General Writing and Grammar Help/university,...



What is the difference between "university" and "college" in English?

Thank you

None, really.  

In the U.K. and Canada, I believe the school is always called =university=, and the expression of attending one is =go to university=.

In the U.S., =go to college= can be taken as a collective action of going for further schooling but without specifying what type of school or where.


Some schools are called =college= within their name:  Hanover College, College of William and Mary.

Some school are called =university=, likewise:  Harvard University.  Universities allied with state governments are usually titled "in reverse" (=university of=):  University of Florida.


And sometimes =college= denotes a school that is not "top tier."  In California, for example, there are the very rigorous and difficult-to-be-admitted schools:  University of California at Berkeley ("Cal") and University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA).  These schools are also more expensive that other state-sponsored schools.  They also boast Nobel laureates in abundance.

The second tier school are =California State University at ____=, such as California State University at San Diego.  These schools used to be called =college=, rather than =university=.  (now they've been "upgraded").  These schools were not as selective as the =University of California at ___" schools, cost less, and drew from local populations.  They were put in place so that students all over California could have an affordable college education.  Also, there was the idea that these colleges "produced teachers."


Allow me to stand up on my soapbox:

I dislike intensely the expression "If you can't [do it], teach [it]."  Teaching is not the refuge of the inadequate!  Teaching is what the "adequate" do!

Rather, the expression should be:  "If you can't teach, you must find another career."

I shall now get down from my soapbox!


To answer your question, in the U.S., there is very little difference except sometimes to denote prestige.

General Writing and Grammar Help

All Answers

Answers by Expert:

Ask Experts


Martha Beth Lewis


I will answer questions having to do with grammar, plurals, punctuation, capitalization, mood, person, tense, and so on, as well as word usage and word choice. If you want a quick answer to a specific question, particularly if you wish to use formal American English for business or academic purposes (MLA), I can give you a timely response. I also can address word choice, clarity, structure, and similar concerns involving English as a second language. If you want advice of a deeper editorial nature (e.g., substantive [line] editing), please consult an Expert who offers this sort of assistance; I do not offer this sort of assistance.


I was employed as an editor for the graduate school at a major U.S. university and specialized in dissertations. I have over 200 publications in professional journals, consumer magazines, and newspapers. I am the author of five books and numerous syllabi in an arts field. I also am a freelance line editor, copy editor, and proofreader (over 40 years), and I have written or edited countless community organizations' newsletters and promotional materials.

Note: When using a word as a word in a sentence, such as: Put a period after the word dog, =dog= should be set in italics. Since I do not have access to italics here, I shall use = on either side of the word or phrase that properly should appear in italics. For the above example: Put a period after the word =dog=. Also, ~~please do not mark your questions as private~~. I will change them to public because I don't want to type the same answer twice! Thanks for your understanding.

If you submit a question to other Experts or the pool, I'd appreciate it if you would >>NOT<< submit it to me, also. It's like asking several people out on a date and choosing among those who said yes! This implies my time and particular expertise are worth nothing to you. I want to spend my time responding to those who find my qualifications germane to their question. Remember: I'm a volunteer!

Education B.A., summa cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa Ph.D.

Awards and Honors
I ask that you >>COME BACK TO READ MY RESPONSE<<. I've taken time to write the best response I can, so you should come back to read it! It's disheartening to respond to a question, only to see later that the person has not bothered to come back. Remember: I'm a volunteer!

Past/Present Clients
I am happy to help you - that's why I volunteered - but please remember I *am* a volunteer and extend me normal courtesies, such as no multiple submissions and not bothering to come back for your answer. mb

©2017 All rights reserved.

[an error occurred while processing this directive]