The Different Objectives of University and College Education

Almost one third of North Americans have acquired university degrees, and many more have some other kind of college qualification. This is within the range of normal expectation, and it compares favorably with the statistics of other nations in the western world.

The question often arises, however, especially among high school students and their career advisors, whether a university degree program provides a better level of training and qualification than a regular, practicum-based college course. The fact that the question is asked suggests that there is some confusion about the objectives of post-secondary education in general. Specifically, however, there tends to be a great deal of confusion concerning the aims and objectives of a university education.

Concepts of education have changed greatly over the past century. The ability to read, write, and make basic arithmetical calculations at one time constituted a good basic education. Then a grade 8 level of learning was thought to be a great achievement, and finally, the completion of a high school program was the ultimate proof of academic success. Until relatively recently, very few people were inclined to pursue academic achievement at the university level. Professionals such as physicians, lawyers, and professors, of course, were required to complete such programs, but for most people, university was unnecessary.

Job training, on the other hand, has always been a necessity, especially for trades such as carpentry and building where a high level of special skills was required. In modern times, skill training has become an absolute necessity for most occupations, and technical schools and community colleges have responded to the need by offering specific skill-training programs. Those interested in career-type jobs now need to complete a training program that will equip them with the knowledge and skills required to do the job effectively and efficiently. Graduates of such college programs can begin their new jobs, confident that they have been well trained.

The confusion between college programs and university programs lies in a misunderstanding of the objectives of each. Whereas college programs are designed to train students for specific jobs, university courses exist to provide the opportunity for students to continue the academic learning process with a view to future training in specific professions.

It is a question of how much academic background is required in order to be trained. Some professions, such as teaching, require a wide academic base before beginning the process of training. Others, like doctors, need a wide academic base in certain areas such as mathematics, chemistry, and physics. When the academic base is complete through a university program, graduates are then in a strong position to pursue the specific training that their profession requires.

Most trades and occupations, including technical jobs, do not require advanced academic achievement at the university level, and all the knowledge and skills required by the occupation can be acquired during the specific job training itself. High school students who are wondering whether to enroll in university or college need to ask themselves what they wish to achieve.

If a high school level of academic achievement is sufficient for them to begin job training in a college course, then their course of action should begin there. If, on the other hand, they are looking to the professions where high academic achievement is a pre-requisite for training, then they will need to enroll in an appropriate university course. Either way, our educational facilities in North America are designed to meet the needs of all ambitious students, regardless of their career choices.

Information is for educational and informational purposes only and is not be interpreted as financial or legal advice. This does not represent a recommendation to buy, sell, or hold any security. Please consult your financial advisor.