A constitutional college of the National University of Ireland. By its charter, granted 2 Dec., 1908, in accordance with the Irish Universities Act of that year, members of the college include every graduate of the Royal University of Ireland who was a matriculated student of "University College, St. Stephen's Green, Dublin, or of the Medical School, Cecilia Street, Dublin". Thus the history of the existing college is linked with the story of Newman's foundation in Ireland. From 112 November, 1883, when the Irish Jesuits opened University College, St. Stephen's Green, Dublin, in the old Arts School of the Catholic University, to 1 November, 1909, when the new college began its work, the history of Irish Catholic and national university education centred mainly in the St. Stephen's Green institution. The college had two purposes to fulfil; first, to show by its success in the competitive field that Irish Catholics had the material and capacity, given equal opportunity, to establish a university of their own upon the highest academic level; second, to afford a university training to young Irish Catholics, whom conscience prevented from availing of Trinity College, with its Protestant Episcopalian atmosphere, or of the Queen's Colleges, with their secularist atmosphere. The first president of University College was Rev. William Delany, S.J. With an interval filled by Rev. Robert Carbery, S.J., Father Delany continued in office until the new college was founded. His colleagues of the Society at the beginning were Rev. Thomas Finlay, philosopher and economist, Rev. Denis Murphy, Irish historian, Rev. James J. O'Carroll, Gaelic scholar and linguist, Rev. Gerard Hopkins, Oxford Classicist and poet, and Rev. Robert Curtis, mathematician. Of Newman's old guard and their first successors there still remained Thomas Arnold, son of the Master of Rugby, Robert Ornsby, the biographer of Hope Scott, James Stewart, a Cambridge rector who had followed Newman, John Casey, the Irish mathematician, Dr. John Egan, afterwards Bishop of Waterford, and Abbé Polin. Among the assistant professors selected by Father Delany were Mr. William J. Starkie, a Cambridge scholar, now Resident Commissioner of National Education, and Mr. (now Sir) Joseph Magrath, the present registrar of the National University. Father Delany began practically without endowment. The only public assistance received was indirect. Beaconsfield's University Act empowered the senate of the Royal University to appoint Fellows, with a salary of 400 pounds a year out of the university revenues, on condition of their examining for the university and lecturing at certain assigned colleges. Fourteen Fellows, out of twenty-eight, were assigned to University College, the remainder to the Queen's Colleges, already endowed to the extent of 12,500 pounds a year each. Two of the first Fellows were Jesuit Fathers ; some years later the number was increased to five, and with their salaries the equipment and maintenance of the college were undertaken.
At the end of the first academic year a hundred of the distinctions awarded by the Royal University were won by Queen's College, Belfast; seventy-nine by University College, Dublin, twenty by Queen's College, Cork, and eight by students of Queen's College, Galway. This success of the unendowed college could not be ignored. In the Parliamentary session following (1885) the Irish Party raised the university question under the new aspect it had assumed. The Chief Secretary (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach) at once admitted the necessity for government action. For the Government he promised that, if they held office in the next session, he would "make some proposal which might deal in a satisfactory way with this most important matter". The year 1886, however, brought its change of Government, Gladstone's first Home Rule Bill, the Liberal Irish Alliance, and its developments; and the university question as a question of practical politics was shelved for a generation.
The University College continued its work with ever-increasing success. Year by year the tabulated results of the examinations of the Royal University showed that the unrecognized Catholic University College was not only doing better than even the most successful of the well-endowed Queen's Colleges, but that it was ever increasing its lead until it far out-distanced the three together. The following table shows the relative endowments of the colleges and the first-class distinctions won by each college in the year 1898 compared with those ten years later.
University College, Dublin
Prizes and Honours (1898): 40
Prizes and Honours (1908): 99
Queen's College, Belfast
Prizes and Honours (1898): 28
Prizes and Honours (1908): 22
Queen's College, Galway
Prizes and Honours (1898): 5
Prizes and Honours (1908): 5
Queen's College, Cork
Prizes and Honours (1898): 1
Prizes and Honours (1908): 0
In scholarship, in literature, in the public service, past students began to win honour for their college. Even in the department of scientific research, hampered as was the staff by lack of equipment, the work of Preston, M'Clelland, and Conway established the name of the college in the annals of scientific advance. Murphy's work for Irish history, Hogan's in the Irish language, and Finlay's in the field of practical Irish economics were also far-reaching. An aim of Father Delany had been to train a thoroughly competent staff to meet the time when justice should be done and a wider field opened. This, too, was fulfilled; and the men selected for the first appointments to the chartered college by the commissioners entrusted with the work, unfettered though the commissioners were in their discretion, include, in all the chief departments, a large majority of men who had been educated in University College.
In 1904 Mr. Balfour and Mr. Wyndham made acknowledgement of the Catholic claims; two royal commissions had reported in their favour; but the ministers were deterred by Orange influence from its settlement. Mr. Bryce took up the question in courageous fashion during his brief chief secretary-ship. It was left to Mr. Birrell to carry a measure granting facilities for University education under conditions fairly satisfactory to Catholics. The Jesuits facilitated the reform in every way and, though they might have put forward a title to special consideration, they sought no peculiar recognition. Cardinal Logue declared the settlement to be largely due to their labours. The Archbishop of Dublin expressed his admiration for "the fidelity, constancy, and undaunted courage " which they had shown in the enterprise. Many years before, in 1886, when jealous criticism was afoot, Father Delany had already defined their interest to be to establish "a central College, which should be national in its Constitution; should be governed by a body representative of the whole Catholic people, with all its interests; where the main condition of appointments to posts should be excellence of qualification, the best man winning whether priest or layman ". The new constitution of the college approaches that ideal. Mr. Birrell, when introducing his University Bill, bore testimony to "the patriotism " of Father Delany's attitude. The passing of the University Act coincided with the silver jubilee of the old college ; and when the new college came into existence the Jesuits, in order to facilitate its commencement, surrendered to it, with the approval of the Irish bishops, the old buildings of the Catholic University.
The new Irish Universities Act of 1908 is based on the principle of the non-recognition of theological or religious teaching. No part of the public endowment can be applied for the purpose of such teaching. But the university may recognize a theological faculty or a religious chair provided by private endowment. The indifferentist principle was accepted by Irish Catholics because the scheme of government embodied in the charters both for the National University and for its constituent colleges enabled a sympathetic government to be established. The first senate and the first governing bodies were nominated, and the governing body of University College, Dublin, now consists of twenty-seven Catholics and three Protestants. When it ceases to hold office the new governing body will be constituted mainly of persons elected by the college corporation itself, and by the General Council of Irish County Councils, which represents Irish opinion. In the first appointment of deans of residence two Catholic priests were among those appointed. They voluntarily provide religious lectures in addition to discharging the duties of their office. The bishops of Ireland have also in hand (1912) a scheme for the establishment of a lectureship in theology in the college and have selected Rev. Peter Finlay, S.J., for the office. The growth of this side of the college work would complete its activities as a university institution. All the other faculties are adequately provided for, and include arts, philosophy, Celtic studies (including archæology, history, and philology), science, law, medicine, and engineering. The staff consists of the president (Dr. D.J. Coffey, dean of the old successful medical school ), forty-three professors, and eight lecturers. All the professors of philosophy are Catholics. The public endowment of the college is £32,000 a year and the total revenue in 1910-11 was £40,357. Six hundred and ninety-five students were in attendance in that year. The first plan of buildings provides for eight hundred students. One hundred and ten thousand pounds of public grant is available for their erection and equipment, but it will certainly prove inadequate, and must be supplemented from either public or private sources. So far, though the college is open to all, ninety-eight per cent of the students are Catholics.
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