A college (Latin: collegium) is an educational institution or a constituent part of an educational institution. Usage varies in English-speaking nations. A college may be a degree-awarding tertiary educational institution, an institution within a federal university, an institution offering vocational education, or a secondary school.
In the United States, "College" and "University" are loosely interchangeable, whereas in the United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia, Canada and other Commonwealth countries, "College" may refer to a high school, a training institution that bestows trade qualifications, or a constituent school within a university.
Some secondary schools, both state (e.g. Ivybridge Community College) and independent (e.g. Eton College or Hurstpierpoint College), use "college" as part of their name. Some secondary schools in Cambridgeshire are called village colleges and aim to be centres for the community as well as for their students. In addition, although many state and most independent schools have sixth forms, some students study for A Levels at separate sixth form colleges.
A further education college (FE college) is an institution between secondary school and university. It usually offers a wide range of vocational courses and adult education. Most students are aged from 16 into adulthood, but some 14-16 year olds are sent from their schools on a part-time basis for vocational study that the schools are not equipped to deliver. Many FE colleges offer A Levels, often in a sixth-form centre. Some colleges have higher education provision, normally accredited by a university in the region.
In relation to universities, the term college normally refers to a part of the university which does not have degree-awarding powers in itself. Degrees are always awarded by universities whereas colleges are institutions or organizations which prepare students for the degree. Most universities do not have colleges; those that do are referred to as collegiate universities.
In the University of Oxford, University of Cambridge, University of London and University of the Arts London (and formerly in the University of Wales), colleges prepare students for the degree of the university of which the college is a part (although the colleges of London are now de facto universities in their own right). In the other collegiate universities, including the University of Lancaster, University of York, University of Kent, University of St Andrews and University of Durham, the colleges only provide accommodation and pastoral care.
A college may also be an independent institution which prepares students to sit as external candidates at other universities or has the authority to run courses that lead to the degrees of those universities. A university college is now an independent higher education institution that has the power to award degrees, but does not have university status, although it is usually working towards it. The term used to refer to colleges set up by universities in other towns, all of which have now been chartered as universities in their own right (e.g. the University of Newcastle, which was originally a university college of the University of Durham).
"College" may also be a name given to large groupings of faculties or departments, notably in the University of Edinburgh, and after recent restructuring, the University of Birmingham and the University of Leicester.