What Is The Difference Between College And University?

Written by Pareeshti Rao

"You can make anything by writing" - a great man once proclaimed. On both a professional and personal level, I'd regard it as fuel for my soul.

April 30, 2021

If a group of 10 students were asked about their views on the difference between college and university, I bet you’d receive 10 different answers only based on assumptions or what they’ve heard. While some may have to say that a university is better than a college when it comes to resources, some will say that colleges can deliver the same knowledge as a university at more affordable rates and then there are some who even use college and uni interchangeably. Assumptions made on the basis of half knowledge often lead to making wrong decisions that you may regret later. Before you decide what is a better option for you, I suggest you read on to find out college and university differences for gaining more clarity.

What Is A College?


A college is an educational institution that emphasizes undergraduate education within a broad range of programmes. You basically attend college right after high school. Colleges usually are smaller institutions, featuring smaller student populations, with fewer programme offerings than universities. 

What Is A University?


Universities on the other hand are public or private educational institutions offering undergraduate and graduate programmes. They are known for their lively campus environments, featuring sizable campuses, and many programme offerings and research opportunities compared to colleges.

Historically Speaking…


Did you know that the term ‘university’ originated during the Middle English period and the term ‘college’ came to be known about 50 -150 years after so those who belonged to that era never actually had to worry about the difference between college and university? However, they both have Latin origins – 

  • Universities – Guild, corporation, society
  • Collegium – Club, community, society

Based on their Latin definitions in itself, you can see the college uni differences.

What Are The Differences Between Uni And College?


A college and a university are educational institutions. They both offer undergraduate degree programmes. How can you tell what distinguishes a college from a university then?

Degree Programmes: Universities offer an undergraduate study programme that offers a bachelor’s degree plus a graduate study programme that leads to advanced degrees and if you wish to study further, you even have the option of pursuing research studies in professional fields.

Colleges on the other hand, offer 4 year UG programmes or 2 year associate degree programmes with limited courses to complete. They can even offer undergraduate-focused studies as in the case of engineering specific colleges or visual arts colleges designed to appeal to a small select group of students with similar interests in the same field.

Size: You can tell the difference between college and university based on the size.This does not mean the physical size however. A college is typically of a smaller class size designed with specific interests. Because they are more focused on one type of degree, students in a college get personalized attention from the faculty and advisors. On the contrary, universities are larger institutions with a diverse student body which could be divided into smaller subsections referred to as colleges usually, for example: ‘The college of arts and sciences’ or ‘The college of engineering’. 

Budget:  A college has limited space and facilities with a singular focused approach, so the fee structure isn’t as complicated. Colleges require a lesser budget comparatively. Universities are a little more expensive due to multiple facilities, programmes, course structure, on campus facilities and so on.

Courses: As we know universities offer undergraduate as well as graduate degrees so it is obvious that you have a wide range of course subjects to choose from in a university. You have UG courses, PG courses, professional courses, research based courses and many more options. Colleges however are limited to undergraduate courses. That is where you can see the difference between college and university. 

Facilities: When you have a focused approach with specific interests, you do not need as many facilities. And that is what college is all about. A university offers a plethora of facilities for students to make use of during their course of study.

Types: The difference between college and university can also be seen in their types and they include:

  • Public Universities
  • Private Universities
  • Community Colleges
  • Liberal Art Colleges
  • Technical Institutions

Which Is Better?


The difference between college and university is based upon many factors. However, that does not mean that a university is better than a college or vice versa. It all comes down to what you’re interested in, what your goals are, what your budget is, and how you would like to get trained. A lot of students are under this misconception that a university is better than a college but in actuality, they are both equally good catering to interests based on choices.

Are you planning to join a university or a college abroad? Do not miss out on our guide for the best country to study abroad.

At A Glimpse:

Source: Online Schools Report

Thank you for reading this blog on the difference between college and university. If you wish to read about scholarships, these blogs may be of interest to you:

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