Colleges and universities are educational institutions that provide knowledge and skills for higher learning. Students who are accepted to colleges and universities are those who have graduated from high school or those who have completed the requirements for a high school diploma equivalent. However, there are some courses in colleges and universities that may require taking courses from preparatory schools before getting accepted. On the other hand, there are also some institutions that will take in only a small percentage of applicants based on a series of tests and qualifications such as art and theater schools.
Colleges and universities are quite similar in meaning and origin, but it was only recently that differences between the two were identified. These include universities defined as educational institutions with more than one college and offering higher education such as graduate programs. Meanwhile, colleges are defined as institutions that offer short courses and two-year course diplomas aside from their four year undergraduate degrees. Some colleges that have crossed-over into the definition of a university have retained their names with the word “college” in them due to historical reasons. This helps them to stay popular with students who are about to consider going to their particular college.
The first university in history was the Shangyang Higher School in China which was established during the Yu period between 2257 and 2208 BC. Other ancient universities originating from different countries include:
- Takshashila University in Taxila, Pakistan established in 7th century BC
- Nalanda University in Bihar, India which was famous for its center of Buddhist scholarship was established in 5th century BC
- Plato’s Academy in Athens 387 BC, the first higher education institution in Europe
- University of Salero in Italy 9th century
- Al-Azhar University in Cairo, Egypt circa 988
Most of the medieval universities in Europe were established under the guidance of the Catholic Church and were then known as cathedral schools or as “Studia Generali.” These universities were educational institutions which provided education for priests, monks and other students from different parts of Europe during the 12th century.
Most colleges and universities are run by a board of trustees or directors and by a group of school administrators. They are often funded by the government, by donors or by the tuition fees paid by the students who attend them. Most of these schools are located in the local town or within cities that are close to other educational institutions. Students often have to undergo exams and submit requirements before getting accepted especially when applying for scholarships or if they come from other countries.
In the United States, where the first institutions of higher education were University of Oxford & the University of Cambridge, the terms college and university can be used interchangeably even though colleges may often refer to liberal arts colleges or those that offer vocational, business, engineering or technical courses. Both colleges and universities refer to any post-secondary undergraduate education and which are operated as public or private institutions.