Colleges vs. Universities vs. Schools:
The difference between a college and a
university is that a college just offers a collection of degrees in
one specific area while a university is a collection of colleges.
When you go to a university you are going to be graduating from one
of their colleges, such as the business college. As to which is
better, it depends on what you want. Single colleges tend to be
smaller while universities are bigger, but universities are better
Explanations from other contributors:
Be aware that there is a very distinct difference in
terminology between the USA and the rest of the world. In the US,
there is very little difference academically between a "college"
and a "university." In the US, the terms are synonymous; other
countries use "college" to refer to some secondary schools, but
"university" is always used to mean an institution of tertiary
education and higher learning. Universities are usually larger and
often contain multiple "colleges" within them. However, some of the
top-ranked schools in the US have a name including "college" (e.g.,
Dartmouth College). In other parts of the English-speaking world,
the term "university" equates to the US use of "college" and the
term "college" refers more to a trade or vocational school.
Depends on the country you are in. Here in the UK, a university
can award its own degrees and has a charter giving it various
guarantees of independence. A college usually depends on a
fully-fledged university to validate its degrees, or may even be
part of a university, as in Oxford or Cambridge colleges. Or a
college may be little to do with degree-level education at all,
such as a Further Education college.
Also don't forget Community Colleges. In that usage a college
is very different than a University because a community college
can't offer a 4-year degree (i.e., a B.A. or a B.S.). Community
colleges can offer trade and technical certifications and training
as well as the first 2 years of a 4-year program, but they are
unable to grant Bachelor's degrees.
In Canada, a University is an education institution that can
grant degrees (BA, BSc, MA, PHd, etc). Colleges can grant
certificates or diplomas, but not degrees.
Maybe it is in Canada alone that universities are different
than colleges. Most countries except Canada (developing or
developed countries), colleges offers four (4) year course -
Bachelor's Degree. Of course, universities are more prestigious and
more expensive. Also, universities offers further studies after a
Bachelor's degree like Master's degrees, Doctorate degree, and Post
Doctorate degree - these degrees can be achieved if you have earned
a Bachelor's degree first. Basically, colleges are small and
faculties (such as lecturers) are more focused to students. They
usually focus on a few courses (for a Bachelor's degree). In
universities, a professor handles more students and they most
likely can't place a focus on each individual student.
Australia is in the same boat as Canada, then. Here,
Universities offer degrees, but Colleges (also known as T.A.F.E.,)
offer Diplomas and Certificates.
In France, college Grande Ecole is highly reputing than
University especially in Engineering. It is part of National
Polytechnic Institute taking into account the selection
A university confers degrees up to PhD. A 4-year college
confers Bachelor's and Master's degrees (BA, BS & MA, MS). A
2-year or community college confers the associate degree (AA or
The main difference between a college and a university is that
the university maintains research requirements for its instructors
and that the university is, in essence, a more research-focused
A college can offer many majors with which to direct your
studies. However, doctorate programs are more prone to be offered
at universities where they have the money to support such
This is probably related to the fact that Universities conduct
research, which in turn allows them a certain degree of
recognition, attracts a larger student body and affords them the
capacity to offer higher learning options than a college can
While the terms today are often used interchangeably,
originally a college was a specific school teaching a specific
subject, such as Education, Medicine, etc. and a University is a
school made up of numerous colleges.
In general the difference is the level of degree that they can
award. Colleges typically award Bachelor's degrees and Universities
can confer Master's and Doctorate degrees. The distinction has
never been "enforced" by any organization.
Sometimes a college could have called themselves a university,
but chooses not to for historical reasons and/or continuity of its
name. The College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia,
founded in 1693, could have long ago called itself a university,
with studies available in many areas, undergraduate, graduate and
post-graduate. However, to maintain the historical title that dates
back to colonial times, the college has never adopted the title of
Those of us who work here commonly refer to it as "the
university," and as a Virginia Charter University, which has
allowed William & Mary a large degree of independence from the
commonwealth, all new employees are now "university employees" vice
"state employees" as the college now has its own human resources
structure separate from (but similar to) the commonwealth's HR
structure. Current "state employees" also have the option to
convert to "university employees." Bottom line: While W&M
operates at a level commonly equated to universities, it chooses to
maintain the title of college for historical reasons. I suspect
that Dartmouth College has the same or similar reasoning for not
taking on the title of university, although it certainly would be
justified in doing so.
A few notes on some of these comments:
1) Community colleges absolutely do now offer bachelor degrees
and not always in conjunction with a 4-year college or university.
This is a new trend in the US and many are fighting it, because
that wasn't the purpose behind the community college concept when
it was first developed.
2) Universities are not more prestigious than colleges. I defy
anyone to tell me that MIT, which isn't a university, isn't as
prestigious as Harvard University.
3) In answer to this post: "A university confers degrees up to
PhD. A 4-year college confers Bachelors and Masters degrees. (BA,BS
& MA, MS) A 2-year or community college confers the associate
degree. (AA or AS)": There are many colleges that offer doctoral
degrees. In the US, a "4-year college" does not offer a masters.
That goes beyond the 4 years. As I wrote before, many community and
2-year colleges offer bachelor degrees.
4) Last point, in answer to "The difference between a college
and a university is that a college just offers a collection of
degrees in one specific area, while a university is a collection of
colleges": Universities contain colleges and universities offer the
degree. For example, my degree is from the University of Illinois,
not from the College of Education. I earned the degree through the
COE, but UI granted the degree.