The term "centre" is used to describe several different kinds of organizations at Queen's. The most common type of "centre" is the Academic Research Centre, which brings together faculty, often from different disciplines, for research, publication, organization of conferences, or other activities related to a particular area of study.

They all have formal constitutions approved by the Senate after consideration by (among others) the Senate Committee on Academic Development; all are headed by a director, and all report to the School of Graduate Studies.

According to the current Senate definitions, they are identical in all but name to institutes, although amendments were planned in 1993 that may reserve the name "institute" in the future for the most substantial and important of these bodies.

Both centres and institutes are more formally structured than the other different kinds of research organizations on campus (groups, projects, units, etc.).

Another, more varied group of centres are the resource centres, which offer a service of some kind to specific groups of people inside or outside the university. The service can range from academic or instructional, as in the case of the GlaxoSmithKline Clinical Education Centre or the Instructional Development Centre, to social, cultural, or supportive, as in the case of Le Centre Francophone or the International Centre. Such centres have various reporting relationships, are usually led by a director, and also usually have formal constitutions which have been approved by the Senate.

The third main type of centre is a building or a complex of buildings which contains related services and organizations. Examples of this are the John Deutsch University Centre, the Queen's Centre, the Agnes Etherington Art Centre, and the Donald Gordon Centre.

And some student or community organizations officially independent of the university administration but located on campus also use the name "centre." For example: the Women's Centre, the Sexual Health and Resource Centre, and the Day Care Centre Inc., which serves the Queen's community but is an independent corporation.