Difference Between College and University in US and UK

At some point, you must have wondered about the difference between College and University? If you have just finished secondary school, you are probably considering the next step: your tertiary education options. By now, you have most likely seen the words ‘college’ and ‘university’ used everywhere. But what are the Difference between College and University? Do they have unique meanings in different nations? And how do the differences affect your choice?

What is the difference between college and university?

In general, a major difference between college and university is that colleges are smaller education institutions when compared to universities. They provide undergraduate/Bachelor’s degree programs, associate degree programs, or certificates. The number of programs provided is limited, and study programs take between 2-4 years to finish.

Going for college education does not stop you from applying for a graduate degree program at a university later on if you wish to add to your knowledge or switch your career. Employers will not frown on a college degree, provided that it proves you have the skills they are seeking. However, if you put in for a position that needs more advanced skills, you will need to obtain a postgraduate degree.

Another difference between College and University is that universities are larger education institutions compared to colleges and offer both undergraduate and graduate/postgraduate degree programmes. They possess a more differentiated curriculum and provide a range of courses, and typically include research facilities and sports centres.

The number of students enlisting in universities is much higher than the one in colleges. Foreign students looking for tertiary education overseas typically go for universities, rather than colleges, which tend to be a more prevalent choice for domestic students.

In general, universities are comprised of schools, colleges, or academic units. In this case, colleges are the same as departments in a university. So, departments are a division of the academic staff on a specific field.  For instance, Harvard University is comprised of other colleges (also called schools), comprising Harvard Business School, Harvard School of Dental Medicine, Harvard College, etc.

The university is the one offering the degree programs and enabling students to access all its facilities, but programs are held at one (or multiple) of the colleges or schools. 

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Popular Universities in US & UK

  • University of the Pacific, in the U.S.
  • Hult International Business School, in the U.S.
  • Southern New Hampshire University, in the U.S.
  • University of Leeds, in the U.K.
  • Newcastle University, in the U.K.
  • INTO University of East Anglia, UK.

Types of colleges in the United States

In the United States, there are three types of colleges:

  • Community colleges
  • Professional/vocational schools (e.g. Nursing, Teaching)
  • Liberal arts colleges

Degree programs at community and vocational schools typically take two years to finish and you will be granted an associate degree, a professional degree, or a certificate. Scholars can then decide to go to a university to finish their Bachelor’s degree program and follow a Master’s or Ph.D. program if they choose so. Programs at liberal arts colleges take four years and scholars graduate with a Bachelor’s degree qualification in fields like Languages, Math, History, and others.

Types of colleges in the United Kingdom

Colleges in the U.K. and the U.S. are both comprised of vocational schools, but community and liberal arts colleges are only common in the U.S. Courses at U.K. colleges last for 1-2 years and typically serve 3 functions:

  • Provide further education to scholars between 16-18 years old (referred to as ‘sixth form’)
  • Offer vocational training (which gets you ready for a specific job: nurse, teacher, technician, etc.)
  • Offer adult education

Difference Between College and University – Conclusions

At this point, you should know the Difference Between College and University. So, what should you bear in mind about colleges and universities if you wish to school abroad:

  • Universities are more prevalent among foreign students because they typically offer better support, facilities, and a larger amount of courses and fields when compared to colleges.
  • If you wish to study a Master’s degree program or a Ph.D. program, you will have to enlist in a university to get it.
  • Colleges can be autonomous higher academic institutions, they can refer to departments constituting a university, or they can be secondary schools in certain European nations.
  • Some universities call themselves colleges for historical/ customary reasons – research them to be certain.
  • Americans call everything “a college”.

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