What do these words mean to you: college, university or technical institute? Depending on where you live in the world, these words can mean different things.
Colleges – don’t underestimate the value studying at a college in Canada. In some countries the terms college or university are interchangeable; there isn’t much difference which one you study at. In some countries the word college is often associated with secondary schools. In Canada, the word college is seldom associated with secondary schools. Our high schools are simply called high school or public high school.
A college usually differs from a university in that it provides a hands-on or applied studies experience. It is usually more career or employment focused than the university and prepares the student for the workforce in a practical sense. Many colleges today also provide university transfer courses whereby the student can take their first two years at a college before transferring to study at a major recognized university. Many colleges and universities have signed agreements for collaborative programs and university transfer credits. In this type of arrangement, the student can study for his/her first 2 years in a smaller classroom setting where professors have time to spend on a one-to-one basis with their students. Students find that they can obtain better marks in a college and many Canadian students prefer to start their post-secondary education studying at a college before transferring to university.
Other factors that distinguish a college from a university are:
1. Generally tuition costs are less than at a university
2. Many diploma and certificate programs are offered, although some colleges have now been permitted by provincial governments, degree granting status
3. The time spent at a college is generally less than at a university. Diplomas, certificates, etc are 1 to 2 years in length with the intent to give you credentials so you can work sooner than if you go to university
4. University academic preparation courses. Students who do not have sufficient marks (GPA’s) can study at one of these colleges and upgrade to college or university program admission requirements.
5. Graduates who train for a specific job or applied field often are quickly employed in the workforce because of the practical experience obtained while studying
Technical Institutes – Canada needs trades people and technicians. Canada needs qualified plumbers, mechanical and computer technicians, etc. Our polytechnic institutes meet this need and our graduates from these institutes are usually quickly hired and work in well-paying positions. Computer technologies are hot programs in these institutions. Admission requirements are often high, the work is definitely applied and hands-on training and these certified graduates have a very high chance of being hired upon graduation. Canadian employers often prefer a graduate who has practical knowledge over theory.
Today, some of these institutes also offer degree programs but they are limited in number. If you want to learn a trade, become a qualified technician, or start working in Canada soon after graduation, then this is the place for you.
Universities – the coveted place to be for prestigious academic credentials. Several of our universities hold positions in the top 100 universities in the world. Even so, there is not a significant difference in the quality of education between our different universities. All must provide high quality education and courses in all our universities are taught by the finest of scholars.
Universities differ from colleges and technical institutions in that they offer a full range of degrees, from undergraduate to graduate degrees, the Bachelors to the Ph.D. They also offer a full spectrum of academic disciplines to students. Research also makes up a big part of the university, something you will not find at a college or technical institute. And where there is research there is funding. Graduate students are more likely to get funding at a university than elsewhere. Theory is king over practical experience although some universities now offer co-op programs with their Engineering programs. If you want to work as a teacher, nurse, psychologist, etc, you will want to go to university. Also for professional programs such as Business, Medicine and Law, you must go to a recognized university.
While looking for that ideal place to study in Canada; as an international student, do not rule out any of Canada’s fine institutions. Don’t get sidetracked by the name college as opposed to university. The college might be more suitable for you or vice versa. Or maybe the technical school is the place you ought to be.