Identity Statement for The Catholic University

  • Reference code: IE UCDA CU
  • Title: Records of the Catholic University
  • Dates: 1850–1911
  • Level of description: Fonds
  • Extent: 16 items
  • Context
  • Content and Structure
  • Conditions of Access and Use

Administrative history

The Catholic University was founded in response to the establishment in 1849 by the government of three non-sectarian Queen’s Colleges in Belfast, Cork and Galway. They were condemned by the Sacred College of Propaganda in Rome and at the Synod of Thurles (1850). Cardinal Paul Cullen (1803–1878) was uncompromising in his opposition to multi-denominational education and was the driving force behind the establishment of a separate university for Roman Catholics. A committee of bishops, clergy and laity was appointed at the Synod to raise funds for the project and in 1851 appointed John Henry Newman (1801–1890) the first rector of the university. Newman was installed in 1854, professors and lecturers were appointed and the university opened its doors later that year. The university never obtained a charter from the government or the power to grant degrees. Newman resigned after four years. The passage of the Royal University Bill in 1879 established the Royal University as an examining body for approved teaching institutions. All its Roman Catholic Fellows were professors at the Catholic University. Student numbers continued to decline however. Its premises at 86 St Stephen’s Green became a teaching institution known as University College, whose students were awarded degrees by the Royal University. University College was handed over to the Jesuits on 26 October 1883. Fr William Delaney was appointed president and the college revived remarkably. The Catholic University survived notionally as an institution in the person of the Rector, Dr Gerald Molloy (d.1906) and the School of Medicine at Cecilia Street. Like University College, it was eventually absorbed into the National University of Ireland in 1909 as a faculty in the newly established University College, Dublin.

Archival history

This collection has been reassembled in UCD Archives after being dispersed in various parts of the premises of UCD. Material was transferred from the offices of the President, Registrar and Secretary in 1981; from UCD Library in 1984, by George Williams (Newman House) in 1988 and by Professor Patrick Meenan in 2002.

Scope and Content

Minute books, registers, letter book and other records concerning the Catholic University from its inception to the passing of the Royal University Act (1879), the transitional period between the passing of the act and the handing over of University College to the Jesuits in 1883 and the final twenty-five years culminating in the Irish Universities Act (1908).

  • Access: Available by appointment to holders of a UCD Archives reader's ticket. Produced for consultation in original format. Original material will be retrieved at 11am and 2pm only.
  • Language: English
  • Finding aid: Descriptive list
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