Types of Higher Education Institutions – A Detailed List

In many countries, the school system leaves room to choose to either further your education or not. While some people choose to go into the workforce immediately, others think otherwise. Either way, the option is yours, whichever way you want it. But, for those thinking of advancing their education, make a tough decision. This is because there are a lot of options when it comes to institutions. Now, we are going to look into the different types of Higher Education Institutions. 

Types of Higher Education Institutions

If you are thinking about going further, then a higher institution is a great place to start. First, you have to know the different types of higher education institutions. This should be your first step towards making a good choice. Then you can think of other things like your preferred course of study, finances, or proximity. This article wants to make your work easier and also enlighten you. This is why we have curated a list of all the different types of higher institutions. Dig in.


This seems to be the most popular and sought-after choice type of higher institution. Universities date back to the 11th century when the curriculum consisted of two fields. These are religion and philosophy. Today, universities have the broadest range of courses compared to other higher institutions. These courses range from medical science to every form of art possible or pure sciences. Universities offer more than undergraduate courses.

Apart from the popular B.A, B.Ed. and B.Sc., recognized universities also offer Masters and Ph.D. programs. They also have tailor-made programs like sandwich programs for part-time students. A university degree requires at least four years. Professional courses like Law and Medicine need a year of law school or internship. Some courses’ workload also includes a compulsory internship or industrial training. There are public universities and private ones. 

Public-owned institutions managed and run by the government include federal, state, and community colleges. These universities are pretty inexpensive for indigenes and non-indigenes. Furthermore, for international students, the tuition fees are generally higher but affordable. It doesn’t matter who is applying, these universities are affordable since it’s Government-owned.

Breakdown of different University Type

Private universities, with all their perks, do not come cheap at all. Private institutions are not funded by governments but by private individuals. Next, these individuals could be a group of people or religious heads. These universities are well known for quality education and access to advanced resources. Finally, their investment is to ensure their students get the best and they earn profits.

There are universities renowned for their history, culture, and a field they excel in. For instance, we have eight Ivy League universities in the United States. They include Brown, Columbia, Cornell, Dartmouth, Harvard, Pennsylvania, Princeton, and Yale. These universities are famous for their top-quality education and standards. Plus, they receive thousands of applications each year, and few get in due to strict standards. These universities have faculties or colleges which have several departments under them. A vice-chancellor and various other officials sit on a university school board. Most universities offer accommodation to their students in the form of hostels with facilities.

The university also houses small businesses, churches, and mosques or a hospital. Gaining admission into a university is no easy feat. You need at least five credits from a secondary school, leaving examinations like the SATs. You also need to reach all requirements of the university you applied to. Applications to a university in a foreign country requires a good score in an exam like TOEFL. Universities also have provisions for scholarships, although there are requirements to gain one. The government also offers these scholarships to students with exceptional skills. Getting a good degree from a recognized university opens up a lot of opportunities for you in the future. Universities award degrees based on how well you ace your courses. The higher your CGPA, the better your class of degree.


According to Wikipedia, polytechnics refer to higher schools or colleges, but not a university. These institutions qualify as an institute of technology or vocational university. Like universities, some polytechnics trace their history back to centuries earlier. The first mention of polytechnics is in the early 19th century. The first British institution to use the name “polytechnic” was the Royal Cornwall Polytechnic Society in 1832. which it still retains, together with the affectionate nickname “The Poly.”

Polytechnics offer a vast number of courses, but not as wide as the university. They do not offer courses like Medicine and Surgery, Pharmacy, or Law. Also, polytechnics do not give degree certificates or have provisions for a Masters’s degree. Polytechnics offer a National Diploma (ND) and a Higher National Diploma (HND).

In some countries, a polytechnic affiliated with a university can award degree certificates. But, the certificate will bear the university’s name, which is fair, by the way. A National Diploma can take at least two years. This is also the same duration for an HND. Some organizations even offer jobs to ND holders. There are so many differences between a polytechnic and a university. Despite these differences, certificates acquired from both institutions are legit. In fact, in some organizations, they are even considered equal in some places. 

Other Higher Education Colleges

 There are other recognized institutions of higher learning that award certificates or degrees. These institutions are neither universities nor polytechnics. They include Schools of Health and Nursing Schools and colleges of education. Colleges of education are institutions where school teachers get training. 

These institutions provide humanities, social sciences, and sometimes sciences courses. But, they are well known to have strict admission standards. As a result, these institutions have smaller classes with fewer students. Very important is the fact that their primary focus is individual attention. 

Although these types of higher education institutions specialize in training would-be teachers, yet it offers more. People who do not wish to teach get certified when they finish a two-year course from this institution. But, getting a certificate from a college of education shows you are a trained teacher. As we all know, the teaching profession is a significant and sensitive one. These institutions offer in-depth training and courses to equip you with valuable skills. With this certificate, you can apply for a job or even choose to further your studies. There are also community colleges that offer short professional courses. These institutions provide higher education and grant certificates, diplomas, and associate degrees. 

Vocational Schools

 A vocational school is a school that provides training in specific skills. It is also called a trade school. Technical Institutions are those that offer engineering, science, and research programs only. First, they provide specialized training in a specific career field for their students. Also, their courses include electronics, computer technology, business administration, medical assisting, etc.

They also have legal assisting, automotive technology, culinary art, cosmetology. Graduate-level students with a solid foundation in science courses can attend these institutions. But, there are still some technical courses one can learn. These include fashion and culinary schools, photography schools, and other vocational skills. One can learn any of these and get a certificate as well. Vocational schools like a dance or music school can also help sharpen one’s talent.

Is Any Type of Higher Education Institution Better than the Other?

A majority of people favor a university degree over other degrees. Well, the student population is higher in a university than in other institutions. That brings the much-asked question, Is my non-university degree legit? Can it compete out there with a university degree? Or the age-old one, Am I doomed without a university degree? While a degree could get you a job, you need soft and hard skills to keep a job. This is what employers lookout for these days other than paper qualifications. So, irrespective of which institution you get your degree from, it is legitimate. You can use the certificate to apply for a job or apply for some other position. Universities, though, are the best choice for professional courses. 

Things to Put into Consideration When Choosing a Higher Education Institution

Your Course of Study

This is the first thing you should bear in mind. For instance, Universities that have different niches; applied sciences, arts, or medical courses. Some universities usually have a particular faculty famous for being the best. Now, if you have any interest in the courses offered, you can decide to study there. You can find a course of interest in a university far from you; you can choose to study there or go for an alternative. 

Your Interest

Ensure that the choice of courses available to you is what you like and relates to your career. Most students have a hard time choosing schools that give them the result they want. So, in the end, they end up changing from a polytechnic to a university. If you have an interest in teaching, doing a course in a college of education is much more straightforward.


Not everyone can afford private schools, especially when you are not on a scholarship. Choose well, so you do not end up paying a huge amount of student debts when you are about to graduate. Most public universities offer good education, and they may come cheaper too.

Legitimacy and Recognizability

Make sure the school you choose has accredited courses and offers legitimate certificates. You do not want to attend a fake school or mention the name of your school and have many people say, Is that a school? Do proper research. Talk to alumni, check out websites, and, if possible, take a physical tour of the campus. Ensure your school is one that the government approves. Also, be sure that you can get the same opportunity as students from other schools. So that this does not affect your future career goals.

Career Services

Does the institution have room for you to launch your career? If you attend, will it be easy to get an internship or a related job opportunity? Will you be able to engage in teaching practice or a fashion show to showcase your talents? Check out the graduate employment rate of the institution.


 You might want to put the duration of the programs offered into consideration. This is important, especially if you are looking towards doing a quick course or already working.

Your Aptitude and Academic Performance

 You know your strengths and your weaknesses and how well you did in most courses in high school. While thinking about your institutions, select one that goes with your strengths. Some institutions require a level of potential in some subjects to get admission. If you cannot do well in them, then you will struggle to get in or come out with a reasonable degree. In that case, it is better to seek admission to a school that works you feel you can work with. 

The Different Types of Higher Education Institutions – Final Thoughts

A higher education is precisely what it is: giving you an opportunity to further your education. But it does more than that. Attending a higher institution opens doors of opportunities for you. These days your certificates speak for and lead to better job opportunities. The best professional networks are those made with friends in higher institutions. Although they do not come cheap, plus the workload can take a toll on one’s mental and physical health. With the number of students in various higher institutions around the globe, it has become a norm.

So, the result is that a lot of people are going to graduate with the same degrees. So get in-demand skills, build a professional network and carve a niche for yourself. This will make you stand out from the crowd. Do proper research before you enroll in a school. The fact that you are reading this article shows that you are on the right path. Please familiarize yourself with the different types of higher education institutions and courses they offer. Then, you can choose the one that matches your interest and preferences. We are rooting for you as you start your journey of higher education!

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