This post has been update January 18th, 2021

Many students and stakeholders within academic communities across boards often use the terms programme of study and course interchangeably. While at the surface use, there seems to be no conflict in this interchange; the conflict however, becomes bogus when you want to refer to programme of study and a course at a go (same time). Then, it becomes difficult to use the one term ‘course’ to refer to a programme like Biological Science and a course like BLS 101. These two names (Biological Science and BLS 101) are not the same at all. While one is a Department and also at the same time a “programme of study”, the other is a course like subject in the secondary school level.

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To make it easier, it is better to use the term programme of study to refer to what we now often known as courses like Marketing, Medicine, Architecture, Electrical Engineering, Business Education, etc. If we refer to the above as programmes, it will then be easier to refer to GST 101, BLS 102, PHY 101, EDU 234, ACC 222, etc as courses.

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This paper was written in response to a challenge experienced during a previous publication. It was difficult to address GST 101 as a course then later address Biological Science as a course again. Such usage of terms may cause conflict for a new comer. So, we recommend that programmes of study should be used for what a student majored in like Mathematics/Computer Science, Pharmacy, Nursing, etc., while courses is better used to mean subjects like Entrepreneurship, GST courses, AGX courses, EDU courses, ELS courses, ACC courses, BLS courses, etc.

The above understanding will enable writers dichotomize between a course and a programme of study.

It is therefore, preferred to call what you are reading in the university as a programme of study, but the individual subjects your are learning that when combined make up your programme of study should best be referred to as courses.

In the event of any possible misconception in the publication, future research endeavours will alter such misgivings.

This material was necessitated by Wonderful Ozubide’s question on Facebook: What is the difference between “A DEPARTMENT AND A COURSE?”

My Response:

I find this a very interesting topic to tackle because I had earlier published a similar article like this but referred to the difference between a course and a programme of study (see link at the end).

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In this case however, we should know that a Department and a Course are not same thing. They are not even in the same line of comparison.

For one thing, while a Course refers to units of studies like subjects in secondary schools, a Department refers to administrative units made for ease of management.

Let us get is clear: A course is not even what you studied in the University. A course have nothing to do with Medicine, Law, Education, Agriculture, etc. All of that are programmes of studies. Courses only refers to those subjects you (are) study(ying)(ied) in a semester. For example, GST 101, EDU111, AGX212, BLS222, etc.

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However, a Department refers to a unit of administration. Note again that a Department does not originally refers to a programme of study neither does it refers to a field of study. A Department dichotomizes administration into smaller units for ease of management. Consequently, one, two, three or more programmes of study(ies) May be in the same Department.

For example, we have the following programmes of study in Vocational and Technology Education Department:

Agric Education
Business Education
Technical Education

The three above are programmes of study. Referring to them as courses by the general academic world has caused more confusion than understanding for the academic plebeians. Please, refer to Michael (2019). See link below.

To further understand the difference between a course of study and a programme of study, please, visit the link below.

Cite this material as follows:

Michael, O. J. (2019). Programme or course? Which one is correct? Retrieved on (put your date of retrieval here) from