What is a university?
A university is an institution of higher education that awards both undergraduate and graduate degrees and/or that includes multiple colleges and schools. A college (or school) focuses on similar academic areas.
Examples include the following:
- arts and sciences, such as the University of Cincinnati’s McMicken College of Arts and Sciences;
- law, such as Sturm College of Law;
- business, such as Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business.
Not all colleges have special names — some are just called things like “School of Engineering,” with a university name attached (for example, the University of Florida has schools or colleges for Agricultural and Life Sciences; Arts; Business; Dentistry; Design, Construction and Planning; Education; Engineering; Health and Human Performance; Journalism and Communications; Law; Liberal Arts and Sciences; Medicine; Nursing; Pharmacy; Public Health and Health Professions; and Veterinary Medicine — only a few have other names).
Each college has its own leadership, typically headed by a dean (who has associate and assistant deans). But the colleges are under the overall authority of the university.
Then, within each college or school there may be departments. Within arts/sciences schools there are departments like Biology, History, English, Political Science and more. In engineering schools you may see Mechanical Engineering, Computer Science, Chemical Engineering and more. The departments are typically led by a chair; departments are under the authority of the college or school.