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.”
The term, “university” is derived from the Latin, “magistrorum et scholarium,” which can be roughly translated as a “community of teachers and scholars.” Whereas, the word, “college” comes from the Latin, collegium, which means “con- = ‘together’ + leg- = ‘law’ or lego = ‘I choose’. It originally stood for a group of persons living together, under a common set of rules, such as a club or society.
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.
Image Courtesy: nyc.gov, checkoutacollege.com