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Royal University of Ireland
Royal University of Ireland

The Royal University of Ireland was founded in accordance with the University Education (Ireland) Act 1879 as an examining and degree-awarding university based on the model of the University of London. A Royal Charter was issued on 27 April 1880 and examinations were opened to candidates irrespective of attendance at college lectures. The first chancellor was the Irish chemist Robert Kane.

The university became the first university in Ireland that could grant degrees to women on a par with those granted to men; it granted its first degree to a woman on 22 October 1884, Charlotte M. Taylor was conferred with a Bachelor of Music. In 1888 Letitia Alice Walkington had the distinction of becoming the first woman in Great Britain or Ireland to receive a degree of Bachelor of Laws. Among the honorary degree recipients of the university was Douglas Hyde, founder of the Gaelic League and later President of Ireland, who was awarded a DLitt in 1906.


The Royal University of Ireland was the successor to the Queen's University of Ireland, dissolved in 1882, and the graduates, professors, students and colleges of that predecessor were transferred to the new university. In addition to the Queen's Colleges, Magee College, University College, Dublin, Cecillia St. Medical School, St. Patrick's College, Maynooth and Blackrock College presented students for examinations as well, and no special status was accorded to the colleges of the former Queen's University. After the 1880 reforms Catholic Colleges such as Carlow College, Holy Cross College and Blackrock College ("The French College") came under the Catholic University,[1] and with a number of other seminaries presented students for examination by the RUI.

External students not of approved colleges could sit (and many did so) examinations of the Royal University although they were seen as being at a disadvantage to those of designated colleges whose professors were part of the university.

In fact, many schools, including convent schools (such as Dominican College, Eccles St, Dublin;[2] Alexandra College, Dublin; Loreto College, St Stephen's Green, Dublin; Methodist College, Belfast; High School for Girls, Derry; St Columb's College, Derry; Mungret College, Limerick; Rutland School, Mountjoy Square, Dublin; Dominican College, Sion Hill, Dublin; St. Angela's College, Cork; St Louis's, Monaghan; Presentation College, Cork; Christian Brothers College, Cork; Rochelle College, Cork) prepared students for the examinations (including degree examinations) of the Royal University.[3]

Like the Queen's University, the Royal University was entitled to grant any degree, similar to that of any other university in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, except in theology, the colleges themselves would award degrees in theology and divinity.

The professorships and Senate of the Royal University were shared equally between Roman Catholics and Protestants. However, colleges of the university maintained full independence except in the awarding of degrees, and the compilation and enforcement of academic regulations and standards.

The members of the senate of the Royal University included Gerald Molloy, William Joseph Walsh, John Healy, the Marquess of Dufferin and Ava, George Arthur Hastings Forbes, 7th Earl of Granard, Daniel Mannix, George Johnston Allman.



Notable graduates

A high number of graduates of the university for the time were women (the first nine in 1884) because Trinity College Dublin did not accept female students until 1904.


On 31 October 1909 the Royal University was dissolved; the National University of Ireland and Queen's University Belfast took over its functions under the Irish Universities Act 1908, which provided for the transfer of graduates, staff and students to one or the other of these new universities. The final conferring of the Royal University of Ireland in 1909 of 350 students was marred by demonstrations in favour of the Irish Language being compulsory for the new National University.

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