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College vs. University: What is the Difference?


College vs. University: What is the Difference?

After completing post-secondary education most of the aspirants opt for a bachelor’s degree program either in a reputed college or a university. The fun fact, the difference between a college and a university is unclear to the majority of the population in the USA. Hence, before pinpointing an institution for higher studies it’s better to carry out a clear idea about the function of these two educational bodies. 

What does a College mean in the United States? 

A college is a house of education that provides undergraduate degrees or a 4 years bachelor’s program. Despite the undergraduate/ bachelor’s program a college also provides associate degrees or certificate degrees equivalent to a diploma course. All the programs in a college take 2-4 years to complete. 

Colleges are further classified into various types and genres. These are as follows 

  • Private/ public college

Governmentally or privately held educational institutions that offer liberal and major-oriented programs either together or separately. Some colleges of these kinds do also offer graduate programs.

  • Community colleges

Those educational programs, offer 2-years of associate degree programs; such as Associate of Arts or science. Aspirants can further extend these associate degrees to a full-length bachelor’s program and add the course to a regular college. Along with this,  these colleges also offer technical or vocational courses, maintaining compatibility with the postsecondary educational standards.

  • Liberal arts college

These are those houses that carry out compiled course models through clubbing courses from both humanities and sciences. The purpose of these colleges is to provide a wholesome idea of higher study and help the students to find the majors of their interests later on. Hence, aspirants who are unsure about the stream of their choices for higher study can start at a liberal college. 

Despite these basic types and highlights, there are a few additional colleges that have specialized course structures along with small class sizes. For example, college of technology, medical college, etc.  In general, colleges often come out as a confined form of educational institution and avail undergraduate degrees. 

What does a University bear to be relevant?

On the contrary, a university is the larger house of education that often provided both undergraduate and graduate programs. Simply, colleges are apparently smaller than universities and henceforth have comparatively confined exposure to higher education. Whereas a University appears to be a unanimous body of higher education, research, and to some extent related administrative works. 

Despite the undergraduate degree, all the universities in the USA offer graduate programs which extends the bachelor’s degree program to another 1 to 2 years to get done. On average, a complete graduate degree takes 1-6 years to complete. 

Out of a plunge of tasks, and duties, the main emphasis of a university is focused on research works that further encourage aspirants to hone their academic excellence through pursuing eminent degrees like Ph.D., postdoctoral research, and so forth.

simultaneously availing the excellence of education, universities do also have to deal with a significant percentage of administrative work. For instance, lots of universities namely the University of Pennsylvania, and the University of Michigan regulate all kinds of works commencing inside their partnered subordinate colleges. These types of works are an influx of both educational and functional admin works. Side by side, these institutions do also undertake major higher education-related decisions of the respective state. 

However, based on the purpose of services and holding positions universities are further divided into the following types

State or public universities

These universities are governed by the respective state or region. These institutions may or may not be allowed the authoritarian to control subordinate colleges.

Private universities

These institutes are privately led and combine a flair of subjects despite traditional academics. Such as technical, medical institutions, and so forth.

Ivy universities

Currently, there is a total of 50 Ivy universities in the United States. All these are majorly concentrated in the NE zone of the country. Popular of these universities are Harvard University, Princeton University, Stanford University, etc. However, unlike a normal university getting a chance at these world-famous premier universities is highly competitive. 

In brief, there are certain parameters to address an institute as a University. These are as follows.

  1. The institute must offer a separate graduate program despite the undergraduate courses
  2. Holds enough faculties to undertake the responsibilities of both academic and admin work
  3. It must diligent with the process of upskilling and underscoring the education-research environment.
  4. The institute must offer specified major courses in at least 3 academic disciplines
  5. The institute must be accredited and acknowledged by the authorities of academic excellence and respective government.

Why does confusion create and how to sort it?

The main reason for arising confusion between the term ‘college’ and ‘university’ is primarily people’s obscurity in understanding the functional differences between these two bodies. Secondly, the relevance, as well as the meaning of the word ‘college’, bears a multidimensional meaning. For example, what it means inside the country may differ from other countries. In many countries (e.g. some European countries), college-level degrees lead to resemblance to a ‘high school’ standard education. 

On the contrary, there are some colleges inside the USA itself which are actually universities but addressed as colleges. For example, College of William, etc. Then there are few universities like the University of Oxford that term each of its academic departments as ‘colleges’. 

For all such or other similar reasons, the ‘hot-potch’ comes up that gets created both partly by indigenous reasons and partly by international terminological differences. 

As a conclusion to these academic turmoils, folks are advised to decipher the difference between these two educational institutions. And then move ahead with further study.

In this regard, one more note could be suggested. Those of you who are interested to grow an academic career afterward try opting for a university in order to be awarded with undergraduate and graduate degrees even though you can get from a reputed college. The impact factor behind the backdrop is, that you’ll come across a proper and full research-oriented educational environment which is not available at a college. All the best for your future endeavor. 


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