5 ancient Irish universities you have to apply to

By Sean Campbell• Last updated: Oct 31, 2023
5 ancient Irish universities you have to apply to
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There really are some amazing universities in Ireland for international students. There’s a top level education system, great employment prospects, beautiful cities and stunning countryside, as well as a unique history and culture. We’ve already gone into detail on the top reasons to study abroad in Ireland, so check out that article when you get a moment! 

We’d strongly recommend choosing to study in Ireland, but if you do, you might notice that they speak English a little differently there. So, we’ve covered any language barriers with 15 strange phrases and idioms you would hear at an Irish university!  

Given that it’s a country steeped in a rich history and cultural narrative, it should be no surprise that there are some really ancient Irish universities. Indeed some of the best universities in Ireland are also among the oldest. Here we take a quick look at 5 of Ireland’s oldest universities. 

5 Oldest universities in Ireland

1. Trinity College Dublin

2. Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland

3. National University of Ireland, Maynooth

4. University College Cork

5. University College Dublin

1. Trinity College Dublin, Est. 1592

Trinity is the oldest college in Ireland by a long way, and it’s still actually considered by many to be the best university in Ireland. It’s certainly the most prestigious, given its rich heritage as one of the 7 ancient universities of Britain and Ireland. 

Trinity was founded when the British Empire was spreading its influence far and wide, particularly in western Europe. Ireland had already come under British rule, and Trinity was actually designed along the same lines as Oxford and Cambridge, who predate their Irish “sister” college by around 300 years. 

Today, it’s known for much more than its stellar education, but for it’s stunning old library (which is home to the Book of Kells), its beautiful campus, and it’s long list of famous alumni. We’ve written about this at length in our article 7 impressive facts you might not know about Trinity College Dublin. Check it out!

2. Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, Est. 1784

While the neighbouring Trinity College was earning plenty of plaudits for its academic work and social impact, one of the main criticisms was that it did not offer surgery as a subject. This meant that budding surgeons in Ireland had to travel across the water to Britain to study. 

So, the newly founded Dublin Society of Surgeons, who had come together in 1780 to promote the foundation of a private surgery school, petitioned the British government for permission to build their own. After four years, their wishes were finally granted. 

The college grounds actually have an iconic place in Irish history. In 1916, Dublin witnessed a week-long armed rebellion against British Rule. In a bid to take over the city, rebel forces occupied some of its most important buildings, including the main RCSI campus, which soon became a battleground. 

Today, RCSI is ranked as one of the very best universities in the world for health and wellbeing, and is still widely celebrated for its contributions to medicine.  

3. The National University of Ireland, Maynooth,  Est. 1795

Since Maynooth is one of the oldest colleges in Ireland, it’s also got a reputation for being one of the most haunted universities in the world!

The university, which is separated between the ancient college and a modern school created in 1997, has a fascinating history. It was founded as a seminary where budding priests would come to learn their “trade”. It’s this spiritual heritage which led to so many spooky ghost stories, mostly involving demon possession and possible murder! 

Thankfully, students at Maynooth university today are much more at ease, with no more supernatural stories. But for those of you who are interested, you can still visit the so called “ghost room”! 

4. University College Cork, Est. 1849

When the University of Cork in the southwest of Ireland was founded, it welcomed just 115 students. Today though, it’s home to over 20,000 and has become one of Ireland’s best universities. In fact it’s been ranked the 8th most impactful university in the world for its research and high achieving graduates!

Like any very old cultured university ought to be, UCC has a stunningly beautiful campus, set on a 21 acre area of wooded land. But beauty and age aside, the university is extremely forward thinking, as it showed when it became the world’s first “green flag campus”. In short, this means that it champions environmental sustainability. 80% of its waste is recycled and they have a whole department of sustainability officers! 

5. University College Dublin, Est. 1854

It’s one of Ireland’s oldest universities, and today it’s also Ireland’s largest university with over 33,000 learners! That their students represent more than 140 countries also makes it one of the most welcoming universities in Ireland for international students. 

UCD has gone through a few changes in its time. When it was inaugurated in 1854, it was named the Catholic University of Ireland. This was quite significant since, though Catholicism was the majority religion in Ireland, British rule had made life quite difficult for Catholics over the previous centuries. 

This proved to be the case for the new university too. Without recognition from the British government, they couldn’t award recognised degrees. It began to suffer financially and ran into trouble. But the organisers of the university regrouped and renamed it University College in 1882. From here, its status began to grow. 

Like the Royal College of Surgeons mentioned above, UCD played its part in The Republic of Ireland’s move for independence, with many high profile staff and students taking part in the War of Independence from 1919 to 1921! Now in much more peaceful times, UCD’s political influence hasn’t dwindled -- of the 15 Taoisigh (the Irish equivalent of Prime Minister), six graduated from UCD.  

So you’re thinking of studying abroad in Ireland? Great idea! Check out Edvoy’s range of top level courses at some of Ireland’s very best universities! Click here to get started, or follow the button below!

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