Difference Between College and University in USA and UK

College comes from the word collegiums, that means club community or society and university comes from the word Universitas, which means guilt, society or corporation. In USA, the name college and university are frequently interchangeable and simply refer to a school at the tertiary level, though is not like that in UK. “College” actually has another meaning in the UK. What are the differences between College and University in USA and UK? Do they have unique meanings in different nations? And how do the differences affect your choice? We will learn all that and more from this article.

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.

What is the difference between College and University?

Though college and university are used interchangeably, there are differences between them. A university is typically a school that offers full undergraduate and graduate programs, while colleges generally offer more narrow programs and may have no graduate studies at all. But actually there are no official designations for these terms, and colleges and universities can call themselves whatever they want to. The terminology can have different meanings depending on what country you’re in.

Universities 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.

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.

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.

Some Popular Universities in USA & UK

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

In the United Kingdom, a university is an institution that awards degrees, while colleges are seen as pre-university education institutes as they prepare students to earn degrees later. But again, it’s not set in stone, and as a general rule, English speakers used the word university as a generic term for higher education. The same applies in Canada and Australia, where universities used more often than college as the generic term.

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

If we’re looking at the USA, how can we better define these terms, “University and college”? Let’s start with looking more closely at what colleges are. Colleges are usually smaller institutions that emphasize undergraduate education. One example of a type of college is a liberal arts college that offers students an education in a broad range of academic areas, as opposed to having them specialize early in one particular subject. Liberal arts colleges are uncommon outside of the U.S, so prospective international students aren’t always familiar with them.

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

Most colleges offer bachelor’s degrees, and some colleges also have associates degrees. Some students begin their education at a community college and then transfer to a four year college or university to complete a bachelor’s degree.

Difference Between College and University in USA

So if that’s a college, how does a university differ? Many education institutions with university in their name are larger than colleges and offer a variety of both undergraduate and graduate degree programs. Universities are also highly committed to producing research, whereas it’s much more rare for college students to be a part of any substantial research. But not all universities are big. Some are relatively small, such as Marymount California University, which had a total enrollment of 985 students in fall 2016, according to U.S. News data.

Though many universities are public, some are also private. One example is the Ivy League school, Princeton University. To make things even more confusing, some large universities are made up of smaller departments called colleges. Each of these colleges has a specific academic focus, such as business, social work or engineering. One of the clear differences seems to be that universities are often, though not always, larger than colleges.

The head of a university is called the vice chancellor, while for a college is called a dean or director. Professors teach at both colleges and universities, and the level of their pay varies depending on several factors, such as the size and location of the college or university the subject taught and whether the institution is private or public. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the average salary of a professor was seventy five thousand four hundred thirty dollars ($75,430) annually.

The American Association of University Professors reports that the salary of full time professors at private colleges and universities averages one hundred five thousand three hundred twenty three dollars, as compared to one hundred three thousand nineteen dollars for those teaching at public colleges and universities. Professors working at four year institutions, both private and public, earn higher salaries than those employed at two year schools.

Finally, let’s take a look at a college and university that are on each other’s doorsteps, e.g Harvard College and Harvard University. How do they compare? Harvard College is actually the original Harvard. It was founded in 1936 as the oldest institution of higher education in the United States.

There are about 6500 undergraduate students at Harvard College with nearly equal numbers of men and women. The college is part of Harvard University, which comprises 10 other graduate and professional schools, although part of the same institution, each of these schools is run independently, so they maintain independent admissions offices, teaching and research faculties.

In Conclusions – Difference Between College and University

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”.

So the difference between college and university is far from clear. In some cases, they are part of the same institution, but other times completely independent, and typically a university is larger than a college and his professors are paid more.