the country's scientific research while additionally providing technical assistance to both the public and private sectors.
In Australia, there are 38 public universities and 4 private universities. The private universities are Bond University, the University of Notre Dame Australia (both Australian), and two foreign universities, Carnegie Mellon University (USA) and Cranfield University (UK), which have campuses in Adelaide.
Australia's public universities are variously grouped:
There are also a number of ungrouped universities, such as the University of Tasmania, University of Canberra and the Australian Catholic University, which has campuses in Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne, Ballarat and Canberra and is open to all irrespective of religious persuasions.
There are 32 public universities in Bangladesh as of May 2009. The University Grant Commission is the monitoring body for all the public universities in Bangladesh. The Universities does not deal directly with the government, but with the University Grants Commission, which in turn deals with the government. Recently many private universities are established under the Private University Act of 1992.
In Brazil, there are a few hundred public universities funded by the Federal or State governments, and they include the most renowned universities in the country, such as the University of São Paulo. Professors are public servants, most of them tenured and selected by public contests, where international research publications is a major criterion for hiring. Teaching load is usually modest and leaves time for research. In contrast, most private institutions are for-profit enterprises which hire teachers on a per-hour basis and have no research (notable exceptions are certain private but non-profit universities, mostly affiliated with religious organizations, such as the Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro).
There are no tuition or entrance fees in public universities (a right established in the Brazilian Federal Constitution), but since they accept only a small fraction of applicants, only well-prepared students can pass the entrance examination; so, in practice, most of their students come from middle and upper class families. Since 2005 the Brazilian Government has been offering a limited number of tuition grants to enable poor students to attend private universities.
In Canada, education is a constitutional responsibility of the individual provinces. Most universities are established and operated under provincial legislation, but a few of the oldest were founded by Royal Charter. All major Canadian universities are publicly-funded but maintain institutional autonomy, with the ability to decide on admission, tuition and governance.
The Group of Thirteen is an organization of the country's thirteen leading research-intensive universities. Additionally, McGill University and the University of Toronto are members of the Association of American Universities, along with sixty public and private institutions in the United States. Private universities in Canada are relatively new and mostly exist at the undergraduate level.
In Chile, the public, or "traditional" universities are more renowned than the private universities. Although some "traditional" universities are private non-profit universities, they are considered public universities because they existed long before the 80s, when the military government of Augusto Pinochet created the first private universities. Even though state run universities are much cheaper than the private ones, they are not tuition free for the students. The most prestigious universities in Chile are the Universidad de Chile (state-run), the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile (private non-profit) and the Universidad Técnica Federico Santa María (also private non-profit), these three universities have the students with the best scores in the admission test and also run the majority of the research in Chile (with the Universidad de Chile at the top). The non-traditional universities are for-profit universities, and don't have the same prestige as the "traditional" ones.
In China, nearly all universities and research institutions are public. They are usually run by the provincial governments. Some public universities are national which are directly administered by the central government. There are few private undergraduate colleges (mostly engineering schools) sponsored by some private enterprises and the majority of these are not entitled to give bachelor degrees. All important and significant centers for higher education in the country are publicly administered.
In Costa Rica the Universidad de Costa Rica, the Universidad Nacional, the Universidad Estatal a Distancia and the Instituto Tecnológico de Costa Rica, all public universities, are among the nations most prestigious institutions. Nevertheless, the UN-sponsored University for Peace and the INCAE Business School (with campuses in Nicaragua and Costa Rica), are also notable.
In Egypt, Al-Azhar University opened in 975 AD as the second oldest university in the world. It was followed by a lot of universities opened as public universities in the 20th century such as Cairo University, Alexandria University, Ain Shams University, Assiut University, Beni-Suef University,Zagazig University,Suez Canal University, Benha University, where tuition fees are totally subsidized by the Government.
In India, most universities and nearly all research institutions are public. There are some private undergraduate colleges (mostly engineering schools) and the majority of these are affiliated to a public university. Few other private colleges are partially-aided by the state and central governments which results in reduced fees for the students. But all important and significant centers for higher education in the country are publicly administered.
There are eight official universities in Israel. In addition, there are a few dozen colleges and other institutes of higher learning, as well as about a dozen foreign university extensions. All are academically supervised by the Council for Higher Education in Israel (CHEI). The main difference between a university and a college in Israel is that only a university can issue doctorate degrees. Theoretically, a college can apply to the CHEI to upgrade its status to university.
In Japan, public universities refer to schools that are not national universities but are run by local governments, either prefectural or municipal. According to the Ministry of Education, public universities have "provided an opportunity for higher education in a region and served the central role of intellectual and cultural base for the local community in the region", and are "expected to contribute to social, economical and cultural development in the region."; this contrasts to research-oriented aspects of national universities.
As of April 2006, there were 76 public universities, compared to 87 national and 571 private universities, and 127,872 students attended the schools. The number of the public universities has increased sharply in recent years; in 1980 there were only 34 public universities and in 1993 there were 46. Since July 2003 when the Local Independent Administrative Institutions Law was put into effect, public universities have been allowed to be incorporated. The average tuition in public universities for 2007 fiscal year was 536,238 yen, the average entrance fee 399,351 yen and the average application fee 17,095 yen.
In Kenya, the Ministry of Education controls all of the public universities. Students are enrolled after completing the 8-4-4 system of education and attaining a mark of B+ or above. Students who meet the criteria for government sponsorship receive a loan from the Higher Education Loan Board. They are expected to pay back after completing higher education.
In Mexico, the UNAM (Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico), sometimes simply known as the "National University of Mexico", was founded in 1551. It is the largest university in the country and one of the largest in the world with over 250,000 students including its system of high schools. By percentage, it contributes the most to the country's academic research and cultural development although there are other significant public institutions such as the Instituto Politécnico Nacional, and the federal state-run universities.
Tribhuwan University is the first public university of Nepal. The university is highly reputed both in Nepal as well as abroad, and runs various programs in a wide number of academic disciplines. It operates through six different schools, and also provides affiliation to various colleges across the country.
In New Zealand, all universities are public. The oldest (University of Otago) was established by Provincial Ordinance, the next six were established by individual Acts of Parliament, and one (Auckland University of Technology) established by the currently preferred method, an Order-in-Council under the Education Act 1989.
In Pakistan, universities are under the control of Higher Education Commission of Pakistan (HEC) (formerly the University Grant Commission). There are around 67 Public and 57 private universities in Pakistan.  The University of Punjab is the biggest public university followed by the University of Karachi.
In Peru, the admission test required to enter national (public) universities requires higher scores. The public opinion sees this from the four century old National University of San Marcos, that it has seen as the most respected public education institution in the country. Also many other public universities follow the same rigorous pattern used at Saint Mark's university, like National Agrarian University, the National University of Engineering and Federico Villarreal University.
Universities and colleges in the Philippines are controlled and managed by the Commission on Higher Education. There are more than 500 government-run higher education institutions, of which 436 are state colleges and universities, including satellite campuses, 31 local colleges and universities, and a handful of community colleges.
South Africa has 23 public tertiary educational institutions, either categorised as a traditional university or a comprehensive university (providing theoretical and vocational training). Prominent public South African universities include the University of Cape Town, University of KwaZulu-Natal, University of Pretoria, University of Stellenbosch, University of Witwatersrand and Rhodes University. Monash University of Australia established a campus in Johannesburg in 2001.
In the United Kingdom, all universities are funded mostly by government teaching and research grants except for the University of Buckingham. However, unlike in Continental European countries, the British government does not own the universities' assets and university staff are not civil servants. United Kingdom universities are therefore better described as independent institutions with public funding, rather than public universities per se.
In the United States, most public universities are state universities founded and operated by state government entities; the oldest being the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and The University of Georgia, although the overall oldest school now designated as public is The College of William & Mary (founded in 1693 and first considered private). Every U.S. state has at least one public university to its name, and the largest states have more than thirty. This is partly as a result of the 1862 Morrill Land-Grant Acts, which gave each eligible state 30,000 acres (120 km²) of federal land to sell to finance public institutions offering courses of study in practical fields in addition to the liberal arts. Many U.S. public universities began as teacher training institutions and eventually were expanded into comprehensive universities. Examples include Missouri State University, formerly Southwest Missouri State Teachers College; Texas State University, formerly Southwest Texas State Teachers College; State University of New York at Cortland, formerly Cortland State Teachers College; the University of North Alabama, formerly Florence State Teachers College and Georgia Southern University, formerly South Georgia Teacher's College.
States generally charge higher tuition to out-of-state students, a practice which the United States Supreme Court has deemed constitutional because the state is acting as a market participant providing a service, rather than protecting a fundamental right. The higher fees are based on the theory that students from the state, or much more often their parents, have contributed to subsidizing the university by paying state taxes, while of out-of-state students and their parents have not. It has never been determined whether the U.S. Constitution would allow the federal government to establish a federal university system; the only federally chartered universities that currently exist are those under the auspices of the U.S. military, such as West Point.
Historically, many of the prestigious universities in the United States have been private. Some public universities are also highly prestigious and increasingly selective though; Richard Moll designated such prestigious public universities Public Ivies. At schools like the University of Michigan, The College of William & Mary, the University of California, Berkeley, the University of California, Los Angeles, the University of California, San Diego, the University of Virginia, the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill a vast majority of the departments are consistently highly ranked, allowing the schools to enjoy prestige similar to that of an Ivy League university. State support of public universities has been declining, forcing many public universities to seek private support. Some professional graduate programs in law, business, and medicine rely almost solely on private funding.
A public university is a university that is given money by the public or the government.