What is the Difference Between a College and a University?

alex atkins bookshelf wordsIn the United States, postsecondary institutions call themselves colleges or universities — and sometimes they exist in the same city or state. For example, in Boston, you can attend Boston College or Boston University; in Georgia, you can attend Georgia College or University of Georgia. Both colleges and universities can be public or private. So what’s the difference? Why do some call themselves “college” and others “university”? The short answer is that there is very little difference between the two — the terms can be used interchangeably. Most higher education institutions use the term that simply honors their tradition, which is, of course, sacred ground for academics. Consequently, there is nothing to stop colleges from changing their names to universities or vice versa; for example, in early 2017, Lynchburg College officially changed its name to University of Lynchburg.

Interestingly, in America, the generic term for higher education is “college”; so students go to college. In Great Britain, Canada, and Australia, the generic term is “university”; thus, students go to university. In terms of etymology, both terms are almost identical: university is derived from the Latin universitas, meaning society or community; it is a shortened form of the term universitas magistrorum et scholarium (translated, community of masters and scholars). Similarly, college is based on the Latin collegium meaning “community or society.” 

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For further reading: http://grammarist.com/usage/college-university/