CEGEP ( say-ZHEP or SEE-jep; French: Cégep; also CÉGEP, Cegep or Cégep [se??p]) is a publicly funded post-secondary education pre-university, collegiate technical college exclusive to the province of Quebec's education system. A loanword from French, it originates from the French acronym for Collège d'enseignement général et professionnel, sometimes known in English as a "General and Vocational College", it is now considered a word in itself. 
Although all colleges in Quebec are colloquially referred to as CEGEPs, only public colleges are officially referred to by that name. Both public (CEGEPs) and private colleges have the same function in Quebec. Although they may occasionally be compared to junior colleges or community colleges, CEGEPs differ in that a Diploma of College Studies (or Diplôme d'études collégiales, DEC) is required for university admission in Quebec, unless a student enters as a mature student, which typically means a minimum age of 21, with other requirements.
Pre-university programs are typically two years in duration, filling the gap between secondary school and undergraduate degrees, which are both one year shorter in Quebec relative to elsewhere in Canada. A student in Quebec cannot enter university with only a secondary diploma from Quebec. Technical programs are typically three years in duration, with specialization in courses leading to a career right after graduation. Depending on the university, students with DEC diplomas from a technical program can continue their studies at a university for higher education.
The purpose of a separate collegiate education level is to make post-secondary education more accessible in Quebec. It also ensures that students have a proper academic preparation to succeed at university. There are both public subsidized and private colleges, with the public CEGEPs having little or no tuition fee.
A product of the Quiet Revolution, the CEGEP system was started in 1967 by the Quebec provincial government and originally consisted of 12 CEGEPs. Today, 48 CEGEPs operate in Quebec, of which five are in the English language. There are also College Centres (Centre d'études collégiales), small public post-secondary education colleges very similar to CEGEPs, often secondary stand alone campuses of CÉGEPs, like the Centre d'études collégiales à Chibougamau, part of the Cégep de Saint-Félicien.
Students in Quebec who intend to pursue post-secondary education must attend a college (i.e. CEGEP) before enrolling in a Quebec university. Students who follow a general studies program in Quebec complete six years of primary school (grades 1 through 6), followed by five years of secondary school (called grades 7 through 11 or secondary 1 to secondary 5 in English and 1re secondaire au 5e secondaire in French). Quebec students complete one grade fewer in total than other North American students before beginning post-secondary studies, completing high school at grade 11 instead of grade 12. CEGEP programs are typically two years in length with the exception of certain technical programs that are three years in length; the latter programs are generally for those wishing to enter a technical profession. Following successful completion of CEGEP, most in-province undergraduate programs are three years in length for Quebec students; hence, the total number of years of study for Quebec students from primary school through a bachelor's degree is the same as for other students in North America. For example, a Quebec student who has completed a CEGEP diploma would begin a 3-year Quebec-based university program in Year 1 whereas an out-of-province student who has completed grade 12 would instead begin the same Quebec-based university program in Year 0. Contrarily, students who possess a CEGEP diploma may also generally attend out-of-province universities in which case diplomas are treated by universities in the same manner as the 2-year college diplomas (associate degree) or are awarded with one year of advanced standing. Some advanced courses at the CEGEP level may be assessed as equivalent to introductory courses at university.
For students intending on completing their post-secondary studies outside of Quebec, there are three options. First, several Quebec-based secondary schools have a specialized curriculum for students who wish enter directly into out-of-province post-secondary programs. In these instances, students may take one year of courses at high schools that offer this option in order to fulfill the grade 12 requirements of the institution to which they are applying. Second, students may complete one year of CEGEP courses prior to transferring to an out-of-province university so as to begin in the first year of an out-of-province post-secondary degree. For example, students wishing to attend an Ontario university may complete one year of CEGEP and apply as a regular applicant who has completed grade 12 in Ontario. Third, students who have completed two years of CEGEP may apply for admission with one year of advanced standing to post-secondary institutions outside of Quebec.
Most, but not all colleges offer two types of programs: pre-university and technical. The pre-university programs take two years to complete, whereas the technical programs take three. These programs share a core curriculum, consisting of French, English, Humanities, Physical Education and complementary courses (elective courses unrelated to the program of study).
A pre-university program is two years long. It covers both the subject matter that roughly corresponds to the additional year of high school common elsewhere in Canada and the courses corresponding to those taken in first-year university in preparation for a chosen field in university (Sciences, Humanities, Commerce or Arts). Upon the completion of studies, the provincial government issues a Diploma of College Studies (DCS), or DEC (Diplôme d'études collégiales).
Students are then prepared to complete certain undergraduate programs at a Quebec university in 3 years, as opposed to 4 years outside Quebec. Students with a DEC who choose to attend university in another province in Canada or outside the country are eligible to either skip the first year and enter university as a second year student, or gain advanced standing or extra credit for their first year. The amount of extra credit accepted is at the discretion of each university. In practice, most universities do accept Quebec college credits, but only up to one year, given the difference in structure of education systems between Quebec and the rest of the provinces.
Quebec colleges also offer three-year technical programs for students who wish to pursue a skilled trade. Unlike the pre-university programs, these are not preparation for university, although this does not prevent a student from attending a university afterwards. The technical programs also lead to a DEC. Examples of such technical programs are Industrial Electronics, Architectural Technology, Nursing, Building Engineering Technology, Computer Science, and Theatre. Though those programs can also lead to the university, they are geared towards immediate employment after completion.
Adult continuing education programs are also offered at colleges. Many of those programs lead to a college certificate (Attestation of College Studies (ACS),(in French): Attestation d'études collégiales - AEC), which is similar to a DEC but does not include the core curriculum. This certificate is delivered by a college's continuing education department, while a diploma is issued by the Ministry of Education, Recreation, and Sport of Quebec (later renamed The Ministry of Education and Higher Education, Ministère de l'Éducation et de l'Enseignement Supérieur in French).
In addition, the majority of the province's thirty-one "Technology Transfer Centres" have been established by CEGEPs. At these centres, applied research is carried out in a specific field in cooperation with industrial partners.
Students can attend either a French-language or English-language cégep.