When students finish high school and wish to apply for admission to colleges, they are often confused. What is the difference between college and university? is a question that every student asks themselves countless times.

In a college, students can take a degree- and diploma-granting courses to advance their education. While the University is not significantly different from a college, it has a wider focus.

It is a center for higher education that offers its students research programs in addition to degree and diploma programs.

The distinction between a university and a college is not only based on their respective definitions, but also on regional variations. Various nations, including the UK, the USA, Canada, Japan, India, and China, define college and university in different ways.

So, after doing a thorough analysis of these two terminologies, we have provided some key distinctions between them. Please take a look.

What Is The Difference Between College And University?

The type of degree programs provided distinguishes a college from a university. Universities offer both undergraduate and graduate degrees, whereas colleges normally solely offer undergraduate degrees.

However, this rule is not always true!

Colleges that provide graduate-level education include Boston College and Dartmouth College, for instance.

What Is A College?

A college is a higher education school that emphasizes undergraduate degree programs. In other words, they might grant bachelor’s degrees lasting four years or two years, but usually not graduate-level programs like master’s or doctoral degrees.

As an illustration, the Ivy League school Columbia University also has a college called Columbia College.

Undergraduate students at the college have access to a wide variety of majors.

But you must enroll at Columbia University if you wish to pursue a master’s or doctorate program there. For instance, Columbia University offers the following courses if you want to pursue a Master’s or Doctoral degree in anthropology:

Types Of Colleges

Colleges come in a variety of sizes and shapes.

There are various categories to consider while comparing colleges, such as:

  • Career colleges
  • Trade Schools, and
  • Vocational Schools
  • liberal arts colleges
  • Local colleges
  • Technical Schools,

It’s understandable why so many people are perplexed by the distinctions between a university and a college.

One college that provides undergraduate programs leading to a diploma, certificate, or associate’s degree is Penn Foster Career School.

Although some people may refer to Penn Foster as a college or even a university, they are not universities because they do not offer graduate-level degree programs like master’s programs and doctorate degrees.

Even though the institution is a college, most people call these kinds of institutions career schools or technical schools.

In terms of enrollment and degree options, colleges are often smaller, though this isn’t always the case.

Numerous undergraduate programs are offered by larger universities like Columbia College. But there could only be a few associate degree programs available at your nearby community college.

What Is A University?

An institution of higher learning that provides both undergraduate and graduate degree programs is referred to as a university. Universities are often huge, enrolling tens of thousands of students, and providing a wide range of degree options.

Universities frequently consist of a number of schools or colleges, each specializing in a particular field of study. Harvard University, for instance, houses a number of graduate schools, including the Harvard Business School, Harvard Law School, Harvard Medical School, and more.

Similar to this, colleges like Cornell College of Business, Cornell College of Engineering, and so forth are included under the Cornell University umbrella.

Higher educational institutions are the definition of “college” that comes to mind first. The second term, however, refers to a group of experts in a certain field. Therefore, a university uses this second concept when it divides its programs into Colleges.

Are University And College The Same Thing?

A university and a college are not the same things, technically. While a college typically offers just undergraduate degree programs, a university often refers to a facility that offers both undergraduate and graduate degree programs.

When discussing unique degree programs, such as a combined bachelor’s and master’s program, the distinctions can get somewhat hazy. Since the graduate-level study is a component of these programs of study, universities will typically provide them.

However, most people interchangeably use the two phrases in ordinary speech. Few people distinguish between the two names, which are both used to designate any higher education institution.

What Makes A College A University?

When a college starts providing graduate programs, such as master’s and doctoral degrees, it becomes a university.

Note that it is not required to provide both. It is not even required to provide several graduate programs. A college is considered to be a university as long as it provides one master’s program.

Even associate’s and bachelor’s degrees aren’t offered by some specialist universities. They exclusively provide doctoral and/or master’s degrees. Because they provide graduate degrees, they continue to be considered universities.

When an institution starts to provide graduate programs, it frequently modifies its name to reflect the shift.

However, it is not required to alter its name. Many schools still use the name “College” because they appreciate its history. Others do switch to “University,” but they continue to use the term “College” to refer to a specific School or Department, usually the liberal arts programs.

When you have a College within a University, this can be confusing, but simply remember that when an institution uses the name “College,” it refers to a group of programs that the university provides.

These divisions or institutions may sometimes be referred to as Schools, as in the case of the School of Medicine at a certain university.

What’s The Difference Between Harvard College And Harvard University?

The term “Harvard University” is used to describe the entire institution, including all of its undergraduate and graduate degree programs.

Conversely, the term “Harvard College” only refers to the university’s undergraduate liberal arts department. A university might set up its degree programs in departments or colleges like this.

What Is The Difference Between Yale University And Yale College?

Yale College is one of the fourteen institutions that make up Yale University. The university’s undergraduate liberal arts college is called Yale College. Twelve professional schools and the Yale Graduate School of Arts and Sciences are among the university’s other graduate-level schools.

Many universities began as colleges, and some still use that name today to manage their original liberal arts curriculum within the university’s purview. When a university adds a significant department, such as the College of Business, that department is frequently also referred to as a college. Schools in a university might also be referred to as colleges.

What’s The Difference Between College And University In USA?

The phrases college and university are frequently used synonymously in the USA and denote the same entity.

Technically speaking, a university is an institution that offers both undergraduate and graduate degrees, whereas a college concentrates on undergraduate degrees. A college will frequently change its name to a university when it starts to offer graduate programs in order to reflect the introduction of the new program.


Universities and colleges are not the same things. They are designed for various types of learners and serve various objectives. Universities concentrate on both undergraduate and graduate programs, whereas colleges concentrate on undergraduate education.

However, there may be some overlap between the two types of institutions when it comes to providing degrees at lower levels, such as an associate’s or bachelor’s degree level. Colleges grant degrees (sometimes with some exceptions), while universities only grant degrees in their particular subjects.

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