What Is a University?

A university provides postsecondary education for students, primarily at the bachelor's and graduate degree levels. Universities enable students to develop intellectually and socially while earning a degree and preparing for a career.

Overview of Universities

A university is an organization that provides higher learning to individuals and promotes knowledge and discovery. Universities can grant academic degrees, including bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees; many universities also offer undergraduate and graduate certificate programs. Since universities are 4-year institutions, they don't usually offer 2-year associate's degree programs.

Important Facts about Universities

Prerequisites GPA, class rank, test scores, school-specific course and field work
Degrees/Certificates Undergraduate and Graduate (master's and doctorate degrees)
Online Availability Yes, for bachelor's, master's, and doctorate degrees
Continuing Education Certificates and non-credit courses are offered as a way for professionals to advance, change, or refocus their career paths and assist organizations in further growth

Learning at a University

A university enables students and professors to learn from each other. Students gain knowledge and skills through experiences in and out of the classroom, from attending lectures and readings to completing internships and clinical rotations. In addition to courses, universities offer campus-wide educational events, such as seminars and guest speakers, to enrich students' learning.

Research at a University

Universities encourage students to question ideas and assumptions and then conduct research to find an alternative answer or solution. Many graduate programs at universities have heavy research components, and opportunities to contribute to or conduct research are common for undergraduates as well.

Characteristics of Universities vs. Colleges

Although the terms 'university' and 'college' are sometimes used interchangeably in casual speech, these two institution types are actually quite different. For instance, universities usually have a college of liberal arts, a college of science and professional schools, such as medicine, law and engineering. Colleges, on the other hand, typically focus on one area, like liberal arts.

Universities also differ from colleges in the degrees they award. Universities can grant undergraduate, graduate and professional degrees, whereas most colleges focus on undergraduate study. Additionally, universities are larger and enroll more students.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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