How to distinguish "大学", "学院", "系". "专业"?

As myself, I'm in "中国海洋大学数学科学学院数学系信息与计算科学专业". How to translate it properly?

And another question: What is "国家保密学院"? Is "国家" describing "保密: or "学院"? I don't know it even as a native Mandarin speaker.

  • I think 国家 modifies 保密... 国家保密学院 could be college of national secrecy? – user58955 Sep 29 '13 at 23:14

As discussed in this question, the university system in China is organized somewhat differently than the United States:

Chinese Universities (please offer corrections)

  • At the top level, there is a 大学, which is usually translated as University.

  • There are groupings of related departments called 学院. Because this is not always similar to US universities, the translations vary. In order to translate X学院 I've seen:

    • institute of X
    • X school (especially "Business School" and "Law School")
    • college of X
  • Individual departments (which may have one or more related majors) are .

  • Courses of study towards a degree are called 专业, translated as major.

US Universities and Colleges

  • At the top level you have either University or College (both show up as 大学). Universities are bigger than Colleges and have more administrative subdivisions..

  • Universities (but not colleges) may be subdivided into various schools or colleges.

    • Professional schools (business, law, medicine) are basically always a separate "school" from undergraduate programs. For instance, Harvard University includes the Harvard Business School and the Harvard Law School. Admissions for professional schools are always separate from admissions for undergraduate programs.

    • Undergraduate programs in a university might all be lumped into a single "college" (e.g., UT-Austin College of Undergraduate Studies), or there may be several "colleges" for related degrees. Generally, admission as an undergraduate into a University entitles you to take courses in any department or "school" that teaches undergraduates. For instance, you could start studying art and decide to study chemistry instead. If a student's major is part of some "college" or "school" within the university, they might not even know which one it is.

    • Sometimes graduate (Masters, PhD) programs are in their own "schools", and other times their part of the same "school" as related majors at the undergraduate level. For instance, UW-Madison has the College of Letters & Sciences which includes many undergraduate majors and graduate programs in humanitites, social sciences, and sciences. Admissions for graduate programs are separate from undergraduate programs.

    • Music programs are sometimes in a separate "school" within the university called a "conservatory". Admissions might be separate from general undergraduate studies or require auditions.

  • With a college or school, there are departments, which may offer one or more courses of study, generally called majors.

Second Question

国家保密学院 is a "School for the protection of state secrets". The Chinese government has a bureau dedicated to this.


大学 is university.

学院, if a school on its own, is called college. As to a big 大学学院, it is usually called a Faculty (Commonwealth) or College (US usage) or School, up to the university's own choice. For instance, 工学院 could be Faculty of Engineering or College of Engineering; U Waterloo has a Faculty of Mathematics (数学学院). 法学院, 商学院, 医学院 are usually schools (school of law / school of business / school of medicine) in US universities but Imperial College London has Faculty of Medicine.

系 is department, 专业 is major.

There are names invented by each university, I think one'd better translate them into something that is commonly seen, even if it deviates a little bit from the literal word-for-word translation. 中国海洋大学数学科学学院数学系信息与计算科学专业 seems Major in Information and Computer Science, School of Mathematics at the Ocean University of China.

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