Is the always used before the name of a school, college, or university?
My personal rule of thumb would be that if the school name includes an "of", use "the": The University of Minnesota, The College of St. Catherine, The Massachusetts Institute of Technology, etc. (And when abbreviating one of these names, use "the" only if the "of" is present in the abbreviation: "I attend the University of California at San Diego" → "I attend UCSD"; but "I attend the University of Minnesota" → "I attend the U of M".)
But if the school name does not include an "of", and especially if its name consists of a proper noun prepended to a school type, do not use "the": Carleton College, South Dakota State University, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, etc.
(Naturally, as pointed out by Shaun in his answer, there will be exceptions.)
I have come across several colleges/universities/schools (some starting with proper nouns and some not),not preceded by "The".
Some examples below:
- National University of Singapore
- Singapore Management University SIM
- Nanyang Technological University and many more
- King's College London (KCL)
- University of Strathclyde, Glasgow UK
- Courtauld Institute of Art Goldsmiths, University of London (GUL)
- Heythrop College (HEY)
- Institute of Cancer Research (ICR)
- Institute of Education (IoE)
- All India Institute of Medical Sciences New Delhi, India
- Indian Institute of Technology
and many more.
There are perhaps more examples across the world as well.
Short answer: Yes.
I did a little research on this and the results actually surprised me.
Intuitively, I expected this to follow the same rule as most businesses: you would use the before the name of a university, such as The University of North Florida, except if the first word was the name of a person or geographic place. However:
The use of "The" in front of schools and universities makes about as much logical sense in English as "the" does in the rest of the language...pretty much none at all. You just have to memorize it.
For instance, most state universities in the USA don't use "The" in the title, but a few do. For example, we have Oregon State University, Oklahoma State Univeristy, and The Ohio State Univeristy. You could try Hellion's rule, and put "The" in there if there's also an "of", but doubtless there's an exception to that waiting to bite you too.
The safest thing is to just call it what everyone else calls it. If you're unsure, hit its website.