Skip to main content

Difference between universities and colleges | Galvanize Test Prep

difference between universities and colleges

Wait, hold up! There’s a difference between these 2 terms? YES! You’re certainly not alone if you thought that these terms could be used interchangeably all the time. So, they’re different? Which one do you go to then? 

The difference between these two terms is quite important due to the clout they hold within the collective student psyche. Students looking to pursue their undergraduate degree, or pursue their master’s, will need to navigate the dizzying array of options in front of them. This is why we will be exploring the differences between these two terms in detail and helping you choose between the 2 categories through our explanations. Let’s get started. 

What is a college?

A college is either a publicly or privately funded educational institution that primarily focuses on undergraduate education and courses. Generally, colleges do not offer a wide range of courses, and are often limited to specific areas unique to that particular college. Due to the same reason, research opportunities are limited in colleges. There are always a bunch of outliers though, where research opportunities and even a few graduate programs are offered.

Some colleges also offer associate degrees, the completion of which allows the student to transfer to another university or college to complete their bachelor’s degree. 

Quite often, colleges are affiliated to universities. Some colleges also strive to attain university status by meeting the requirements and guidelines to be classified as the latter. So, what exactly is a university?

Get your profile evaluated by our experts in Admissions!

Start Now!

What is a university?

If one extrapolates from the latter, it becomes clearer that a university offers both graduate and undergraduate programs. There are various degrees offered, such as associate’s, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctorate degrees, in various subjects. The subjects are vast, and many universities have various schools or colleges within their purview, where these colleges offer education and research opportunities in these subjects.  For example, an ABC University could have a School of Medicine, A School of Business, and A School of Humanities, all of which offer degrees at various levels. 

Typically, universities offer tons of research opportunities, and strive to produce the best research in various subject areas. Most universities are funded by governments, although some universities are also privately-funded. Despite ownership, universities are required to meet certain guidelines to be classified as such, and need to be licensed by the government. These guidelines include having enough resources and facilities, offering degrees in multiple streams, offering graduate programs, and being accredited by the government. 

Overview of the differences between universities and colleges :

  • Colleges typically offer associates or bachelor’s degrees. Universities offer these as well, but also offer graduate and doctoral programs. 
  • The scope for research is higher in universities as compared to colleges, due to the vast number of resources, professors, and research opportunities offered in universities. 
  • Most colleges are affiliated to universities, or are independent bodies. On the other hand, Universities have various colleges and schools within their purview, offering degrees in various subjects. They are not affiliated to other universities. 
  • Colleges offer courses in limited subjects, and limited levels of qualifications. Universities offer a vast number of courses, with different levels of qualification and degrees in the same.

A Linguistic Twist:

From a linguistic perspective, the terms “college” and “university” are used differently in different countries. 

USA: Although the distinction is quite clear, American refer to going for any kind of higher education post high school, as “going to college”. 

UK: The term college is used less of often in the UK, and colleges are typically found within universities in the UK. 

India: Indians use these terms quite interchangeably, but the distinction remains the same. 

Should you opt for a college or a university?

From all the points mentioned above, it may seem quite obvious that students should opt for universities. However, this isn’t always the case.

What is your area of interest, and where is it taught best? – This question will ultimately decide where you will need to go. Some colleges offer exceptional programs, whereas for other courses, and XYZ University might be the best. 

Fees – Due to the vast number of opportunities offered, university fees are generally higher than college fees, but it is a price that many are willing to pay. 

Personal Fit – People who prefer intimate settings with smaller classes and more interaction can choose colleges.  

At the end of the day, neither educational institution is better than the other. One just has a lot more going for it than the other. Your career goals and needs should influence your choice, and the best university or college for your subject area should influence your choice. 

So, there have it! These are the differences between a university and a college. 

All the best for your educational endeavours! Best Wishes from Galvanize. 

Written by Saahil R Bhatt.

Leave a Reply

Call Me Back
close slider