Accessibility links

Breaking News

EDUCATION REPORT - Foreign Student Series #3: College or University?  - 2004-09-16

Broadcast: September 16, 2004

This is Gwen Outen with the VOA Special English Education Report.

We have part three of our series for students who want to attend a college or university in the United States. Today we talk about the difference between a college and a university. Internet users can find this report at

Colleges and universities have a lot in common. They prepare young adults for work. They provide a greater understanding of the world and its past. And they help students learn to value the arts and sciences.

Students who attend either a college or a university traditionally take four years to complete a program of study. Those who are successful receive a bachelor’s degree. But one difference is that many colleges do not offer additional study programs or support research projects.

Universities often are much larger than colleges. Universities carry out a lot of research. They offer more programs in different areas of study, for undergraduate and graduate students.

Modern universities developed from those of the Middle Ages in Europe. The word “university” came from the Latin “universitas.” This described a group of people organized for a common purpose.

“College” came from a Latin word with a similar meaning, “collegium.” In England, colleges were formed to provide students with places to live. Usually each group was studying the same thing. So the word “college” came to mean one area of study.

Today, most American colleges offer an area of study called liberal arts. The liberal arts are subjects first developed and taught in ancient Greece. They trained a person’s mind. They were seen as different from subjects that were considered more useful in everyday life.

Another meaning of “college” is a part of a university. The first American universities divided their studies into many areas and called each one a college. This is still true.

Programs in higher learning may also be called “schools.” For example, the University of Texas at Austin has fourteen colleges and schools. These include the colleges of pharmacy, education, engineering, and fine arts. They also include the schools of architecture, business, law and information.

Again, you can find our Foreign Student Series online at International students can also get information at

This VOA Special English Education Report was written by Nancy Steinbach. This is Gwen Outen.