During the nineteenth century, students studied Philosophy, Theology, Mathematics, Languages and Law at Carlow College. In the 1840s, 50's and 60's, students at the college sat for the award of B.A. or B.LL. (Law) from the University of London. Today, the college is an accredited institution of the Higher Education and Training Awards Council (H.E.T.A.C.), Dublin.
Carlow College, or St Patrick's as it is known locally, is one of Ireland's oldest educational institutions. From 1793 to 1892, it educated both lay people and those studying for the priesthood. From 1892 up to 1989, the college was operating principally as a seminary for the priesthood. In the 1990s, it reclaimed its primary role as a college of the Humanities for lay people. Currently (as of 2006), there is an approximate student body of 700 students, full and part-time, taking degrees in the Humanities (in all fields of Philosophy, Theology and the Liberal Arts) and in the fields of Social Care, however this number is likely to increase in the forthcoming years as the college has built a fine reputation of being a 'home away from home,' as the college has a unique, community-orientated ethos.
Distinguished among the thousands of its past students was one the first ever Catholic bishops to be appointed in the United States, John England; the man who single-handedly brought Catholicism to Australia, John Therry; Ireland's first Cardinal, Paul Cardinal Cullen; the artist Frank O'Meara; the Young Irelander and land-reform theorist, James Fintan Lalor and the Fenian John O'Leary, friend of W.B. Yeats. Daniel O'Connell, also known as 'The Liberator' or 'The Emancipator' and Ireland's predominant political leader in the first half of the nineteenth century, reputedly gave an oration to the Carlow townspeople from the top of the college's front porch. Descendants of O'Connell have studied in the college.
As of the 2006-2007 academic year, the college has opened a magnificently designed state-of-the-art library situated in the old college chapel. The library is named in memoriam of Fr P.J. Brophy, a former president of the college, who bequeathed his full library to the college. The new facility incorporates the Delaney Archive containing the archives of the Brigidine Sisters, the Patrician Brothers as well as the college and diocese. It effectively charts 200 years of education in the local area. The P.J. Brophy memorial library stocks thousands of texts of the Humanities, in Philosophy, Theology, English Literature, Social Studies and the general Liberal Arts. The opening of the new library coincides with the opening of a new student services centre which is adjacent to the library. On the 12th of December, 2006, the President of Ireland, Mary McAleese, officially opened the Fr P.J. Brophy Memorial Library and the Kathleen Brennan Student Services Centre.
The college has signed a deal as of November 5th that allows for a new strategic collaborative partnership in the humanities and social sciences with Trinity College Dublin. And from January to April 2008, the college plays host to the History lectures named 'Re-interpreting Rebellion in Irish History' as part of the Michael Slattery lectures. The lectures featured appearances from history lecturers such as Prof Ciaran Brady, Prof Jane Ohlmeyer, Dr Michael O Siochru