The 1970s saw a continuation of the expansion of student numbers in UCD and other Irish universities. Student numbers in Merrion Street rose by nearly 20% over the decade. For the first time there was a steady, though initially very small, stream of female engineering students in UCD.
In the context of the Troubles in Northern Ireland, security concerns about the co-location of university facilities and key government offices surfaced once again. The army, who patrolled the building at night, increased their presence but there was free access for staff and students during the day – an unsatisfactory and, realistically, an unsustainable situation.
A number of key professorial appointments during this decade led to an expansion in research capacity within the school of engineering. In the department of civil engineering, the newly appointed Professor Jim Dooge developed his multi-faceted career as engineering academic, international scientific statesman and politician. The first chair in electronic engineering in the country was established in UCD in 1972 with the appointment of Professor J. O. (Seán) Scanlan. A leader in the analysis and synthesis of electronic circuits, Scanlan later served as president of the Royal Irish Academy and was the first in the country to be elected Fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers. Professor Annraoi de Paor, appointed professor of electrical engineering in 1975, applied his expertise in control theory to initiate important research activities in renewable energy and biomedical engineering. Professor Paul McNulty was appointed to the chair in agricultural engineering in 1978, and developed strong research activities within that department in support of the agriculture and food sectors nationally.
Ireland, a member of the European Economic Community from 1973, was beginning to see the growth of the multinational sector of its economy, with the arrival of companies such as Analog Devices and Pfizer. Professors from the school of engineering worked closely with the Industrial Development Authority to enhance the case presented by Ireland to multinational companies. Improvements were made to the country's infrastructure – the gas network was a particular focus during the 1970s, with the discovery of the Kinsale gas field and the establishment of Bord Gáis Éireann. All these developments provided exciting employment opportunities for engineering graduates from the university and the promise of a new era for the Irish economy.