In several parts of the world, college and university are interchangeable words referring to tertiary institutions in general. However, there’s a wide difference between the two in Canada, and each has its purpose. So, which is better for you, between a university and college?
Colleges and universities are equals, but with differences in class size, duration, cost, and learning format. With colleges, you get more practical experience, employability skills, specialized programs, and spend less. But universities offer more options, research facilities, and opportunities.
Regardless of the differences, they’re academic equals, which means neither is better. Your career goals, interests, and other factors should determine which is most suitable for you. Here, we compare colleges and universities and examine the difference between the two.
What is a College in Canada?
College in Canada refers to an academic institution designed to get practical knowledge and experience in trades, applied art, technology, and other hands-on career fields. Colleges usually offer more career-oriented programs involving apprenticeships, internships, and training. College courses are usually in the tech, health, applied and liberal arts, and business fields. In colleges, you’ll find part-time and full-time offer diploma and certificate programs. Some even offer bachelor’s degree programs in applied areas.
Pros of Studying in College
There are several benefits to attending a college, and these include:
- Colleges have smaller class sizes that enable students to get personalized attention from teachers.
- They design their programs to match labour trends and employers’ requirements.
- They have a specialized and distinct curriculum that matches students’ actual interests.
- Students get more practical experience that prepares them for the labour force.
- College education takes a shorter period to complete.
Cons of Studying in College
The disadvantages of studying in colleges include:
- Not all colleges provide students with direct access to advanced degrees
- They usually have fewer resources and facilities for research
- Most colleges have limited programs and limited influence and recognition
What is a University in Canada?
Universities in Canada are usually academic institutions focusing on research. They are meant for people who want to study professional and academic programs to earn bachelor’s degrees at the end of their studies. With universities, the goal is to provide the student with comprehensive knowledge within a certain field, especially at the undergraduate level. Postgraduate programs allow for more specialization, but the emphasis is always on research.
Pros of Studying University
If you choose to attend a university in Canada, here are some of the advantages:
- University students enjoy unrivalled access to research facilities and opportunities.
- There are usually hundreds of degree programs for students to choose from
- Universities offer a more diverse university community where students can expand their worldview.
Cons of Studying at University
Universities aren’t perfect either, and studying there means you’ll face these challenges:
- The high ratio of student to teacher in universities makes it less difficult for students to interact personally with the teachers.
- There’s more emphasis on research than teaching, and students usually have to do a lot of personal and individual study to get the knowledge they need.
- It’s more costly to obtain a university degree than a college diploma.
Differences between the Colleges and Universities
There are several differences between colleges and universities in Canada, and some of the most notable are:
1. Class Size
Colleges in Canada usually have smaller class sizes than universities. This means that the students-to-instructor ratio is lower, allowing more hands-on training, experience, and interaction with their teachers. On the other hand, university classes are usually bigger, with some having over 100 students in the class at times.
The length of time you’ll spend in college depends on your program. It only takes about a year or less for certificate programs, and you can start practicing. Diploma programs, on the other hand, take more time. This can be between two to three years, depending on what you’re studying. The program can be quite intensive with training to gain practical experience in their fields. In addition, there are usually internships within the programs to get more practical experience within your field.
On the other hand, university programs can take between 3 – 4 years to complete an undergraduate program, after which you can opt to go for postgraduate programs. The length of your postgraduate program will depend on your subject area and the degree you’re aiming for. The doctorate is the highest, which can take as much as ten years to achieve in some cases. Unlike colleges, universities usually allow you to plan your academic schedule depending on how early you wish to graduate.
3. Learning Format
The learning approach in colleges usually combines lectures with practical experiences and training to get the real-life experience they need for their relevant fields. This means industrial training and internships are integral parts of the college curriculum. In universities, it’s more of lecture-based programs. Of course, there are practical experiences in some courses where it’s necessary. But more attention is on guiding students towards the information and knowledge rather than teaching them. So, universities appear to prioritize independent learning experiences for students.
The difference in learning format is all part of the design of each system. College programs seek to develop student’s skills and make them employable, while universities provide students with all knowledge related to a particular field. Thus, a university graduate will have a comprehensive understanding of a subject area and, with work experience, can specialize in particular areas of the field. On the other hand, college is a short route to being employable, but it’s best for students who already have what they want to do in mind.
Another notable difference between the two is the cost. The average cost for bachelor’s degree programs in Canada is much higher than in college. This might be partially due to its duration, but other factors come into play too. However, while tuition might be low for colleges, the cost of buying the necessary equipment for training might be very high depending on the skill you’re learning. For example, if you’re learning cinematography or photography, you may have to get very costly equipment needed to get the practical training.
Both universities and colleges have their advantages and who they’re designed for. Academically, they’re both equals which means that it’s mostly a matter of preference and goals that will determine which one you go to.