College (Canada)

In Canadian English, the term college usually refers to a technical, applied arts, or applied science school. These are post-secondary institutions granting certificates, diplomas, associate's degree, and bachelor's degrees.


In English Canada, the term "college" is usually used to refer to technical schools that offer specialized professional or vocational education in specific employment fields. They include colleges of applied arts and technology, colleges of applied sciences, etc.

In Ontario and Alberta, and formerly in British Columbia, there are also institutions which are designated university colleges, as they only grant under-graduate degrees. This is to differentiate between universities, which have both under-graduate and graduate programs and those that do not. There is a distinction between "college" and "university" in Canada. In conversation, one specifically would say either "They are going to university" (i.e., studying for a three- or four-year degree at a university) or "They are going to college" (suggesting a technical or career college).


In Quebec, mostly with speakers of Quebec English, the term "college" is seldom used for post secondary education, instead the word "Cegep" (/ˈsɛp/ or /ˈsʒɛp/) has become part of the lexicon. Cegep is a loanword from the French acronym cégep (Collège d'enseignement général et professionnel), meaning "College of General and Vocational Education". A Cegep is a public college in the Quebec education system, a college diploma is required in order to continue onto university (unless one applies as a 'mature' student, meaning 21 years of age or over, and out of the educational system for at least 2 years), or to learn a trade.

Differences from American and British usage

In American English, (and in formal British English as well) the word college is especially used for what Canadians would call the undergraduate level of a university, but in popular use it refers to all post secondary studies. Canadians, on the other hand, use the word university for both undergraduate and graduate post-secondary studies.

Other Types of Colleges / Uses of the Word "College"

Art college

These are schools specializing in fine arts and design which have four-year undergraduate programs. Many are universities, meaning they also have the ability to grant postgraduate degrees; in Canada these include the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design University (NSCAD), Emily Carr University of Art and Design, and Ontario College of Art and Design University (OCAD). The Alberta College of Art and Design (ACAD) currently grants undergraduate degrees only, and thus does not have the status of university.

Military college

The Royal Military College of Canada, a full-fledged degree-granting university, does not follow the naming convention used by the rest of the country, nor does its sister school Royal Military College Saint-Jean or the now closed Royal Roads Military College.

Institution within a university

The term "college" also applies to distinct entities within a university (usually referred to as "federated colleges" or "affiliated colleges"),to the residential colleges in the United Kingdom. These colleges act independently, but in affiliation or federation with the university that actually grants the degrees. For example, Trinity College was once an independent institution, but later became federated with the University of Toronto, and is now one of its residential colleges. Occasionally, "college" refers to a subject specific faculty within a university that, while distinct, are neither federated nor affiliated—College of Education, College of Medicine, College of Dentistry, College of Biological Science,[1] among others.

Collegiate Institutes (high school)

In a number of Canadian cities, high schools are called "collegiate institutes" (C.I.), a complicated form of the word "college" which avoids the usual "post-secondary" connotation. The term "collegiate institute" first appeared in Ontario after the 1900s in the name of high schools because at the higher grades it was one of very few forms of education besides a "formal" university. Another reason is that going back in history secondary schools have traditionally focused on academic, rather than vocational subjects and ability levels, for example, collegiates offered Latin while vocational schools offered technical courses. In Ontario at one time schools that focused on vocational educational were "officially" called High school/ secondary school and went up to grade 12, while schools that went up to grade 13, and prepared students for University were called "Collegiate Institute"

Due to their early history when education streams were few or non-existent, some early schools (which were mostly private at the time) were composed of levels reaching and including university at times. In Ontario and Quebec these now private secondary schools, such as Upper Canada College) choose to still use the word "college" in their names.[2] Some secondary schools elsewhere in the country, particularly ones within the separate school system, may also use the word "college" or "collegiate" in their names.[3]


A small number of the oldest professional associations use "college" in the name in the British sense, such as the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada.

Private Colleges

The registration and accreditation of private career colleges are regulated by Private Career College Acts for each province. British Columbia, For example the Private Career Training Institutions Agency (PCTIA) is responsible for the registration and accreditation of private career college in British Columbia under the Private Career Training Institutions Act (SBC 2003, Chapter 79), Regulations (BC Reg.466/2004), an bylaws.[4]


  2. Private Elementary and Secondary Schools search form on the Ministry of Education of Ontario web site—enter "college" in the "name contains" field and check the "secondary" checkbox
  3. Find a School or School Board search form on the Ministry of Education of Ontario web site—click "Secondary" and "Separate"
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