University vs. College

Are both universities and colleges schools, and what are the differences?

What are the differences between University and College? (c) Photo by Caleb Woods on Unsplash


Yes, both universities and colleges are types of schooling. The term school is used for any place where people might learn, so any English-based institution for education – ranging from elementary school to high school as well as university or college. Especially for international students, the difference between university and college is not evident.

In short, a university is an institution of higher education comprised of a group of schools – colleges to be exact. Unlike universities, colleges are field-specific and focus on a  limited set of study subjects – whether that be engineering, business studies, or the arts. However, a college can be a stand-alone institution as well. At a college, the certificate awarded upon completion is a bachelor’s degree. Advanced degrees, also known as postgraduate studies are only obtainable at a university. However, a university offers also a bachelor’s degree, as well as graduate degrees, e.g. the master’s (M.A.) and doctorate (Ph.D.).

When American students talk about four-year undergraduate programmes and bachelor’s degrees, the word “college" is colloquially preferred to university. When Americans talk about graduate studies, the term “university" is used. It is recommendable to use colleges and universities for comparable rankings in the US.

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