The term "university college" is used in a number of countries to denote college institutions that provide tertiary education but do not have full or independent university status. A university college is often part of a larger university. The precise usage varies from country to country.
In Australia, the term University College was used to refer to educational institutions that were like universities, but lacked full autonomy. The Latrobe University College of Northern Victoria was one such college. University colleges existing today generally cater for specific subjects (such as Theology, or the Arts). UNSW@ADFA was previously known as the University College, ADFA, and it provides the tertiary education component of officer cadet training at the Australian Defence Force Academy . It is a branch of the University of New South Wales.
Additionally, some residential colleges associated with universities are named "University College". These halls of residence are common in Australian universities and primarily provide accommodation to students. They may also provide academic support (such as tutorials) and social activities for residents. University College, Melbourne, formerly University Women's College, is one such residential college. It is affiliated with the University of Melbourne.
In Canada, "University College" has three meanings: a degree-granting institution; an institution that offers university-level coursework; or a university college of a university, such as the University of Toronto and Laurentian University.
"University College" can refer to institutions that offer both college diplomas and undergraduate degrees.
The title "University College" is extensively used by institutions that do not have full university status, but which do extensive teaching at degree level. The title "university" is protected by federal law in Canada, but the title "college" is only regulated in some Canadian provinces. Some Canadian university colleges are public institutions, some are private; some are regulated by government agencies, others are not. Information about the status of particular institutions can be found at the CICIC web site listed below. Institutions that are members of the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada (AUCC) can be generally be accepted as providing university-level programs.
"University College" is also the name of a Canadian educational institution. University College is the name of a constituent college of the University of Toronto. The Ontario College of Art & Design University is also a university college.
In the United Kingdom, the term university college is used to denote an institution that teaches degree programmes normally within a specialist field, and may carry out research but is normally teaching-focused. Any institution may describe itself as a university college, but the use of the term "university" in a title requires government approval. To use the term in their titles, institutions must have degree-awarding powers, though some still choose to have their degrees awarded by other institutions. Many university colleges became universities in September 2005, with others seeking to gain the status within the following years. The UK's first private proprietary University College is BPP University College of Professional Studies, which is now known as BPP University.
Many well established British universities started out as university colleges, teaching external degrees of the University of London. Examples include the University of Nottingham (which was University College Nottingham when D. H. Lawrence attended), the University of Southampton which was a part of the University of London until 1952, and the University of Exeter, which until 1955 was the University College of the South West of England; Keele University was founded in 1949 as the University College of North Staffordshire until it was granted its royal charter in 1962 and transformed into a University. This was the recognised route for establishing new universities in the United Kingdom during the first half of the 20th century.
A related, but slightly different, use of the term existed in the federal University of Wales; some of its constituent colleges took titles such as "University College Aberystwyth". These colleges were to all intents and purposes independent universities (the University of Wales' powers being largely restricted to the formal awarding of degrees). In 1996, the University of Wales was reorganised to admit two former higher education institutions and the older members became "Constituent Institutions" rather than colleges, being renamed along the lines of University of Wales, Aberystwyth.
There are several specific British institutions named "University College", including, but not limited to:
- University College, Oxford is one of the constituent colleges of the University of Oxford; founded in 1249, it claims to be the oldest Oxbridge college.
- University College London is the oldest of the constituent colleges of the federal University of London, and one of the largest institutions of higher education in the United Kingdom. Like the colleges within the University of Wales, it is to many intents and purposes an independent university but, in contrast, has made no moves towards altering its name, and shares substantial academic and support resources with other colleges of the University.
- University College, Durham is one of the constituent colleges of the University of Durham; founded in 1832, it is the foundation Durham college.
- Wolfson College, Cambridge was named University College from its foundation in 1965 until its endowment by the Wolfson Foundation in 1972.
The National University of Ireland and Queen's University Belfast were based on the UK university college system, and were both set up in 1908 before the establishment of the Republic of Ireland and having roots in the earlier Queen's University of Ireland which was also a university college-type system. The university colleges of the National University have since been raised to the status of universities—as they were considered for many years before statute recognition—but the system still maintains its overall federal status. Queen's University Belfast initially had no university colleges and the first university college was created in 1985 (St Mary's) and second in 1999 (Stranmillis), these two institutions previously were associated with the university, offering its degrees since 1968.
The term "University College" in Malaysia denotes institutions that are granted the authority to issue degrees in their own names within specialised fields and disciplines. In contrast, an institution granted the status of "University" provides courses of training in multiple disciplines. The empowering legislations governing the establishment and governance of university colleges in Malaysia include the University and University Colleges Act 1971, Universiti Teknologi MARA Act 1976, the Education Act 1995, and the Private Higher Education Act 1996, the National Council of Higher Education Act 1996.
In the Netherlands, the term "university college" refers to special programmes at several universities which are similar to United States liberal arts colleges in providing a broad tertiary education; students at Dutch universities normally study one subject only. The first university college to be founded was University College Utrecht at the University of Utrecht (1998); since then, several others have followed. University Colleges are different from what is called a "Hogeschool." While University Colleges provide a broad liberal arts, often interdisciplinary education, similar to American small liberal arts colleges, a hogeschool is higher education context that focuses on vocational or applied training.
Nearly all New Zealand universities were originally described as "University Colleges", and were constituent parts of a Federal body, the University of New Zealand. All of these are now fully independent; for example, the former Canterbury University College is now the University of Canterbury.
There is a specific university hall of residence named "University College" at the Otago University.
Sweden, Norway and Denmark
A classical university with several colleges is called yliopisto in Finnish. However, some specialized universities are called korkeakoulu, because unlike classical universities, they focus only on one discipline, even though they have the same status as an yliopisto; for example, Teatterikorkeakoulu, a theatre school, can be considered a single "theater college".
The vocational universities, however, are called ammattikorkeakoulu. The potential for confusion has led some korkeakoulus to change their name to yliopisto, abandoning the distinction between the terms yliopisto and korkeakoulu. Additionally three Greater Helsinki-based korkeakoulus, Helsinki University of Technology, University of Art and Design Helsinki and Helsinki School of Economics, have opted to merge to form the Aalto University, Aalto-yliopisto.
Universities such as Washington University in Saint Louis, Arizona State University, Rutgers University, the University of Denver, the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, the University of Maine, Syracuse University, Texas Tech University, and the University of Toledo use "University College" for the name of the division dedicated to continuing education and the needs of the non-traditional student. The University of Maryland University College is a separate institution dedicated to non-traditional education.
The University of Rhode Island and the University of Oklahoma (University college homepage) enroll all of their new students into their programs under the name of "University College", which does not grant degrees, but instead provides orientation, academic advising, and support for honors students, probationary students, student athletes, and/or students undecided in their choice of academic major. Appalachian State University uses University College to refer to the general education and first-year seminar programs. 
Many University College programs have come under fire for their lack of academic rigor compared to their parent university.
- Coughlan, Sean. "Private college challenged over 'university' label", BBC News, June 7, 2011.
- "Malaysia Higher Education System". Southeast Asian Ministers of Education Organisation - Regional Institute of Higher Education and Development. Retrieved 2010-11-30.