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Public vs. Private University abroad: which is better?

It’s quite natural to be iffy over the credibility of public and private universities abroad because you are taking a big step forward.

| 02 Dec 2016 | 551 Views
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public or private universities abroad

You might think that a public or a state university might be helpful for your career, but a private university plays a prominent role too in delivering quality education.

Where should I study – 'a Public or  Private University?' 

Is this question haunting you?

You might think that a public or a state university might be helpful for your career, but a private university plays a prominent role too in delivering quality education.

According to the QS World University Rankings, the first five top institutions are private universities. 

First, what’s the definition of a public and a private university?

  1. Public University: A Public University or State University is funded by the government of a particular state.
  2. Private University: A Private University is not operated by the government but partially funded by private organisations.

The major differences between public and private universities:

1.       Funding:

As I said, public universities are government funded so there is a potential influx of money due to which the tuition costs are generally minimal, but that doesn’t mean all public universities are cheaper. Although there might be some inexpensive ones, don’t take any decision based only on the tuition cost of a public university.

2.       Cost:

The most striking difference between a public and a private university is the cost of studying. As mentioned above, public universities are less expensive than private ones - there is no doubt on that. Since private universities rely on endowments, donations and tuition fees so the tuition fees are naturally higher compared with the public ones.

Public University:

 Average yearly tuition cost: $20,000–$25,000 (for out-of-state students)

 Average yearly total cost: $35,000–$40,000 (Inclusive of food and stationery)

Private University:

Average yearly tuition cost: $30,000–$40,000 (can be > $50,000)

Average yearly total cost: $50,000–$70,000

An important point to remember here is even though the cost of studying at a private institution is a bit exorbitant, it offers some generous scholarships and other financial aid to students which might be equivalent to spending at a state university.

3.       Academics:

Some might think private colleges or universities have a better academic reputation than the public ones, but the fact is the quality of education varies for different universities and is based on several factors.

It's true that academic programmes are slightly extensive at private universities who emphasise learning out of the curriculum. At the same time there are public universities known for their well-etched academic programmes.

When you apply for your graduate studies abroad, a public or private university should not matter more than your own interest. You should see whether the university has enough exposure to offer you or not, and you should find out which one will suit your academic needs and interests. Another brilliant idea would be to search for the alumni profiles of the department you wish to study at to make yourself aware about the department or alumnus  your interests align with.

The number of majors available at public universities is slightly more than at private universities. This gives you an added advantage of choosing from a wide range of courses.

4.       Size:  

Private universities or colleges tend to be much smaller than public ones. Their student to teacher ratio is usually small and class sizes range from a few hundred to thousands.

Public universities or colleges are usually big with class sizes of nearly thousands of students. One example of a large public university is the Penn State University, which is home to nearly 40,000 undergraduates.

5.       Career opportunities:

Public universities are demographically diverse whereas private universities are more geographically diverse; the primary reason being public universities tend to attract more of in-state residents while private ones welcome people from all over the world, maintaining a homogeneous population in their campuses.  


Coming back to the question ‘public or private university: which is better?’ we are not trying to say one is better than the other. Even though public universities have an upper hand, there are some private universities which are at par and can’t equate to a few public ones.

It’s always better to check the credibility of each institution you wish you study at. Don’t think that a brand university will help you land up with a better job; it is based on your academic excellence plus good luck.

Facts credit: Gradtrain

Image credit: Times Higher Education.

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