St. Patrick’s College, Maynooth, was founded in 1795 as the National Seminary for all of Ireland. In addition to the courses in philosophy and theology required for the education of candidates for the priesthood, its’ curriculum included courses in the Humanities (Classics, English, Irish and Modern Languages) and Natural Philosophy (including mathematics and experimental science). At the time of the celebration of the College’s first centenary, permission was sought from Rome to confer canonical degrees in Philosophy, Theology and Canon Law. This was achieved in 1896 with the grant of a Charter as a Pontifical University.
The history of University Education in nineteenth century Ireland is a complex one and was only finally resolved by the foundation of the National University of Ireland (NUI) in 1908, with constituent colleges in Dublin, Cork and Galway. The terms of the Act of Parliament establishing the University excluded the teaching of, and granting of degrees in, theology. It gave the new University, however, the right to recognise other institutions for teaching and granting of degrees. Under these terms, the Trustees of Maynooth applied for recognition of the College’s non-theological courses in 1909. The following year, Saint Patrick’s College Maynooth became a Recognised College of the National University of Ireland, with Faculties of Arts, Philosophy and Celtic Studies. At the conclusion of an initial experimental period of four years, the status of Recognised College was granted in perpetuity and extended to include a Faculty of Science.
Maynooth was accordingly both a Pontifical University for the ecclesiastical sciences and a Recognised College of the National University of Ireland in Arts, Philosophy, Celtic Studies and Science. The President of St Patrick’s College was head of both institutions and the staff of the College held professorships and lectureships within the National University of Ireland. The student body of the College remained exclusively clerical until 1966, when lay students were admitted to NUI courses of the College. In time, these courses became the predominant dimension of Maynooth’s curriculum. With the increasing number of students, the teaching staff of the NUI became more numerous and varied in background.
An Act of Dáil Éireann in 1997 restructured the National University of Ireland. By its terms, the Recognised College at Maynooth became the National University of Ireland, Maynooth (NUIM), independent of St Patrick’s College. NUIM now has more than 8,000 students and in addition to its traditional Faculties of Arts, Philosophy, Celtic Studies and Science, it includes courses in Finance, Computer Science, Software Engineering and Electronic Engineering.
Today, the Pontifical University at St Patrick’s College, Maynooth offers both undergraduate and postgraduate courses which are open to all qualifying candidates.
Source: SPCM Website