In Canada, collegiate institute originally had a distinct meaning, but it has since transformed as a synonym for an institution that provides secondary education. In 1871, the province of Ontario set up two parallel secondary education systems. Then, Galt Collegiate Institute was the first and one of only six schools in Ontario to have the name and privileges of being called a Collegiate Institute. Collegiate institutes offered arts and humanities education, including Greek and Latin, for university-bound students. High schools offered vocational and science programs for those planning to enter the workforce upon graduation. The system was later adopted by other provinces, including Alberta, Manitoba, and Saskatchewan.
It was quite quickly realized that the division did not work very well. Over time, high schools responded to students' needs and increasingly offered the arts courses that were essential for the workforce. At the same time, as universities began teaching science and engineering, so did the collegiate institutes. Within a decade, the distinctions between the two systems were greatly blurred, and eventually, the two systems were merged in to a single secondary school system. In Ontario, after the merger of the two systems, the terms Collegiate Institute, High School, and Secondary School were all used in conjunction to refer to secondary educational institutions.
The term is most commonly found in Ontario, but its prominence varies throughout the province. In some school boards, including Lakehead District School Board, and Toronto District School Board, almost all secondary schools are named Collegiate Institute. Conversely, some school boards, like the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board, have no secondary school that use the term in its name. However, the majority of school boards in Ontario continue to use all three terms (Collegiate Institute, High School, and Secondary School) in the names of their secondary schools.
Although several Western Canadian provinces adopted Ontario's parallel school system (Alberta, Manitoba, Saskatchewan), there are far fewer schools in Western Canada that are known as collegiate institutes, with most having been closed or renamed over the decades. However, several secondary schools retain the term in their name, such as Lethbridge Collegiate Institute in Lethbridge, Alberta, and Mennonite Brethren Collegiate Institute in Winnipeg, Manitoba. In the cities of Saskatoon, and Regina, the term survives as Collegiate, which is found in the names of most public secondary schools and some Catholic secondary schools in those two cities. That contrasts the rest of Saskatchewan, where the most common name for secondary school is High School.
In the United States, the term has largely fallen into disuse. Collegiate institutes in the United States were, for the most part, colleges, and even the first name of Yale University when founded in 1701 was a similar-sounding Collegiate School. However, the US definition of a college also differs from that of other countries and has been based primarily on the liberal arts college model of higher education.
Two examples of collegiate institutes in the United States before the term fell out of use are the Oberlin Collegiate Institute of Ohio, now Oberlin College, and the Pentecostal Collegiate Institute of New York and Rhode Island, now the Eastern Nazarene College of Massachusetts. Both were founded as postsecondary institutions (in 1833 and 1900, respectively), but the latter would drop its college curriculum and exist as a college preparatory school from 1902 to 1918, which demonstrates the flexibility of the term collegiate institute.
Partly because the term institute holds some ambiguity, many such schools would later change their names to use college instead of collegiate institute to represent their nature and mission more accurately, and the term "collegiate institute" would see little use after the early 20th century.
- The Cyclopædia of education by Henry Kiddle, Alexander Jacoab Schem. Published by E. Steiger, 1876. p. 668.
- Region of Waterloo Public Building Inventory: Educational Buildings Part 2 (PDF) (Report). Region of Waterloo. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2016-02-14. Retrieved 2016-11-23.
- "Oberlin College Archives: Historical bibliography". Archived from the original on 2009-05-08. Retrieved 2009-08-07.
- Cameron, James R. (1968). Eastern Nazarene College—The First Fifty Years, 1900-1950. Kansas City: Nazarene Publishing House.