What’s the Difference between a College and A University? (Part 2)

Approximate Reading Time: 2 minutes

Some time ago I did a bit on the differences (or some of them) between colleges and universities. I also did a comparison between them and high school. Somehow it disappeared, so here it is again.

What are some of the cultural differences between a college and a university? Here is a *very* preliminary comparison of high school, college, and university. I had always thought there was little difference between colleges and universities, but I am discovering that this is not necessarily the case, and that there are many similarities between high school and college.

Feel free to comment, argue, or suggest additions….

High School



Job Type




An occupation is something you do during specified hours of the day. Often one goes to a specific place to perform that job and when one leaves to go home, most, if not all of the work is left at the place of employment. Workload is measured in terms of number of hours.

A profession is something you are. You do the associated work wherever and whenever it presents itself. Workload is measured in terms of what needs to be done. Where and when it gets done is far less relevant.

Job Description

Fairly prescribed

Moderately prescribed

Highly Flexible

Work Location

Mostly at School (most teachers take marking home)

Largely At School (far more like school than university)

Partly At School (many faculty do much of their work at home, which includes prep, marking, and research)


Defined by Job (i.e. high school science; grade 1;…)

Largely defined by teaching allocations.

Largely self-determined. Includes teaching.

Vacation Time

Largely time to recharge.

Largely time to recharge.

Time for research & course prep.


Measured in terms of student results and peer assessments.

Measured in terms of student results and peer assessments.

Measured largely by scholarly production: research & otherwise.

Teaching Freedom

Very Restricted (prescriptive; determined by provincial bodies)

Varies from department to department. Tends to be defined by the college.

Assumed. Teaching faculty MUST have freedom to teach controversial subjects, and to teach in unconventional ways.

Course development.

Rarely have time for it (used ‘canned’ materials)

Done when and as necessary once course has been officially assigned. Sometimes considered *extra* (i.e. worthy of load-reduction).

Done when and as necessary. Rarely considered *extra*.

Course Assignments


Tends to be consistent from year to year.

Done semester by semester. Can be very inconsistent with little assurance of continuity.

Done 6-12 months in advance. Often the same courses are offered to individuals year after year.

Contact (in-class, teaching) Hours








Information Technology

Note that freedom of access is essential to innovation.

Controlled partly at the board & provincial level.

Controlled at the college level. Tends towards a corporate atmosphere and level of control.

Controlled by individual units as necessary. Most research IT is controlled by the grant-holder.

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What’s the Difference between a College and A University? (Part 2) — 1 Comment

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