It is common to hear the words college and university get used interchangeably. However, is there a difference? Frequently, we find fully-fledged universities that using the name college. The College of William and Mary, Virginia, for example. Some colleges offer programs that are normally offered by universities. So, are they just the same thing? I think not. In some countries, such as the UK, a university awards the degree, but the institutions of learning and training are called colleges. In the United States colleges and universities are sometimes entirely different institutions.

Here are some of the differences between a college and a university:

1. Universities have a broad range of academic disciplines. They usually offer undergraduate and graduate programs. Colleges, on the other hand, only have limited options and do not have a master’s or a Ph.D program.

2. Universities are viewed as research institutions, unlike colleges that focus mainly on practical training. Universities usually have research centers and libraries that facilitate a lot of research. On the contrary, colleges prepare students for vocational paths

3. Universities are larger than colleges. They have many schools or colleges such as School of Engineering and School of Human Resource among others. This is due to the wide variety of courses they offer. Some colleges focus only on one field. Take for example the Massachusetts Institute of Technology that devotes itself only to science and engineering.

4. Universities usually admit a large number of students compared to colleges. Hundreds of students attend a lecture in university while only a few do in college. This is due to the numerous disciplines as well as the prestige that comes with the connotation. Students are therefore more attracted to university than college.

5. Student-to-faculty ratio is lower in college than in university. The large intake of students in university leads to a large student-to-faculty ratio. It is consequently easier for students in colleges to have a closer relationship with their professors than in universities.

6. Colleges usually award certificates, diplomas and two-year associate’s degree. Universities, however, award master’s degree and doctorates.

7. Colleges programs are about two years long while university programs are averagely about four years.

Even though some of the roles of colleges and universities overlap (both offer a bachelor’s degree, for example) and that it may seem that only a thin line separates them, it is evident that some clear-cut differences exist too. University programs offer Ph.D programs while colleges do not. Colleges mostly specialize in practical training while universities focus on research. The universities that stick to the name college do so because they wish to maintain their traditional name. However, many exceptions exist, and in some cases, these institutions differ only in the name only.

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