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A faculty is a division within a university comprising one subject area, or a number of related subject areas (for the North American usage, referring to academic staff, see "Faculty (academic staff)"). In American usage such divisions are generally referred to as colleges (e.g., "college of arts and sciences") or schools (e.g., "school of business"), but may also mix terminology (e.g., Harvard University has a "faculty of arts and sciences" but a "law school").
The medieval University of Paris, which served as a model for most of the later medieval universities in Europe, had four faculties: the Faculties of Theology, Law, Medicine, and finally the Faculty of Arts, which every student had to graduate from in order to continue his training in one of the other three, sometimes known as the higher faculties. The privilege to establish these four faculties was usually part of all medieval charters for universities, but not every university could in reality do so.
The Faculty of Arts took its name from the seven liberal arts: the trivium (grammar, rhetoric, dialectics) and the quadrivium (arithmetic, music, geometry and astronomy). In German, Scandinavian, Slavic and other universities, the name for this faculty would more often literally translate as 'faculty of philosophy'. The degree of Magister Artium (Master of Arts) derives its name from the Faculty of Arts, while the degree of Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) originates within German education and derives its name from the German name of the Arts faculty.
The number of faculties has usually multiplied in modern universities, both through subdivisions of the traditional four faculties, and through the absorption of academic disciplines which have developed within originally vocational schools, in areas such as engineering or agriculture.