Is There A Difference Between A College and University?

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If someone were to ask you point-blank, "what is the difference between a college and a university?", would you know the answer?

If you want more choices for programs, classes and curriculum, then you'd be a better fit for a university. For those who want a fast-track to a degree without further distractions and prefer a smaller class size, then college may prove to be the better option.

Universities and Colleges the Same
Universities and Colleges the Same

Impress your friends and family by being able to tell the difference between a university and a college. More importantly, you can help a student make the right decision by providing some very useful insights as to what a college or university offers.

It's easy to assume that universities are state-funded schools, while colleges are privately-owned educational institutions. If some people had to guess, they'd think that a university provides better education than colleges, but this isn't always the case.

College and University Definition in Different Countries

So, the question lies- Are university and college the same thing?

Both may have similarities, but they could be very well worlds apart in certain countries.

In the US. Here, both terms are often interchangeable and are defined as an educational institution after you've graduated from secondary school. Programs and courses will become available to a student once he or she reaches the thirteenth year of school, or when they turn 17 or 18. College and higher education is the more popular term, as kids would often say "I'm getting a college degree" when they're aiming for an undergraduate program.

In the UK. Colleges are normally situated right inside a university, which is a much bigger institution as a whole. College can also mean an accommodation or a particular facility within the said university. By themselves, colleges can be a part of the university's requirement for a student to be able to acquire his or her degree. Sometimes universities refer to college as a place where students can go to in order to earn advanced qualifications.

In Canada. College is more of a relaxed term in Canada. It's often understood that college will mean a technical, vocational, artistic or scientific third state education. Moreover, colleges are perceived as not being completely dependent like a Canadian university would.

In Australia. They keep things simple in the Land Down Under. College for Australians mean secondary education, and "faculty" is the term used when one wishes to pursue a degree after graduating from high school.

College vs University Difference
College vs University Difference

University vs College

What is the main difference between a college and university?

If we keep things straightforward and simple, then a college may mean a smaller school that can get you an undergraduate degree. These places of learning can offer students anywhere between a two-year to a four-year course for associate or bachelor's degrees.

Universities, therefore are bigger schools that have a wider range of programs, curriculum and such. Moreover, they can offer undergraduate programs that point a student towards a more advanced degree, such as a doctorate or a master's degree. It's not unusual for universities to have both graduate and bachelor's degrees, i.e., a Ph.D or an MA, or a law school that caters to those who want to pursue fields of specializations.

So, we've learned that a college is a smaller school than a university, and that a university can offer advanced degrees, i.e., associate or undergraduate degrees.

Did you know that in the US, there's two Harvard schools?

Harvard College and Harvard University both share a prestigious name, but their course programs are slightly different. Harvard College currently offers 4-year programs for those who want to acquire a bachelor's degree, while Harvard University runs Harvard College and ten other colleges and offers both professional and graduate curriculum.

The professional and graduate schools have their own set of faculty and administrators, but they all come together under the "university" umbrella. What's worthy to note is that research faculties, teaching and admissions are different, and undergraduate programs aren't offered.

Should You Go to College or University?

Now that you know the difference between the two, you should have an idea of which one is the right fit for what you need.

So which one is better college or university? Each school is just about equal in academic terms, which means quality of education should be roughly the same. The claim that a university is better than college in terms of teaching is simply not true.

However, if you want more choices for programs, classes and curriculum, then you'd be a better fit for a university i.e. Arizona State University. For those who want a fast-track to a degree without further distractions and prefer a smaller class size, then college may prove to be the better option.

Go beyond the name and title to find the one that you really need. Instead, take to heart what you want to achieve and go from there.

Last updated on 04/03/2019