What Is the Difference Between College and University in Canada?

difference between university and college in Canada

Did you know that college and university both refer to different educational communities or institutions in Canada? Most people use the terms interchangeably as they both refer to education institutions without knowing that they mean different things and have distinct differences.

Simply, colleges focus more on career and technical training and trades. It is specifically designed for students who best learn with individualised attention and have the ability to commit more quickly and directly with teachers. On the other hand, universities concentrate on academic and professional programs. However, both academic institutions can lead you to success.  So, what is the difference between college and university in Canada? Let’s get at it!

Difference Between College and University in Canada

Types of Programs

  • College

In Canada, a college is an academic community primarily designed for students who are interested in learning trades, technology, applied arts and desire to have hands-on career training. Basically, colleges tend to offer more career-oriented programs, which usually involves apprenticeship training components. It is mainly designed for employability and is open to fields such as health, tech and business.

A college offers students both full-time and part-time diploma and certificate programs. Meanwhile, one can obtain a Bachelor’s degree in a college, especially in the applied areas; however, it will all depend on the college you choose to study in.

  • University

In Canada, universities are academic institutions mainly designed for people looking to study more academic and professional programs to earn degrees upon completing their studies. To study in a university in Canada, you will be required to select a ‘major’ to focus on and a ‘minor’ area of study. And you will be required to focus more on the former than the latter. These majors are usually in fields such as medicine, dentistry and law.

Generally, these studies are generally focused on analytical skills. There are two different primary degrees you can obtain from universities in Canada:

Undergraduate degrees: this type is generally known as a Bachelor’s degree.

Graduate degree: this type is known as Masters or Doctorate degree.

Read: Everything You Need to Know About the Nigerian Student Express Program

Class Size

  • College

In Canada, colleges tend to have smaller class sizes. Also, it has a lower student-to-instructor ratio. Usually, the purpose is to help each student get more hands-on practical training, instruction and experience. The smaller, the better!

  • University

Generally, universities are extensively larger than colleges. This usually reduces the potency for one-on-one help like it is in colleges. A class in a university could consist of over 100 students in a lecture hall. Simply, this means that going to universities means you will be required to be more independent and experience more self-lead works


  • College

Most colleges in Canada have higher equipment costs than universities in the country. Taking on programs, especially programs such as graphic design, cinematography, video editing and photography, you are bound to incur more costs for laptops, editing software, cameras and a lot of others. This is the same for tech programs that usually require students to have specific virtual machines or laptops.

  • University

According to statistics in 2019/2020, the average yearly tuition fees for full-time study in universities in Canada are as follows:

Undergraduate students: $6.463

Graduate students: $7.056.

Basically, tuition costs for both colleges and universities in Canada are comparable. The significant difference is in the duration of programs each of them takes to be completed. Due to that, you are likely to spend more in the university than in colleges in Canada.

Program Length

  • College

A college certificate program in Canada usually takes about one year or less to complete and begin to practice in your chosen field of study. And diploma programs take about two to three years to complete. These programs are usually more intensive than university programs in Canada due to numerous training to enable students to gain hands-on experience in their chosen fields; however, the perk is the duration it takes to complete programs.

In Canada, colleges usually do not allow you the option to carve your own schedule. It will be put together for you to follow.

These programs in colleges usually involve training or internships that allow you to gain hands-on experience by practising with industry professionals in your field of study. Sometimes, these trainings are scheduled within your regular courses and the other times, you will be required to work over the summer.

  • University

University programs in Canada take about 3-four years to complete. Also, you can complete a graduate program after four years, but the duration will all be dependent on your subject area as some require a duration of up to 10 years to complete.

In Canada, universities allow you to plan your own schedules while you take the time to handle other activities. However, you can fasten your graduation by taking on a full course which consists of taking five courses per semester. If not, the part-time study involves taking three or four courses per semester. If you desire to work and earn while you are in school, then part-time will definitely do it for you.

Read : How to Migrate to Canada Through Express Entry

Learning Format

  • College

In Canada, colleges have a mix of learning formats to enable students to gain real-life experiences and training in their chosen fields. This involved student-led discussions, work practices and interactive classes/lessons. Also, there’s usually a blend of in-class and online programs offering practical learning opportunities.

There are more online learning opportunities for students in colleges than there are for university students in Canada. Studying in college, you can get to study at your own pace and time even without having to leave your home sometimes.

  • University

Universities in Canada involved more lecture-based programs with only little opportunity for online courses. A funny but distinct difference in the learning format between the two academic communities could be colleges having classes while lectures are held in universities.

This is because colleges deal with more training and practice while universities involve students listening while the teacher or lecturer lectures. Another fun difference between college and university in Canada is that teachers are referred to as professors in universities in Canada.

Maple Education Canada helps Nigerian students get admitted into different schools across Canada. Contact us at info@mapleeducation.ca to get started.

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