The University of Dublin was established in 1592 with its single constituent college, Trinity College. It is founded on the site of All Hallows Monastery, which was taken over by Henry VIII’s government after the Reformation.
In the late 18th century Catholics and dissenters were permitted to attend. The ethos remained ascendancy and established church in character.
It remained affiliated to the United Kingdom during the period of pressure for Irish independence in the early 20th century.
St Patrick’s College, Maynooth was founded in 1795 with state aid. It became one of the largest seminaries in the English-speaking world.
It became a pontifical university in 1896 and was a recognised college of the National University of Ireland in 1910. It is recognised under the Universities Act as the constituent university of NUI. Saint Patrick’s college retained a role as a seminary or pontifical university.
Queens Colleges to NUI
In 1849 Queen’s University was established as a federal institution with three constituent colleges. Queen’s College, Cork; Queen’s College, Belfast and Queens’s College, Galway.
They were intended as non-denominational, non-residential low-fee institutions devoted to modern and applied learning as well as traditional subjects. A number of impressive buildings were constructed.
In 1879 Queen’s University was replaced by Royal University as an examining body which set examination and awarded degrees in the three Queen’s colleges, Catholic University and to students of certain other institutions for the privately educated.
The Catholic Church opposed the non-denominational character of the new universities and set up a Catholic University in 1854, with John Henry Newman, whose writings were influential, as its rector. The university did not prosper and lacked financial resources.
It survived and became one of the constituent colleges of the NUI, University College, Dublin under the Irish Universities Act, 1908.
The Irish Universities Act 1908 set up the National University of Ireland as a federal university with three constituent colleges UCC, UCG and UCD. Queen’s College Belfast became Queen’s University Belfast.
They were intended to be non-denominational and co-educational. Queen’s University Belfast became the university of the Northern Ireland state and looked to the UK for its influences.
Commission in the 1960s
After independence, the universities were largely neglected in terms of funding. There were left as elite institutions largely favoured by those in the middle classes who aspired to professional careers.
In 1961 the Commission for Education reported on the question of higher education. Higher education was seen as potentially playing an important role in the economic development of the State. The commission reported in 1967, after seven years.
In 1966 a steering committee on technical education was established to advise on regional Technical Colleges. In 1966 a proposal was brought to the cabinet to merge UCD and Dublin University / TCD. This was deferred pending the conclusion of the Commission’s report. The proposal led to significant controversy and was abandoned.
The Commission’s report in 1967 criticised the piecemeal nature and lack of planning in the sector. It criticised the lack of achievement in the post-graduate area, the appointment system constitution and structures.
The Commission saw university as a place of study and communication of basic knowledge adding to additional knowledge and advancing it beyond frontiers. It did not see is as a mere professional academy or congregation of them. It distinguishes between pure and applied learning and education of the scientific or philosophical principles and training in techniques and practice.
It indicated that the study of first principles was a distinctive function of the university; this was its major obligation in professional training. This approach underlies many of its recommendations.
The Commission proposed to maintain the existing universities for the above purpose and to protect standards. It proposed a new third-level institution and diverting resources to other institutions for applied research. The new college was designed to help to meet the growing needs for third-level places, to enrich intellectual cultural life and provide forms of higher education with a different emphasis from those of the university.
The Commission did not recommend the raising of the Colleges of Technology to the status of advanced colleges in the same way as with the British polytechnics of the time. It recommended the establishment of a technology authority with responsibility for ensuring that advanced technological education training and research would be provided in accordance with the needs of Irish industry.
It maintained the distinction between basic and applied learning and between research and training. It recommended the establishment of a separate national college of agricultural and veterinary science as integrated teaching and research organisations of university standing. It proposed that the universities should be concerned with research in the area of law and business. Practical and vocational training in those fields would be outside the university sector.
Proposal to Merge UCD and Trinity
It recommended the dissolution of the NUI, in favour of independent university status for the constituent colleges. It recommended a statutory council for Irish Universities with a right to determine policy in academic areas. It recommended a statutory commission for higher education with overall planning and budgeting responsibilities.
The Commission recommended new structures for universities and higher education institutions, new appointments and promotion procedures, new procedures for research by postgraduates, a student grant scheme and, improved student facilities. The report coincided with widespread international unrest among students.
In July 1968, the Minister for Education, Brian Lenihan announced a government’s proposal to reorganise the universities. The NUI was to be dissolved and UCC and UCG were to gain independent status. Trinity College and UCD were to form a single multi-denominational university based in the two colleges; there was to be a division of faculties amongst the colleges. A conference of Irish universities was to be established. A permanent authority to deal with financial and organisational issues was to be established.
The proposal to merge Trinity College and UCD was strongly opposed.
Higher Education Authority
The latter proposal was implemented, and the Higher Education Authority was established in 1968. It was recognised by the legislation in 1971. It was given responsibility for budget and planning in the higher education sector.
The authority is an autonomous body, not subject to the control of the State. One of its first tasks was to advise the minister on the nature of legislation required to implement the government decisions on higher education.
The Higher Education Authority presented its report on university reorganisation in 1971. This took account of the high level of opposition to the single university proposal for Dublin. In the meantime, the Catholic Church had removed its ban on attendance for members without specific consent. Increased student numbers reduced the apparent wastage and duplication.
The incoming coalition government in 1973 proposed an alternative model of university education in December 1974. Its proposals were controversial and were not ultimately implemented. In July 1976, the government announced proposals for setting up five universities with scope for associated colleges to be recognised. The proposal was not implemented and n a change of government in 1977 led to a further change of policy.
Thomand College was given statutory recognition in 1980. In the same year, the National Institutes for Higher Education in Limerick and Dublin were established as independent institutions. The NCEA validated their courses. In 1989 the NIHEs were given university status, becoming the University of Limerick and Dublin City University.
In 1984 following a further change of government, the Minister for Education published a program for Action on Education 1984 to 1987. It proposed four-term academic years and cutting g four-year degree courses to three, amid attempts to reduce public expenditure.
University College Dublin gradually moved from its City Centre locations to Belfield, over the period from the 1970s to the 1990s.
The period from the late 1970s saw a huge increase in access with a great increase in the numbers attending higher-level education. The business sector has looked to the higher education system to produce highly qualified graduates.
A number of permanent businesses and individuals have supported institutes and investments in the universities. Most universities have incubator companies that act as a bridge between academia and the commercial sector.