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Part 3: Difference Between College and University - 2001-09-10


Our VOA listener question this week comes in an e-mail from Korea. Chang-mi Kim asks what is the difference between a college and university. We include this question in our series of reports for foreign students who want to study in the United States.

People attend a college or university to continue their education after high school. This prepares them for work. It also provides them with a greater understanding of the world and its past. And it helps them value the arts and sciences.

Students usually attend a college for four years and gain a bachelor’s degree. Colleges generally do not support research or offer graduate degrees. Universities usually are much larger than colleges. Universities carry out research. And they offer several kinds of degrees in many areas of study.

They offer bachelor’s degrees after four years of study. Universities also offer graduate degrees that require additional years of study, such as master’s degrees and doctoral degrees. Modern universities developed from those of the Middle Ages. They took their name from the Latin word “universitas.” It meant a group of people organized for one purpose.

The first European colleges were groups of students who came together because of the same interests. In England, colleges were formed to provide them with living places. Usually each group was studying the same thing, so the word “college” came to mean one area of study.

Most American colleges today teach an area of study called liberal arts. The liberal arts were subjects first developed and taught in ancient Greece. They trained a person’s mind. They were considered different from subjects that were useful in life.

The word “college” also means a part of a university that teaches one area of study. That is because the first American universities divided their studies into many areas and called each one a college. An example would be “Teachers College” of Columbia University in New York City. It is the part of Columbia University that prepares people to be teachers. The university includes many other colleges too, like those that teach medicine and law.