Difference Between Institute and University

Edited by Diffzy | Updated on: April 30, 2023


Difference Between Institute and University

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Knowledge is of utmost importance. Francis Bacon, a famous science philosopher said in Latin, ‘scientifica potential est’. It translates to ‘knowledge is power’ in English. He said it to mean that having education or knowledge and sharing it with those around you, you empower your influence and reputation. When this occurs, your accomplishments soar giving you power. Thus, knowledge begets power. It is not untrue. Proven multiple times over, knowledge does influence power. Great revolutionists and philosophers like Mahatma Gandhi, Buddha, Mother Theresa, Nelson Mandela and many more did not boast of physical strength. They had knowledge and ideals that inspired people. They had the power to move millions both mentally and physically. People were ready to sacrifice everything for them.

Like these inspirational leaders, there were also the dangerous ones that were known for their knowledge. They did not achieve any physical feats either but they harnessed their knowledge for the less honourable purposes. Some examples that come to mind are Adolf Hitler, Charles Manson, and Niccolo Machiavelli. They shaped the history of mankind with their evil genius. Knowledge comes with power and it truly lies in the hands of the beholder to decide its fate. Thankfully, educational establishments today are better equipped to provide guidance and instil empathy in eager students. Granted, the upbringing and genetic makeup play an important role in the overall development of an individual, there is no denying the significance of formal education.

Institute vs. University

If you’ve already achieved a degree, you have probably been a part of an education system. And if you haven’t, you have most likely heard of the education system and words like institutes and universities while making enquiries about the same. You most definitely have been asked about your level of education with the nosy investigators questioning your educational background with questions like – ‘So which university did you attend?’ or ‘Did your institute have a Master’s course?’ Regardless of whether the investigators knew of the difference between the two terms, the terms are different from one another. A university is a stand-alone educational establishment focused on research while an institute is an establishment with a particular purpose. Let us see the differences between the two terms.

Differences Between Institute and University in a Tabular Form

Definition It is an organization formed with a specific focus or a particular type of work. It is an institution of higher education that is mostly research-centric. It awards degrees of merit in several disciplines.
Autonomy An institute is semi-autonomous. A university is completely autonomous.
Courses offered An institute offers degrees that are more industry-centric. They are mostly certifications and diplomas. The courses offered in a university are research-centric. They are mostly undergraduate and postgraduate courses.
Level of Specialization There is a higher level of specialization since the institute is focused on one area. The level of specialization is limited to the graduate course offered.
Governing body In an institute, the governing body is a Board of Directors. In a university, the governing body is the University Council.
Funding An institute usually does not receive a lot of funding. Most of the finances are generated from the tuition fee. A university receives massive funding from the government because of the complexities of research.
Population There are lesser students in an institute since the degrees offered are limited. There are more students in a university since the options of degrees are more.
Instructors’ Qualification In an institute, to supervise and instruct at an institute, a Master’s level of education is sufficient. In a university, the qualification level for the instructors is higher.

What is an Institute?

An institute is an educational centre. In the 1500s, the word, ‘institute’ is derived from the Latin word – ‘institutum’ which means ‘something designed, percept, an ordinance or a purpose’. Most often, an institute is created by the government of the people of the community with a specific goal or skill in mind. Thus, it is oriented towards the industry. It is a highly specialized institute and concentrates on specific skills like fashion or technology and science.

Institutes typically offer certificate-level courses or specializations with diplomas. Since they are more industry-oriented, they focus on imparting practical or applied knowledge. They offer exclusive skills or knowledge that provide the learner with abilities to perform a task with precision. Specialization is the distinguishing factor for an institute. An institute differentiates and specializes in a particular area which is why most names of institutes include that area of specialization. This is also the reason why the level of specialization is higher for institutes.

Although institutes can be large, they do not have complete control over their functions since it is most often formed by the government or a community. Thus, they are semi-autonomous and have to answer to a Board of Directors. However, some large institutes cater to vocational activities and do exercise considerable autonomy.

Institutes receive funding for their activities from the government but this is most often not large funding. Since the focus of education is very specific and does not require intricate machinery, the funding provided by the government is minimal. The money for the activities is mostly generated from the students' tuition fees that enrol in the institute.

The campus of an institute can be large and have large buildings depending on its reputation but they do not have many buildings. They do not require as many facilities as they have a smaller group of students. In addition, they build practical rooms rather than lecture halls so that the students can practice their skills more effectively.

What is a University?

A university, like an institute, is also an establishment of education. But unlike an institute, it is not focused on one particular skill. The word university has its origin in the 1300s, in the Anglo-French – université – which means an institution of higher learning. A university is at the highest level and provides tertiary education to students. The specialization offered is in many fields. It is an institution of higher education and has the authority to award degrees in various areas of study like science or art.

The modern university evolved from medieval schools that were tasked with the education of monks and clerks. These schools were known as ‘Studia Generalia’ and they welcomed students from all over Europe. The inclusion of foreign teachers elevated the status of such schools to the level of a university. The earliest university in records is the medical school in Italy that drew a lot of students from Europe but it remained a medical school. In northern Europe, the University of Paris was founded between 1150 and 1170. It inspired the foundation of the famous University of Oxford in the 12th century.

Presently, modern universities offer a plethora of undergraduate and postgraduate courses in various disciplines. Since they offer many courses in many disciplines, they do not specialize in a single one. Rather, they have under them campuses or departments that specialize in specific courses. For example, the University of Harvard has the Harvard Business School that specializes in business.

Universities are huge learning centres that wield a fair amount of political clout. They come under the category of government parastatals, in which they could or could not be attached to the government but they provide them with their services. Thus, they exercise complete autonomy. They are self-governed and enjoy the liberty of making decisions. Their board of management is the legally construed University Council.

Universities receive a large amount of funding from the government because of the in-bred research-centric ideals. They also require large funds to carry out the complex research and also to source funds for the students enrolled in their university. They also have other massive charges for running the university profitably.

The universities typically have a large campus incorporating many large buildings for their administrative staff as well as the students. There are lecture halls, hostels, recreational facilities, auditoriums, laboratories and many other structures. The reason for so many facilities is because they house a large number of staff and students. At a particular time, some universities can have up to 30,000 students.

The staff at a university is required to be highly qualified. Since there are many disciplines the lecturer or professor preferred must demonstrate their knowledge to be of the highest calibre. For this reason, the most preferred candidates are those who have a doctorate or those who are professors.

Main Differences Between Institute and University in Points

Following are the main differences between an institute and a university:

  1. An institute has a particular purpose or focus. A university, on the other hand, is oriented toward research.
  2. The word institute is derived from the Latin, ‘institutum’ which means ‘a purpose or an ordinance’. The word university is derived from the Anglo-French, ‘université’ which means ‘a place for higher learning’.
  3. An institute is a semi-autonomous body while a university is a completely autonomous body.
  4. The governing body in an institute is a Board of Directors. In a university, the governing body is the University Council.
  5. An institute does not receive a lot of funding. The money mostly comes from the students’ tuition fees. The university receives a lot of funding from the government since the process of research is very complex.
  6. An institute has lesser students since the courses offered are mostly limited to a particular discipline. In a university, there are many more students since there are many more courses and degrees offered.
  7. The courses offered in an institute are mostly certifications and diplomas while in a university, the courses offered are undergraduate and postgraduate courses.
  8. The level of specialization in an institute is higher since the courses offered are focused on a particular area of interest or subject. In a university, the level of specialization is limited to the graduate course offered.
  9. In an institute, the qualification of the instructor can be of the Master’s level whereas in a university the qualification of the instructor is preferred to be at the doctorate level.
  10. Historically, universities arrived before institutes.


An institute and a university are, thus, both places of learning. They are both considered the same while making conversation but they mean different things. An institute is an institution that is created with a particular skill in mind like fashion or technology. It is often formed by the government or the community and maintains a semi-autonomous status. The governing body is usually the government. The courses offered are certifications and diplomas but the specialization is at the highest level since the courses are highly focused on a particular discipline. That is also the reason there are lesser students when compared to a university. Institutes are funded by the government but most of the finances are from the tuition fees of the enrolled students.

On the other hand, a university is called an institution of higher learning. The prime goal of a university is research. It is affiliated to the government as a parastatal so it maintains its autonomy which means it is a self-governed body. There is an approved University Council that makes the decisions. The courses offered at a university are at the undergraduate and postgraduate levels and thus, the specializations are limited to that level. However, the lecturers and other educators are preferred to have a status of a doctor or a professor. Since there are many courses offered, universities see a larger number of students and staff compared to those at an institute. They also receive massive funding from the government that keeps the research ongoing and the university's smooth running.

Be it at an institute or a university, one gains supreme knowledge simply by investing in the lessons taught. It is imperative to make decisions regarding education with interests in mind so that the occupation one further pursues encompasses those interests. That truly helps find satisfaction and success in life. You see, even those evil geniuses were geniuses because they loved what they did. But that doesn’t mean you start a fire because you love firecrackers. Just study at an institute or a university. And the next time some nosy investigator wishes to know about your educational history, before pleading the fifth and rushing off to the nearest relative you can see, explain to the person the difference between the two terms. They will be certain to be amazed by your knowledge of the facts. Knowledge, after all, is power.


  1. https://www.collinsdictionary.com/dictionary/english/institute
  2. https://www.britannica.com/topic/university
  3. https://www.etymonline.com/word/institute
  4. https://www.etymonline.com/word/university


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"Difference Between Institute and University." Diffzy.com, 2024. Thu. 22 Feb. 2024. <https://www.diffzy.com/article/difference-between-institute-and-university-226>.

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