I've been filtering locations in Ireland from a list that comes with Google Maps location data for each, selecting those that are close to a "college".

I just checked on one of those locations manually, and found a "Killorglin Community College", and the place's webpage says it is "a co-educational and multi-belief Secondary School under the governing body of Kerry Education Service".

Is this common in Ireland, to use the term "college" for a secondary school?

In the Wikipedia page for "Education in the Republic of Ireland", I can only find "college" associated with "higher" or "third-level" education (I would say "post-secondary", coming from Canada)...

  • 2
    Not just Ireland. Many English secondary schools have become Community Colleges too.
    – Andrew Leach
    Commented Sep 10, 2013 at 12:22
  • In England just college there have been many 6th form colleges
    – mmmmmm
    Commented Sep 10, 2013 at 12:25
  • Ahah, so I should be looking specifically at "community colleges" to figure this out... UK, Canada, USA....
    – Owen_AR
    Commented Sep 10, 2013 at 12:29
  • So if it's like the UK, an Irish "Community College" "not only provides education for the school age population (11-18) of the locality, but also additional services and education to adults and other members of the community."
    – Owen_AR
    Commented Sep 10, 2013 at 12:30
  • Perhaps adding an age range might make this clearer. In US (and I think Canada), secondary school (also called high school) is for children about 14 to 18 (although a few start earlier and many go longer).
    – bib
    Commented Sep 10, 2013 at 12:30

2 Answers 2


Historically, college meant any group of people who lived under agreed rules, which included educational institutions (though note also the use in "college of cardinals", "college of arm", "electoral college" and some other non-educational uses).

In general current use in Ireland, college would be taken to refer to third-level education. Up until recently, all Irish Universities where split into several different colleges, though Trinity has only one college (it remains that the University of Dublin is legally distinct from its sole constituent Trinity College of Dublin due to it having been founded as the first college of the university after the model of Oxford and Cambridge with the idea of further colleges being founded probably the original goal, though never realised).

The National University of Ireland is similarly composed of different colleges, (University College Dublin, University College Cork, NUI Galway & NUI Maynooth) along with "recognised colleges" such as the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, National College of Art and Design and others.

Some other colleges are, for historical reasons I won't go into, now one and the same with their university.

In general, we would talk of "going to college" rather than "going to university".

Now, that said there are secondary schools that have college as part of their name. These fall into four categories:

  1. Some of the older private (or originally private) secondary schools.
  2. Schools founded as "technical colleges" with a stronger vocational than academic focus, now mostly called "community colleges".
  3. Schools focused on the last years of secondary education only, often for people who have decided to repeat their leaving certificate or who have other reasons for being outside of the main state-funded secondary education system.
  4. Gaelcholáistí, that is secondary schools that teach in Irish. Because coláiste is cognate with the English word college, if one were to Anglicise the name of a Gaelcholáiste one might more likely use college than school. (Comparatively, Gaelscoileanna teach at a primary level so one would be more likely to Anglicise a Gaelscoil's name as school). Generally though, one would just use their Irish name when talking about them in English.

Still, while such schools have college in their name, they'd be normlly referred to as schools, not as colleges. Someone might refer to third case as a secondary-level college due to the older age attending, but they are not what one would think of if one just said "college".

  • +1. My secondary school was the Tullamore Vocational School when I joined it. By the time I graduated, it had changed its name to Tullamore College. I believe the name has something to do with the way the school is governed under the Vocational Education Committee.
    – TRiG
    Commented Jan 25, 2014 at 20:47
  • @TRiG my partner's secondary school has had college in it's name since 1866, but it wouldn't be called a college.
    – Jon Hanna
    Commented Jan 25, 2014 at 22:48

The word College can mean multiple things. Its usage varies by region. In most regions, a "College" is a post-secondary school, but there are primary and secondary schools with the name "College", and even other organizations that are not schools at all use the word.

From the OED:

  • An organized society of persons performing certain common functions and possessing special rights and privileges; a body of colleagues, a guild, fellowship, association
  • A society of scholars incorporated within, or in connection with, a University, or otherwise formed for purposes of study or instruction
    • From the fact that in some Universities only a single college was founded or survived, in which case the university and college became co-extensive, the name has come, as in Scotland and the United States, to be interchangeable with ‘university’; ‘a college with university functions’.
    • From the relation in which the colleges in a. stand to a university, as places of residence and study recognized by it
    • By another extension, the name is given to institutions unconnected with a university, for instruction of a more advanced or professional kind than that given at school
    • Also (after the great schools which were founded as colleges (see 1b), and partly perhaps after mod.French use) given to some large public schools or institutions for secondary education


Some educational jurisdictions limit the use of words like "College", "University", and others, in some cases. In Ontario, a "Community College" is a post-secondary institution that is not accredited to issue degrees. A University is accredited. Some schools have changed over time from being Colleges to Universities. So when Ontarians speak of "going to College" they mean "attending a post-secondary education institute that is not a university". In the US, many people use the word college as a synonym for university.

Wikipedia has more details.

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