Can a College Be Better than a University?

Why choose one over the other?

As students and parents begin to explore higher education options, they may wonder about the differences between colleges and universities. The terms are often used interchangeably, but there can be significant distinctions.

Some may think that a college is only private, or that a university will be state-funded. Others may believe that the quality of education differs greatly between the two. However, the truth is that the variations between the two are difficult to define and will often depend on the particular institution in question.

Working with Macleay College, an Australian higher education institution, let's take a look at the differences between universities and colleges, and which one may be better for you.

If you are interested in applying for a college, there is still time to enrol into Macleay College's next trimester: enrol here.

What is a College?

Generally, colleges are seen as smaller versions of universities, are often more specialised in terms of the programs offered and will support students a great deal more than universities will.

They typically offer undergraduate degrees, like Bachelor's and associate degrees, though some more specialised colleges may offer fast-tracked two-year Bachelor’s degrees.

Universities will also offer undergraduate degrees, though they will also offer graduate degrees too, unlike most colleges. These will sometimes include master's degrees and doctorates while some universities will also maintain internal specialised schools like law, medicine or business, where students can work toward a law degree, medical degree or MBA. Since they also tend to be larger than colleges, universities will often have a greater range of courses, though this does not necessarily mean the courses themselves are better as a college’s faculty can be far more supportive when there are fewer courses available.

Across the globe, the terminology when it comes to higher education institutions can sometimes be a bit complex. When looking to study abroad then, you should make note of what the difference is in your country of choice.

In the United Kingdom, for example, there is a big difference between colleges and universities, but in the US, the line between the two is far more blurred and the terms 'college' and 'university' are often interchangeable. In Australia, the difference is more defined and, as discussed previously, colleges will generally be smaller but more tightly focused.

Macleay College, for example, is a college in Australia that was originally established as a higher education provider with a focus on journalism, though it has expanded its course offering across advertising, digital media, business, marketing and accounting. There are now two campuses, one in Melbourne and the other Sydney, Australia.

While Macleay fits into the college identity of a specialised education institution, let’s see if the rest of what is generally understood about a college is applicable.

The Important Part: Qualifications

The qualifications offered by Macleay, such as Diploma and Bachelor degrees are the same as those offered by the oldest universities in Australia. Course content is considered more up to date and relevant at smaller institutions such as Macleay College.

More astonishingly is that the course length can often be shorter at a college in Australia than at a university. This is true at Macleay College, since they use trimesters rather than semesters, meaning they have three terms each year rather than two. An extra break then, but the terms themselves will be a little more intense, eliminating a lot of the empty space that often plagues full university courses.

There are four topic areas that Macleay's courses cover: Advertising and Digital Media; Business and Marketing; Journalism; and Accounting.

The Advertising and Media courses teach students how to develop and manage creative campaigns across a range of job roles and mediums from print, to TV, radio, podcasting, online, digital and social media. The Digital Media courses train students to create content such as digital photos, online videos, digital marketing campaigns, social media projects, interactive websites and mobile apps for a range of digital and social media platforms.

Their Business and Marketing courses foster entrepreneurial thinking, with a focus on action and experiential learning. Interactive presentations, industry specific case studies, team work, individual assignments, entrepreneurship and small business-related projects stimulate innovative thinking and more effectively develop your potential.

This sets Macleay apart from other courses and allows students to apply their skills in a range of contexts prior to completing the course. Theory is brought to life through work on practical business projects, in addition to work placements in industry.

The media industry demands well trained, digitally savvy journalists that can adapt their skills in an ever-changing landscape. Macleay College’s courses overlay digital reporting skills across the key disciplines of investigative journalism, international journalism, television reporting, audio journalism and photojournalism. Students become working journalists from the first day they step into Macleay. They work on real stories in a real newsroom across all media platforms. Journalism students are taught by industry experts that are up to date with the latest trends and are well connected in the industry.

The business of accounting reaches into every aspect of the world’s economies. It’s the oil that keeps the wheels of business turning. This means the opportunities available to you are almost endless. You might be interested in exploring the world’s best tourist destinations by working for a travel company. You might be interested in the new cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and the impact digital currencies are having. Maybe you’re hoping to look after the books for a fashion design duo which grows into a fashion empire. Or maybe you’d love to be part of the team that launches a bestselling app. Career opportunities in accounting are limited only by your imagination.

Everyone learns in different ways. If you enjoy learning in a more practical hands-on way, you could study Macleay College’s Diploma. Graduating with a Diploma gives you an industry entry-level qualification and just as importantly, it gives you a pathway into a Degree. Graduating with a one-year Diploma means you’re halfway towards a Degree.

Size: Bigger Doesn't Always Mean Better?

The most obvious difference between colleges and universities is the size, both in terms of the physical space and the number of students in attendance. The bigger Australian universities can have anywhere from 30,000 to 50,000 students (give or take). Colleges by comparison are significantly smaller with numbers generally sitting below 1,000.

Colleges have a far more intimate learning environment then, making contact time with your lecturers far more available (the more time spent with tutors and professors make the chances of a successful degree far greater). At Macleay, class sizes are capped at 25, whereas larger universities can sometimes have classes of hundreds of students.

This also means it's a bit easier to make friends and it can be less intimidating generally, especially when it comes to speaking with lecturers and for any other help you may need. All lecturers will know their students on a first name basis and can spend time offering support to each individual student based on their needs.

It’s no surprise then, that in a recent QILT survey, Macleay ranked far higher in terms of student experience, engagement and support than many of Australia’s oldest and best-known universities, like the University of Sydney and the University of New South Wales.

Teaching Styles

Another key difference between universities and colleges is the style of teaching.

Larger universities will often put the onus of work on the student, which is not a bad thing, as it can encourage independent learning. But there can often be a steep learning curve for some students, especially coming from high school, where students are simply given their work and are watched and supported throughout most of the process. At university, having to create a work schedule for yourself (and sticking to it) while also getting used to your new environment and friends, perhaps even learning a new language, can be extremely challenging.

Macleay College prides itself on hiring industry expert teachers that develop innovative courses, focus on project-based learning with real-world experience and a positive education.

Since colleges are smaller, this can mean that classes are more akin to those found in high schools, while still maintaining a lot of the independence required for success at a larger university. To use Macleay as an example once again, the teaching style is very hands on. The programs are built around assessments, projects, real world briefs and group work, which mirror the projects one would be given in the workplace, which can come in far more use than the less practical teaching style offered at university.

Some examples might be working on a social media campaign where you are expected to supply your own photography; to create the concept and film your own TV commercial; to start your own business; or to write an investigative news piece.

At Macleay, you will also work with real clients, from start-up businesses to huge corporations. In the past year, Macleay students have worked on campaigns for RUOK, The Australian Institute of Fitness and the Sydney Symphony Orchestra.

Again, whereas universities will often leave students mostly to their own devices, Macleay makes a greater effort to drive their students towards success.

Internships aren’t always compulsory at universities, but at many colleges they are. Every student at Macleay College undertakes an internship as part of their course. With many entry-level roles requiring some level of experience, an internship will set you apart from other applicants.

They also work on live industry briefs and meet leaders in their industry, all allowing them to develop current industry skills. The outcome of this is evident in the QILT results - Macleay College received 91.1% for skills development, whilst the national average was 81%.

And none of this is at the cost of teaching quality either. For 2017, Macleay College was well above the national average for overall quality of educational experience. Macleay College received 90.5%, well above the national average of 80.9% for teaching quality.

Finding the Right College for You

There is a tendency, when students are applying for international courses, to disregard colleges and instead focus solely on universities. We hope that this article has allowed you to see colleges differently and how they can be of far more use to you than a stay at a university.

If though, you are still struggling to decide on the right course for you (or are ready to apply) Macleay College's career advisors are always available to speak with you about your options. Click here to make an appointment.