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Difference Between Colleges and Universities Abroad


Colleges and universities are two terms that most people use interchangeably, but they are different. A college is a smaller educational institution compared to a university, and a college offers Bachelor's and Associate degrees and Certificate programs. On the other hand, a university offers Bachelor's, Master's and Doctorate degrees. This primary difference stands solid in most cases. 

  • Have you ever wondered what differentiates a college from a university?
  • Are you confused about whether to study at a college or university?
  • Do colleges and universities mean different things in different countries?

If these are some of the questions you need answers to, then you are at the right place, as this blog is about the difference between colleges and universities abroad. You are sure to learn things you have never known before. So, read further and clear all your doubts. 

What is the Difference Between College and University?

There are a few criteria that differentiate a college from a university. We have compiled a list of the top differences between both of them and have tabulated it below. It will be helpful for you as you can have a quick look and get all the information easily.





UG level courses

Graduate studies to professional courses

Course duration

1-3 years

3-8 years




Sports & extracurricular activities


Large scale

Short-term & vocational courses


Not much popular

Student societies




PR, Immigration, Study-Work

Research, Academics


UG and Associate degrees

PG and PhD degrees





Due to limited funding, the facilities will be lesser

They offer better facilities

What is A College?

A college is an educational institution that offers Bachelor's and Associate degree programs and certificate programs in various subjects. Also, multiple colleges will be affiliated with a single university. Most of the colleges will be affiliated with a university. However, there are also colleges that are not affiliated with any other institution.

A college will be small and will have a smaller campus. Additionally, the research options will be lesser at a college. At the same time, a college offers Certificate programs and Diplomas that several universities do not offer. The tuition fees at colleges may be a bit lesser than those at universities, especially private universities.

Types of Colleges Abroad

Do you know that there are a few types of colleges in a few countries like Canada, New Zealand and Australia?

If you did not know the above fact, you should surely be aware of this. Given below are the colleges that you find in popular study destinations like Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

1. TAFE Institutes in Australia

The Technical and Further Education (TAFE) Institutes offer Vocational and Educational Training courses that have varying duration. As the Australian education system is more skill-oriented, you will find that the three-month to three-year-long courses will help you get a job easily. A few popular TAFE Institutes are given below.

  • Central Regional TAFE
  • Hunter Institute of TAFE
  • Northern Sydney Institute of TAFE
  • South Metropolitan TAFE
  • William Angliss Institute of TAFE

2. SPP Colleges in Canada

Developed in partnership with Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) and the Association of Canadian Community Colleges (ACCC), the Student Partners Program (SPP) colleges offer Indian students the opportunity to develop technical and practical skills. There are Diploma and Certificate programs available. A few popular SPP colleges are given below.

  • Cambrian College
  • Algonquin College
  • Canadore College
  • Camosun College
  • Bow Valley College

3. Institutes of Technology and Polytechnics (ITPs) in New Zealand

ITPs are polytechnics owned and funded by the New Zealand government. The tuition fees will be less, and these courses equip students with the skills necessary to join any workforce. As such, these colleges are very popular among international students. A few such institutions are given below.

  • Manukau Institute of Technology
  • North Tec
  • Eastern Institute of Technology
  • Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology
  • Otago Polytechnic

What is A University?

A university is a larger educational institution that offers courses in almost all streams and specialisations. A university typically covers UG, PG and PhD programs in most disciplines. There are both public and private universities, and they will be approved by the governments of the countries. A university can be deemed, private, state and public, and they will have different colleges affiliated with them. Universities generally have better facilities like labs, libraries etc., and the opportunities for research will also be higher. A university degree, especially that from a university abroad, will be highly revered in your home country as well. The tuition fees at private universities may tend to be a bit higher compared to public ones.

Do They Mean Different Things in Different Countries?

Have you ever thought about this question? If not, it is time to know that colleges and universities mean different things in different countries. Given below are the details on what colleges and universities mean in top study destinations of the world.

  1. USA: In the USA, a college is an educational institution that offers Undergraduate courses, though there are a few exceptions. Similarly, a university is an educational institution that offers UG, PG and PhD courses.
  2. Australia: In Australia, the term college often refers to secondary education. It does not hold the general meaning of educational institutions affiliated with universities.
  3. Canada: In Canada, college refers to artistic, technical, vocational and scientific-level of education. Additionally, a college does not have an independent existence as a university. In Canada, the term "university colleges" refer to colleges that are not independent.
  4. UK: In the UK, colleges do not have the power to award degrees and are schools founded by universities.

Which One Should You Choose?

Now that you are aware of the primary differences between a university and a college, it is natural for you to have this question in your mind: Which one should I choose? The answer to this question is based on a few factors that you have to consider. A few criteria based on which you can shortlist your educational institution are given below.

  1. Course fee
  2. Program availability
  3. Faculty
  4. Career opportunities
  5. Research opportunities
  6. Curriculum

Colleges vs Universities: General Conclusion

It will be helpful for you to know a few points to arrive at a conclusion on whether to study at a college or a university. We have given below a few points for you to consider. You can keep them in mind and decide where you want to study.

  1. If you are someone who wants to pursue your Master's or PhD, then it is wise to opt for a university.
  2. There are a few universities that call themselves colleges due to some reasons, which can be historical or traditional.
  3. Universities generally are oft-preferred, especially because they have better facilities, faculty, and a large number of course options.
  4. In a few European countries, colleges are higher education institutions, which may even make up departments of universities.

After you figure out what you need, you can shortlist the best universities and colleges. There are several top-ranked institutions for you to consider. It is always a better idea to study abroad as it widens the course and career opportunities. If you wish to know more about the cost of studying and living abroad, you can read our blogs on them. You can learn in detail about tuition fees, living costs, scholarships, visa procedures etc. You can even contact AECC's expert counsellors to get first-hand information.

AECC has been assisting students in their study abroad journey for several years now. We have expert professionals and counsellors who can help you with the entire process, right from researching the best courses and universities to visa guidance. Don't hesitate to contact us for free assistance!


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