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5 Types of Higher Education Institutions That One Can Enroll in

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There are different types of higher education institutions available for students to choose from according to their requirements, accessibility and financial capability.

What are higher education institutions?

The International Encyclopedia of Education defines Higher Education Institutions (HEI) as a system that supports economic growth and poverty reduction by equipping students with skills and knowledge. 

HEIs train and produce graduates to be qualified to be part of the labor force “including high-level scientists, professionals, technicians, teachers in basic and secondary education, and future government, civil service, and business leaders.” 

Key Points at a Glance


  • Higher Education Institutions support economic growth and development by equipping students with knowledge and skills that will help them succeed in their career to be part of the larger economy. 
  • Higher Education Institutions can help shape the world by creating future leaders.
  • There are multiple types of higher education institutions that are suitable for every need and budget.

What are the 5 types of higher education institutions?

1. Universities – This type of HEI has multiple colleges with different specializations. It is a degree-granting institution for bachelors, masters and postgraduate degrees. The programs that are offered in universities range from liberal arts to engineering.

According to the United Nations, universities play a big role in not just contributing to individual success of students but they also act as “drivers of global economic growth.”

2. Colleges – These are HEIs that offer bachelors and some masters degrees. Most colleges focus on liberal arts courses or science courses. 

3. Community Colleges – Sometimes referred to as “junior colleges”, these HEIs offer certificates or associate degrees to students. Community colleges prepare students for immediate work or for advancing their degree with a partner institution.

4. Vocational / Trade School / Institute of Technology – These kinds of HEIs  are similar to community colleges since these prepare students for immediate employment but these HEIs offer niche programs to students. An example of a Trade School are truck driving schools. 

5. Distance learning (online learning/ education technology or EdTech) – This is commonly conducted through partner HEIs or online through a standalone learning management system platform. 

Online delivery makes education accessible to people everywhere and is much affordable compared to travelling outside of a student’s home country. 

The value of online education delivery was highlighted during the pandemic. Physical distancing and mobility restrictions became a challenge for students. Higher education institutions offered an online platform to ensure that students can still continue their education.

The types of higher education are mindful of students needs

Types of higher education are mindful of students needs png

There are different reasons why students pursue higher education, some reasons are to fulfill a childhood dream or to improve their skills to gain employment. The availability of different types of higher education institutions makes it possible for students to fulfill their goals.

Higher education institutions adapt their curriculum to meet the changing needs of society. The program offerings of each higher education institution is also expected to grow to adapt to the current workforce needs. It is projected that the number of students enrolled in higher education institutions will reach 262 million by 2025. More changes in the curriculum such as new courses and disciplines may be expected as well. 


International Encyclopedia of Education (Third Edition). (2010, n.d. n.d.). Higher Education Institutions. ScienceDirect. https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/social-sciences/higher-education-institutions

Jelinek, V., & Fomerand, J. (n.d.). Higher Learning Institutions and Global Citizen Education. un.org. https://www.un.org/en/chronicle/article/higher-learning-institutions-and-global-citizen-education

Li, C., & Lalani, F. (2020, April 29). The COVID-19 pandemic has changed education forever. This is how. weforum.org. https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2020/04/coronavirus-education-global-covid19-online-digital-learning/


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