Our Story

1592

Ireland’s first university is founded, now known as Trinity College Dublin (TCD).

1795

St Patrick’s College Maynooth is founded for the education of priests, becoming the largest seminary in the world in just 50 years.

1845

Queen’s Colleges in Cork and Galway are founded, now University College Cork (UCC) and NUI Galway. They were originally known as the ‘godless’ universities!

1854

University College Dublin (UCD) opens as the Catholic University of Ireland with John Henry Newman as its first Rector.

1908/09

The Irish Universities Act establishes the National University of Ireland (NUI) placing UCC, NUI Galway, UCD and St Patrick’s College Maynooth under the same federal structure with full university status.

1910

Professor Mary Ryan of UCC becomes the first female professor appointed in Ireland and the UK.

1927

Ernest Walton and Samuel Beckett complete their degrees in TCD and later go on to win the Nobel Prize in Physics (1951) and Literature (1969).

1934

UCD’s student numbers double and it purchases Belfield House on 44 acres, 5km south of Dublin city centre for £8,000.

1964

NUI Galway’s first Students’ Union is led by Michael D Higgins, now ninth President of Ireland.

1966

St Patrick’s College Maynooth becomes “an open centre of university education” and admits lay students to NUI degree courses.

1968

The Higher Education Authority is established.

1972

The National Institute for Higher Education, Limerick opens, now known as the University of Limerick (UL).

1972

The Conference of Heads of Irish Universities (CHIU), now known as the Irish Universities Association (IUA) is established to provide a forum for joint action on matters of common concern.

1974

UCD graduate Seán MacBride is awarded the Nobel Peace Prize as a man who "mobilised the conscience of the world in the fight against injustice".

1976

The Central Applications Office (CAO) is established by the universities to ensure fairness, transparency and equality of treatment for students applying for undergraduate courses.

1977

There are over 25,000 students enrolled in university; today, there are more than 120,000.

1980

The National Institute for Higher Education, Dublin opens, now known as Dublin City University (DCU).

1989

UL is awarded university status, becoming the first university to be established since Irish independence in 1922. DCU is awarded university status later that same day.

1996

University tuition fees for undergraduates are abolished.

1997

The Universities Act is restructured making Maynooth University (then NUI Maynooth) Ireland's youngest university as it separates from St Patrick's College.

1998

Maynooth University graduate John Hume is awarded the Nobel Peace Prize with fellow politician David Trimble for their efforts in the Peace Process.

2003

The National Access Office for Equity of Access to Higher Education is established by the Higher Education Authority and boosts the work of the universities in this area.

2005

UCD’s new Horizons Programme offers a radical alternative to the familiar degree, by allowing students’ to access subjects in various fields of study, apart from their own.

2007

Professor John Sweeney, Geography lecturer at Maynooth University, is awarded the Nobel Peace Prize as part of a team working for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

2009

The universities nationally launch the Higher Education Access Route (HEAR) and the Disability Access Route to Education (DARE) offering two new admissions routes for under-represented students.

2010

Ireland’s best performance in Times Higher Education (THE) rankings sees TCD at 76th and UCD at 94th in the top universities worldwide.

2013

Knowledge Transfer Ireland is established by Enterprise Ireland and the IUA, to encourage collaboration between public research organisations and business.

2014

The Campus Engage Charter for Higher Education Civic and Community Engagement is adopted to better enable Higher Education Institutions to engage with the needs of the communities they serve.

2015

TCD and UL are the first Irish universities to receive the Athena SWAN bronze award in recognition of gender equality progress. In the following two years the five remaining universities also receive the award.

2016

Access routes DARE and HEAR reach the milestone of 20,000 students admitted through the schemes.

2016

DCU is designated as Ireland’s first “University of Sanctuary” in recognition of their commitment to welcoming asylum seekers and refugees into the university community. UL follows suit in 2017, followed by UCC and UCD in 2018.

2017

Mary Mitchell O’Connor TD is Ireland’s first Minister of State for Higher Education.

2018

TCD, in partnership with UCD, DCU and others, unveils plans for the Grand Canal Innovation District (GCID), a high-tech quarter where multinationals, new talent and university expertise will collaborate.

2018

The universities commit to a Charter to grow and develop the university education system for this and future generations of students.

2021

The government commissioned Cassells Report identified the need for an extra €600m a year by 2021 to maintain quality in higher education.

2030

By now, an additional €1 billion will need to be invested yearly to adequately fund Higher Education and to provide for increased demographics according to the Cassells Report. There will be 40,000 extra students in higher education by 2030, with 25,000 of them likely to be in the 7 universities.