By Nigel Assam
A few years ago, Loyola College in Maryland rebranded itself as Loyola University Maryland. Not long after, the College of Notre Dame of Maryland became Notre Dame of Maryland University.
These decisions illustrate a trend in higher education as institutions seek to raise awareness of their brands in an effort to attract potential students to increase enrollment. But what’s in a name? Is there a significant difference between college and university? What does the designation communicate to their targeted audiences?
A college is usually a small, liberal arts institution offering undergraduate degrees. It is also a place one attends for training in a specific profession or trade, or learning in a technical subject. In other countries, a college may be a secondary-level institution educating students, aged 13-18, such as England’s Eton College, after which, students would go on to attend university.
A university is an institution of higher learning with a larger and more diverse educational offering, also granting graduate degrees in many fields of study, and is a place where rigorous research is done. Historically, university is an umbrella term describing a collection of colleges that make up a university, e.g. Balliol College and Magdalen College are two colleges in University of Oxford.
In the U.S., there are a number of schools that make up Harvard University. One of these schools is Harvard College. High school students applying to Harvard do not apply to Harvard University, but to Harvard College.
Institutions that rebrand themselves as universities do so to gain prestige and awareness in the highly competitive education market. Faced with challenges from other local colleges, as well as regional and national schools, college administrators see in the designation university the possibility for more recognition, prestige and difference.
Loyola’s decision to rebrand itself as a university reflects the breadth of offerings and the school’s growth: a College of Arts & Sciences, the Sellinger School of Business and Management, the School of Education, a clinical and two graduate centers as well.
Notre Dame University of Maryland’s rebranding reflects the growth of the school, with its graduate and professional offerings. Typically, it was seen by many to be only a small women’s college.
Nigel Assam is a Baltimore based Marketing Specialist