The purpose of the paper is to explain why and how American universities have taken the lead in continuing education compared to their European counterparts. In a first step we will discuss different notions of continuing education and develop an analytical framework to handle its various forms. In a second step, we will develop a theoretical typology in the form of a morphography in order to scrutinize the basic structures of a system of continuing higher education. Third, using our morphography, we will introduce some empirical insight from a case study that was pursued at the Pennsylvania State University in July and August 2001. We conclude with our assessments as to which elements from the American system of higher and continuing education may be transferable to the European tradition.