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Colleges ( Latin collegium academiae , study community ) are mostly economically and legally independent educational institutions of different types in countries in which English is the official or primary lingua franca, for example in England and the USA . Sometimes very different educational institutions are called college. In Great Britain and Ireland in particular , a college can be understood to mean both a school and a college, university or part thereof.

In France , Collège refers to the école secondaire , which roughly corresponds to lower secondary level ; In German, Kolleg is a regionally differently used term for a learning institution, for example vocational college .

USA and Canada

In Canada and the United States , “college” is a colloquial collective term for institutions of higher education , particularly those in undergraduate studies ( associate and bachelor’s degrees ). The higher education systems of the two countries show great similarities, but also many differences.

Similarities in both countries

The tertiary education sector in both countries includes both universities and vocational schools ( Vocational Schools ), the latter are colloquially usually not referred to as "colleges," but as "Trade schools".

As the only universal system for assessing the quality of a university, its teaching and graduates in the US and Canada that applies university ranking . For example, on a long-term average, Harvard University in the USA and McGill University in Canada each come in first place ( World's Best Universities ).

In the first year, students are in some colloquially often called freshmen ( freshmen ) indicates less informally as (freely translated) freshmen ( first year students ), in the second year as sophomores , the third as Junior ( juniors ) and in the fourth as seniors ( seniors ). An exception are the military academies, which use the terms plebes , yearlings , cows and firsties instead or in addition .

United States

Under " community colleges " is understood in the United States two-year schools, which are funded by the municipalities and the local high-school graduates - especially those on a budget - offer the Associategrad. Many graduates of a community college then continue their studies at a regular four-year university in order to acquire a bachelor's degree there.


Canada has the largest proportion of academics of any country in the world.

In Canada, in contrast to the USA, practically all colleges and universities are subject to a uniform state quality control system and most of them are members of the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada (AUCC), which is why the standard of Canadian universities is considered more uniform than that in the USA .

The Canadian counterpart to the Community College is the Polytechnic College . Two- and three-year diploma courses are offered there.

Great Britain and Ireland

In Great Britain and Ireland the term college is used very differently and describes different institutions of the education system depending on the context:

Relationship between universities and colleges

For some universities, colleges form legally and economically independent units, so that such universities could also be referred to as federations of colleges . The degree of bond between college and the associated university fluctuates.

At the universities of Cambridge, Durham and Oxford , the colleges are responsible for the social and economic issues of the students and, with the provision of cafeterias , student dormitories , common rooms, libraries and sports, take on many tasks that, e.g. B. be carried out by student unions . They also take on parts of the technical support, for example through tutorials. However, the university itself is responsible for the exams and offers the lectures. Teaching is organized by the university's subject-specific faculties and institutes, where students and teaching staff from various colleges come together. Admission to the university is always linked to admission to one of the colleges. The university professors are fellows at one of the colleges. They receive their professor title from the university, they are paid i. d. R. from college. The colleges often have traditional focuses, but i. d. R. Students in a variety of subjects - even those to which they do not belong to fellows - so that the student body at a college usually covers all disciplines. The fact that the students in the colleges are integrated into small social units and are individually supervised by the tutors is an important element for academic success. In addition to the accommodation on the old college campus, other buildings outside the college campus are also used for residential purposes. Most classrooms, libraries, and laboratories are housed in the university's faculty buildings, although some colleges have their own libraries and classrooms. For example, conferences take place there. In addition to the students, the college includes advanced students who already have a degree ( graduates ) and young academics ( postgraduates ). There are also visiting scholars who are temporarily doing research and teaching as fellows at a college. Until the 19th century, Fellows were not allowed to be married and formed a partnership with the college members. The fellows and tutors are traditionally called Dons (from Latin Dominus , lord), which describes the proverbial type of university scholar. One of the classic social institutions of the colleges is the meal in the hall , in which the members of the college are ranked according to rank, with the fellows sitting on a pedestal at the high table raised by a few steps . The colleges also include associations such as the boat clubs , in which rowing is practiced as a traditional sport.

At the University of London , the colleges are so independent that they can almost be viewed as an independent university. On the other hand, there are also some colleges at universities that take on the tasks described above, but are much less independent than shown for Oxford and Cambridge.

Above all, because of the economic independence of many colleges - they have their own employees, but also property - some of them are in a better economic situation than the universities to which they belong.


In Australia , too , “college” is a colloquial collective term for institutions of the tertiary education sector . Colleges can be smaller independent institutions or part of a university. After a reform in the 1980s, many formerly independent colleges were incorporated into larger universities. These colleges are largely used for university education.

Vocational education and training takes place at state-funded TAFE ( Technical and Further Education ) colleges or, in the area of ​​Vocational Education and Training (VET), at private professional colleges. Subject-specific courses are also offered by private and special colleges. Many degrees do not count towards academic degrees. However, there are TAFE colleges in Australia that offer undergraduate and postgraduate degrees. The Australian Qualifications Framework (AQF) creates a uniform rule .


The German term college in the Germanized form Kolleg is not unknown. The term Kolleg has a long tradition. In the early history of the university, colleges primarily referred to an institution that served the common living of academics and students. The college was not unlike the residential colleges of the English tradition.

The college as a new type of university in Germany

The college is also being discussed as a new type of university in Germany. The German higher education system is in a process of increasing differentiation. This process includes the development of new types of university as well as internal differentiation within larger universities. So far there are only a few types of universities in Germany, such as colleges or professional schools. In other countries - such as the Netherlands - the college has long been successfully established.

According to the law, anyone who wants to found a university in Germany has so far only had the choice between university and technical college. Despite this strict legal situation, more and more universities are breaking these formal requirements in practice. In the course of the Bologna reforms, German universities increasingly developed study models based on the structure of American colleges. The reason for this new development are social changes that require greater differentiation and individualization. Growing student numbers and a job market that increasingly demands flexibility and interdisciplinarity are just two of the reasons for the need for new study profiles.

In November 2010, the German Science Council spoke out in favor of opening up to new types of higher education institution: this was also the recommendation of the Council to the federal and state governments. In the opinion of the Science Council, universities and technical colleges alone are no longer sufficient to meet the growing diversity of individual and social expectations of academic institutions. In addition to dual universities, distance universities and professional schools, the committee named colleges as alternative forms. Frank Ziegele, Managing Director of the Center for University Development, sees the recommendation of the Science Council primarily as a signal for the advantages of diversity, which should encourage universities to differentiate and raise their profile. Ziegele sees the range of different types of university as a means of individualization, which will be more important in the future.

The German college

A college can be organized as an independent institution or it can form the sub-unit of a university in which bachelor programs are located. One example of an independent institution was the now closed European College of Liberal Arts in Berlin; as part of a university, the college is e.g. B. organized at the Leuphana University of Lüneburg . The college offers students who acquire an academic degree for the first time with a Bachelor's degree a framework and a common roof in which to develop their specialist, interdisciplinary and social skills. The teaching and learning options as well as the advisory and service offers in the course are specifically geared towards the study situation of Bachelor students. In addition to intensive professional and individual support, there is also support for the study community, academic dialogue among students and between students and lecturers, as well as personal development and the like. a. through many opportunities for student engagement in focus. As a rule, a wide range of subjects is available. Often a subject specialization with additional interdisciplinary or interdisciplinary study elements is offered, which enables a view beyond the chosen subject. Often the students can choose between major and minor subjects (major and minor subjects) or several fields of study that can be combined with one another. The bachelor's degree at a college is usually completed in six semesters. In view of the limited practical experience and ongoing discussions in the Science Council, the college concept in Germany still has to be described as experimental.

Counterpart to the Community College

There is no direct equivalent to community colleges in Germany . In terms of system and structure, as well as the requirement for vocational education and combined with the higher general educational character, technical colleges are closest to the community colleges. On the one hand, because the content of the elective subject on the one hand meets the vocational standard, on the other hand the general subjects meet the requirements of higher education. So z. B. at a FOS (technical college) for social affairs, the choice between sociology, psychology and pedagogy is optional, however in the general subjects such. B. Mathematics is taught far beyond the standard of secondary school.


The system of colleges corresponds in many ways to that of the former colonial power Great Britain . According to official figures, there are currently 864 universities, 40,026 colleges and a further 11,669 Diploma Granting Institutions in India. A special feature is the system of affiliated colleges, at which the majority of students are enrolled. Some universities have up to 1,000 of these colleges, but in many cases their quality standard is below the standard of the “parent university”. While universities award all academic degrees (Bachelor, Master, MPhil, Ph.D.), affiliated colleges usually only offer Bachelor and, in a few cases, Master’s programs.


The Omani higher education system is relatively young. There is a binary higher education system, which essentially consists of universities and colleges as well as some higher institutes ("higher institutes"). In Oman, the term “college” mostly refers to an educational institution of the tertiary school system at which a so-called “undergraduates” qualification can be obtained. The students acquire their first professional qualifications here.

The first year of study usually ends with the “Higher National Certificate (HNC)”, which is an independent degree. A “Higher National Diploma (HND)” can be obtained with an additional year of study. After completing a third year of study, the academic degree of Bachelor is obtained.

Colleges can be found both publicly and privately. Research activities have not yet been carried out, as most institutes have only existed for a few years; the task is mostly limited to pure training.

In addition, there are a number of educational institutions that are called colleges, but are more likely to be classified as secondary education and have the character of a vocational college . Some of the colleges are more like vocational schools and technical colleges than a college or university of applied sciences . A vocational training system, which is comparable to the federal German, focuses on technical professions, and is now to be set up with the help of the German Society for Technical Cooperation (GTZ) .

At the only state university in the country, the Sultan Qaboos University , the departments in which the "undergraduates" study are called "colleges". The institutions at which you can build on this to acquire a master’s degree are called “schools” there.

Web links

Wiktionary: College  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

See also

Individual evidence

  1. International Educational Attainment. (PDF) Retrieved November 16, 2019 (page 3).
  2. Does Canada have 'community colleges' like the US does? Retrieved November 17, 2019 .
  3. website of the AQF (Engl.)
  4. Recommendations for differentiating between universities (Drs. 10387-10) , November 2010.
  5. India. Brief introduction to the higher education system and DAAD activities DAAD , 2018.