What is the difference between a college and a university?

And why does Western have colleges as part of its university structure?

Very broadly, an institution that calls itself a college is generally smaller than a university, offers only undergraduate degrees, and has fewer fields of study than its larger cousins. To be called a university, an institution must have at least three graduate fields of study that are separate from its undergraduate programs; however, Western has more than 30 graduate programs for you to discover.
So how is Western a university with colleges? When they are within a university structure, colleges are used to house departments by area of study.
Western’s College of Science and Engineering, for example, encompasses departments such as Geology, Physics, Engineering, and Math; while College of Humanities and Social Sciences oversees departments such as English, Psychology, History, Political Science, and more.

Academic Programs, Institutes, and Centers

In addition to colleges, Western is home to a number of Academic Programs, Institutes, and Centers (APICs). APICs provide an opportunity for study in a cross-disciplinary or otherwise specialized programs, as well as for community outreach.

  • Border Policy Research Institute
  • Center for Canadian-American Studies
  • Entrepreneurship and Innovation Programs
  • East Asian Studies
  • Institute for Energy Studies
  • Institute for Global Engagement
  • Marine and Coastal Science
  • Morse Leadership Institute
  • Sustainability Institute
  • Ray Wolpow Institute
  • Salish Sea Institute
  • SEA Discovery Center

Learn more about APICs

College of Humanities and Social Sciences

The College of Humanities and Social Sciences is the largest at Western and contains many different departments: English, Psychology, Health & Human Development, and East Asian Studies are all within this college.

CHSS Website


Communication Sciences & Disorders
Communication Studies
East Asian Studies
Global Humanities and Religions
Health & Human Development
Modern & Classical Languages
Multidisciplinary Studies
Political Science
Student/Faculty Designed Majors
Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies

College of Science and Engineering

The College of Science and Engineering is perfect for STEM-interested students, as it offers everything from Biology to Computer Science to Physics & Astronomy. Don’t forget to check out the Advanced Materials Science & Engineering program!

CSE Website


Advanced Materials Science & Engineering
Computer Science
Engineering & Design
Physics & Astronomy
Science Mathematics & Technology

College of Business and Economics

In the College of Business and Economics, students develop people and analytical skills with an emphasis on sustainability. It includes popular majors like Accounting and Manufacturing Supply Chain Management. You can also get your MBA here.

CBE Website


Decision Sciences
Finance and Marketing
Executive Education

College Of Fine and Performing Arts

The College of Fine and Performing Arts promotes a lifelong relationship with the arts that enhances, challenges and inspires both the individual and the community. Whether you want to dance or design, you’ll learn how to be successful in this college.

CFPA Website


Art and Art History
Arts Enterprise and Cultural Innovation

Fairhaven College of Interdisciplinary Studies

The Fairhaven College of Interdisciplinary Studies believes that if you can design your own education, you can design your own life. It is committed to transformative, creative, inquiry-based learning that empowers students to pursue social, economic, and environmental justice. At Fairhaven, you can take an interdisciplinary major or design your own.

Fairhaven Website


American Cultural Studies
Audio Technology, Music, and Society
Education and Social Justice
Interdisciplinary Concentration
Interdisciplinary Concentration: Law, Diversity, and Justice
Law, Diversity & Justice
Upside Down Degree

College of the Environment

The College of the Environment is one of the oldest environmental colleges in the US. It offers both Environmental Sciences and Environmental Studies. Whether you’re interested in using hard sciences to protect our environment or learn how human and ecological systems can work together, the College of the Environment is the place for students who want to solve environmental problems.

College of the Environment Website


Environmental Sciences
Environmental Studies
Urban and Environmental Planning and Policy

Woodring College of Education

The Woodring College of Education is for those who are dedicated to education or community health. It offers the Human Services major and several majors and endorsements for future teachers, from Early Childhood Education onward.

Woodring Website


Elementary Education
Health and Community Studies
Secondary Education
Special Education & Education Leadership
Teacher Education Outreach Programs