The terms “college” and “university” are often used interchangeably.At some point you may have wondered what the difference is between a “college” and a “university.”However,it is not the same!So,in case you are wondering what is the difference between college and university?;whats is better-college or university?;what to choose-college or university?,scroll down and clear your doubts!


Difference between College and University

 Key difference: Commonly, a college refers to an institution that offers a set of degrees in one specific area, such as liberal arts, commerce, humanities, etc., whereas, a university usually encompasses a collection of colleges.

Both colleges and universities are educational institutions. According to Wikipedia, “a university is an institution of higher education and research which grants academic degrees in a variety of subjects and provides both undergraduate education and postgraduate education.”

On the other hand, Wikipedia defines a college as, “educational institution or a constituent part of one… A college may be a degree-awarding tertiary educational institution, a part of a collegiate university, or an institution offering vocational education.”

Commonly, a college refers to an institution that offers a set of degrees in one specific area, such as liberal arts, commerce, humanities, etc., whereas, a university usually encompasses a collection of colleges. For example: the University of Cambridge which incorporates 31 colleges, both undergraduate and post-graduate. Most of the time, universities are more well known than colleges and they tend to be larger than individual colleges.

However, the real difference between colleges and universities actually depends on the individual country’s educational system.

In the United States of America, universities are large institutions that incorporate many colleges within them. In general conversation, the terms, “college” and “university” are loosely interchangeable, as the college is part of the university. This is also similar to the education system in Ireland.

In the United Kingdom and the commonwealth countries, a university is a degree-providing institution, whereas colleges usually depend on a fully-fledged university to validate its degrees. The college is an individually run institution but is affiliated to a university and must meet the standards set by the university. The degree awarded by the college is then accredited by the university. This system also holds true in India.

In some other commonwealth countries, such as New Zealand, Australia, and Canada, universities award degrees. However, colleges refer to a secondary or high school. It is considered as a college of further education or a training institution that awards trade qualifications. It may or may not be a constituent part of a university. Thus, a college cannot grant degrees, it can only grant certificates or diplomas. Hence, a university is more prestigious and more expensive than a college.

These are the common differences found in some countries. The differences may differ in other countries depending on how the education system of that country is set up.

The difference between college and university not only resides in their meanings, but they also differ from region to region. Different countries like UK, USA, Canada, Japan, India, China etc define college and university in a variety of ways. So after an in-depth research on these two terms, we have presented some important differences between the two, so have a look.

 College Vs University

Meaning A college is an educational institution which offers degree and diploma courses to its students. A university is an authorized educational and research institution that grants degree and diploma to its students, in the respective fields.
Affiliation Colleges are either affiliated to a university or it is an autonomous body. Universities do not require any affiliation from another university.
Research Program Not offered by college. Offered by the university.
Scope Narrow Wide
Number of courses offered Limited Myriad
Head Dean or Director Vice-Chancellor
Number of Enrolled students Less, due to limited seats. Comparatively higher.
Campus Small Large


Definition of College

A college is a place of learning, where a diverse range of degree and diploma courses are offered to the students, for higher studies but only in specific areas. In general, colleges are a part of universities. However, there are some colleges which are independent and not affiliated with any university, so the college itself awards the degree and diplomas. They are smaller in size than a university and due to this reason, each and every student receives good personal attention from the faculty. They may be publicly or privately owned.

The word college has been derived from a Roman word “Collegium” which means some people residing jointly under a similar set of rules for a common purpose. In many countries, colleges are referred as ‘secondary school’.

Colleges offer three types of degree which are associate, bachelor or master and diploma of graduate and post graduate level.

Definition of University

A university is a centre of education, where numerous degree, diploma, and certificate courses are offered in various areas to the students, for further learning. There are many colleges which are affiliated to a single university, and that is why a University is also known as a collection of colleges.

The degree offered by the university is associate, bachelor, master and doctorate while diplomas are offered at graduate and post graduate level. The university has the right to confer degrees and diplomas to its learners if it’s recognised and approved by the Government of the respective country or else the degree and diploma is of no use as it lacks accreditation. They are either owned by the government or private individuals or a combination of both.

It has a huge campus, where departments of various streams like Arts and Commerce, Management, Science, Geology, etc. are located. The universities are divided into the following categories, according to their formation:

  • Central University
  • State University
  • Private University
  • Deemed University

Key Differences Between College and University

The following are the major differences between college and university:

  1. A College is a learning institution which offers degree and diploma courses to its students. A University is a higher education and research centre, which offers and award degree and diploma to its learners.
  2. The scope of a college is limited as compared to a university because there are many colleges affiliated to a single university.
  3. College does not offer research program to its students, but, the University offers the same.
  4. Colleges are either affiliated to a university, or they are an autonomous body. Conversely, Universities do not require affiliation from another university.
  5. The College offers courses, only in specific areas. On the other hand, the University offers a blend of courses and programs which are not limited to a specific area.
  6. The chief of a college is known as a Dean or Director while the chief of the University is known as Vice-Chancellor.
  7. The college has a limited number of seats and that is the reason, there are less number of students enrolled as compared to a university.
  8. The university has a giant campus because it is built in a huge area, whereas college is not having such large campus.



Apart from the above differences, there are many similarities between college and university, like they can be owned, operated and controlled either by the government or private individuals or the combination of both. Both offer courses for higher studies.

Many prestigious colleges and universities demand high percentage also known as cut off, from students, if they want to take admission. It is somewhere good because a standard quality of that college or university is maintained, but many intelligent students who unluckily fails to crack the cut off, have to compromise with their dreams.

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