It seems both words can translate to "department", "college", or "school", and each of those English words refers to some division of a higher educational institution.

How does one distinguish the usage of these two words, especially in the Russian education system?

  • Russian university's "Факультет" is typically smaller than American "School/College" (in the sense of "Division of a University"), but large than "Department". "Кафедра" roughly corresponds to "Department", but often can be smaller/more specialized than it. – Alexander Oct 30 '17 at 18:08

The "Кафедра" is a part of "Факультет"

This unit, which deals with a deeper study of the issue.

For example, in the physics department there can be a subdepartment of electrodynamics.

(На физическом факультете может быть кафедра электродинамики).

  • one can use "subdepartment" for "кафедра" in such a context, where otherwise the word "department" would be duplicated, that is: in the physics department there can be a subdepartment of electrodynamics – Dmitry Koroliov Oct 30 '17 at 11:33
  • @user907860 ok. I fixed it. Thank you. – Mikhail Alexeevich Oct 30 '17 at 12:26

They are pretty much orthogonal.

Факультет is a partition of the body of students; it loosely equates to a major, or a school of a big U. Each факультет teaches a specific curriculum.

Кафедра is a partition of the body of teachers. The same кафедра (e.g. foreign languages, or general physics, or philosophy) teaches students of every факультет which requires it.

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