Trinity College, Dublin

For other institutions named Trinity College, see Trinity College.

Coordinates: 53°20′40″N 6°15′28″W / 53.3444°N 6.2577°W / 53.3444; -6.2577

Trinity College
Coláiste na Tríonóide
College of the University of Dublin
Full name

The College of the Holy and Undivided Trinity of Queen Elizabeth near Dublin[1]

Irish: Coláiste Thríonóid Naofa Neamhroinnte na Banríona Eilís gar do Bhaile Átha Cliath[2]
Latin name Collegium Sanctae et Individuae Trinitatis Reginae Elizabethae juxta Dublin[3]
Founder Elizabeth I of England and Ireland
Established 1592
Named for The Holy Trinity
Trinity College, Cambridge[4]
Sister colleges St. John's College, Cambridge
Oriel College, Oxford
Provost Patrick Prendergast[5]
Undergraduates 12,420 (2014)[6]
Postgraduates 4,309 (2014)[6]
Location within central Dublin
Trinity College Dublin

Trinity College (Irish: Coláiste na Tríonóide) is the sole constituent college of the University of Dublin, a research university in Ireland. The college was founded in 1592 as the "mother" of a new university,[Note 1] modelled after the collegiate universities of Oxford and of Cambridge, but, unlike these, only one college was ever established; as such, the designations "Trinity College" and "University of Dublin" are usually synonymous for practical purposes. It is one of the seven ancient universities of Britain and Ireland,[7] as well as Ireland's oldest university.

Originally it was established outside the city walls of Dublin in the buildings of the dissolved Augustinian Priory of All Hallows. Trinity College was set up in part to consolidate the rule of the Tudor monarchy in Ireland, and it was seen as the university of the Protestant Ascendancy for much of its history. Although Catholics and Dissenters had been permitted to enter as early as the end of the XVIII century (1793),[8] certain restrictions on their membership of the college remained until 1873 (professorships, fellowships and scholarships were reserved for Protestants).[9] From 1871 to 1970, the Catholic Church in Ireland forbade its adherents from attending Trinity College without permission. Women were first admitted to the college as full members in January 1904.[10]

Trinity College is now surrounded by Dublin and is located on College Green, opposite the former Irish Houses of Parliament. The college proper occupies 190,000 m2 (47 acres), with many of its buildings ranged around large quadrangles (known as 'squares') and two playing fields. Academically, it is divided into three faculties comprising 25 schools, offering degree and diploma courses at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels. As of 2016, it was ranked by the Times Higher Education (THE) World University Rankings as the 160th best university in the world, by the QS World University Rankings as the 98th best, by the Academic Ranking of World Universities as within the 151–200 range, and by all three as the best university in Ireland.[11][12][13] The Library of Trinity College is a legal deposit library for Ireland and the United Kingdom, containing over 4.5 million printed volumes and significant quantities of manuscripts (including the Book of Kells), maps and music.


The Book of Kells is the most famous of the volumes in the Trinity College Library. Shown here is the Madonna and Child from Kells (folio 7v).

Early history

The first University of Dublin (known as the Medieval University of Dublin and unrelated to the current university) was created by the Pope in 1311,[14] and had a Chancellor, lecturers and students (granted protection by the Crown) over many years, before coming to an end at the Reformation.

Following this, and some debate about a new university at St. Patrick's Cathedral, in 1592 a small group of Dublin citizens obtained a charter by way of letters patent from Queen Elizabeth[Note 1] incorporating Trinity College at the former site of All Hallows monastery, to the south east of the city walls, provided by the Corporation of Dublin.[15][16] The first Provost of the College was the Archbishop of Dublin, Adam Loftus (after whose former college at Cambridge the institution was named),[4] and he was provided with two initial Fellows, James Hamilton and James Fullerton. Two years after foundation, a few Fellows and students began to work in the new College, which then lay around one small square. The ecclesiastical origins of the College are reflected in its motto, which is directly derived from Christian Scripture (1 Thessalonians 5:21), "ΠΑΝΤΑ ΔΟΚΙΜΑΖΕΤΕ ΤΟ ΚΑΛΟΝ ΚΑΤΕΧΕΤΕ" (Greek, transliterating as PANTA DOKIMAZETE TO KALON KATECHETE), or "Prove all things; hold fast that which is good."

During the following fifty years the community increased and endowments, including considerable landed estates, were secured, new fellowships were founded, the books which formed the foundation of the great library were acquired, a curriculum was devised and statutes were framed. The founding Letters Patent were amended by succeeding monarchs on a number of occasions, such as by James I in 1613 and most notably in 1637 by Charles I (who increased the number of fellows from seven to sixteen, established the Board – then the Provost and the seven senior Fellows – and reduced the panel of Visitors in size) and supplemented as late as the reign of Queen Victoria (and later still amended by the Oireachtas in 2000).

18th and 19th centuries

During the eighteenth century Trinity College was seen as the university of the Protestant Ascendancy. Parliament, meeting on the other side of College Green, made generous grants for building. The first building of this period was the Old Library building, begun in 1712, followed by the Printing House and the Dining Hall. During the second half of the century Parliament Square slowly emerged. The great building drive was completed in the early nineteenth century by Botany Bay, the square which derives its name in part from the herb garden it once contained (and which was succeeded by Trinity College's own Botanic Gardens). Following early steps in Catholic Emancipation, Catholics were first allowed to apply for admission in 1793,[17] prior to the equivalent change at the University of Cambridge and the University of Oxford. Certain disabilities remained. In December 1845 Denis Caulfield Heron was the subject of a hearing at Trinity College. Heron had previously been examined and, on merit, declared a scholar of the college but had not been allowed to take up his place due to his Catholic religion. Heron appealed to the Courts which issued a writ of mandamus requiring the case to be adjudicated by the Archbishop of Dublin and the Primate of Ireland.[18] The decision of Richard Whately and John George de la Poer Beresford was that Heron would remain excluded from Scholarship.[19] This decision confirmed that the legal position remained that persons who were not Anglicans (Presbyterians were also affected) could not be elected to Scholarship, Fellowship or be made a Professor. However within less than three decades of this all disabilities imposed on Catholics were repealed as in 1873, all religious tests were abolished, except for entry to the divinity school. However, the Irish Catholic bishops responding to the increased ease, due to these changes, with which Catholics could attend an Institution which the Bishops saw as thoroughly Protestant in ethos, and in light of the establishment of the Catholic University, in 1871 implemented a general ban on Catholics entering Trinity College, with few exceptions. "The ban" despite its longevity, is associated in the popular mind with Archbishop of Dublin John Charles McQuaid as he was made responsible for enforcing the ban from 1956 until it was rescinded by the Catholic Bishops of Ireland in 1970, shortly before McQuaid's retirement. Prior to 1956 it was the responsibility of the local Bishop.

The nineteenth century was also marked by important developments in the professional schools. The Law School was reorganised after the middle of the century. Medical teaching had been given in the College since 1711, but it was only after the establishment of the school on a firm basis by legislation in 1800, and under the inspiration of one Macartney, that it was in a position to play its full part, with such teachers as Graves and Stokes, in the great age of Dublin medicine. The Engineering School was established in 1842 and was one of the first of its kind in Ireland and Britain.

20th century

Women were admitted to Trinity College as full members for the first time in 1904.

In 1907 when the Chief Secretary for Ireland proposed the reconstitution of the University of Dublin. A Dublin University Defence Committee was created and was successful in campaigning against any change to the status quo, while the Catholic bishops' rejection of the idea ensured its failure among the Catholic population. Chief among the concerns of the bishops was the remains of the Catholic University of Ireland, which would become subsumed into a new university, which on account of Trinity College would be part Anglican. Ultimately this episode led to the creation of the National University of Ireland. Trinity College was one of the targets of the Volunteer and Citizen Army forces during the 1916 Easter Rising but was successfully defended by a small number of unionist students[20] most of whom were members of the University Officers' Training Corps. From July 1917 until March 1918 the Irish Convention met in the College in an attempt to address the political aftermath of the Easter rising. (Subsequently, following the failure of the Convention to reach "substantial agreement" the Irish Free State was set up in 1922.) In the post independence period Trinity College suffered from a cool relationship with the new state. On 3 May 1955 the Provost, Dr A.J.McConnell pointed out in a piece in the Irish Times that certain state funded County Council scholarships excluded Trinity College from the list of approved institutions, this he suggested amounted to religious discrimination, which was forbidden by the constitution.

The School of Commerce was established in 1925, and the School of Social Studies in 1934. Also in 1934, the first female professor was appointed.

1958 saw the first Catholic to reach the Board of Trinity as a Senior Fellow.

In 1962 the School of Commerce and the School of Social Studies amalgamated to form the School of Business and Social Studies. In 1969 the several schools and departments were grouped into Faculties as follows: Arts (Humanities and Letters); Business, Economic and Social Studies; Engineering and Systems Sciences; Health Sciences (since October 1977 all undergraduate teaching in dental science in the Dublin area has been located in Trinity College); Science.

In 1970 the Catholic Church, lifted its ban on Catholics attending the college without special dispensation. At the same time, the Trinity College authorities invited the appointment of a Catholic chaplain to be based in the college.[21] There are now two such Catholic chaplains.[22]

In the late 1960s, there was a proposal for University College, Dublin, of the National University of Ireland to become a constituent college of a newly reconstituted University of Dublin. This plan, suggested by Brian Lenihan and Donogh O'Malley, was dropped after opposition by Trinity College students.

From 1975, the Colleges of Technology that now form the Dublin Institute of Technology had their degrees conferred by the University of Dublin. This arrangement was discontinued in 1998 when the DIT obtained degree-granting powers of its own.

The School of Pharmacy was established in 1977 and around the same time, the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine was transferred to University College, Dublin. Student numbers increased sharply during the 1980s and 1990s, with total enrolment more than doubling, leading to pressure on resources and subsequent investment programme.

1991 saw Thomas Noel Mitchell become the first Roman Catholic elected Provost of Trinity College.[23]

21st century

Trinity College is today in the centre of Dublin. At the beginning of the new century, it embarked on a radical overhaul of academic structures to reallocate funds and reduce administration costs, resulting in, for instance, the mentioned reduction from six to just three faculties. The ten-year strategic plan prioritises four research themes with which the College seeks to compete for funding at the global level.[24] The Hamilton Mathematics Institute in Trinity College, named in honour of William Rowan Hamilton, was launched in 2005 and aims to improve the international profile of Irish mathematics, to raise public awareness of mathematics and to support local mathematical research through workshops, conferences and a visitor programme.

Buildings and grounds

Parliament Square

Trinity College retains a tranquil collegiate atmosphere despite its location in the centre of a capital city (and despite it being one of the most significant tourist attractions in Dublin). This is in large part due to the compact design of the college, whose main buildings look inwards and are arranged in large quadrangles (called squares), and the existence of only a few public entrances.

The main college grounds are approximately 190,000 m2 (47 acres), including the Trinity College Enterprise Centre nearby, and buildings account for around 200,000 m², ranging from works of older architecture to more modern buildings. The main entrance to the college is on the College Green and its grounds are bounded by Nassau and Pearse street. The college is bisected by College Park which has a cricket and rugby pitch.

Interior courtyard of the modern Goldsmith Hall college residence

The western side of the college is older, featuring the iconic Campanile, as well as many fine buildings, including the Chapel and Examination Hall (designed by Sir William Chambers), Graduates Memorial Building, Museum Building, and the Rubrics, all spread across College's five squares. The Provost's House sits a little way up from the College Front Gate such that the House is actually on Grafton Street, one of the two principal shopping streets in the city, while its garden faces into the College. The Douglas Hyde Gallery, a contemporary art gallery, is located in the College as is the Samuel Beckett Theatre. It hosts national and international performances and is used by the Dublin International Theatre Festival, the Dublin Dance Festival, and The Fringe Festival, among others. During the academic term it is predominantly used as a teaching and performance space for Drama students and staff.

The eastern side of the college is occupied by Science buildings most of which are modern developments, arranged in three rows instead of quadrangles. The college was ranked by Forbes as one of the top 15 in the world.[25]

The College also incorporates a number of buildings and facilities spread throughout the city, from the Politics and Sociology Departments located on Dame Street to the Faculty of Health Sciences buildings located at St James's Hospital and the Adelaide and Meath incorporating the National Children's Hospital, Tallaght, the Trinity Centre at St James's Hospital incorporates additional teaching rooms as well as the Institute of Molecular Medicine and John Durkan Leukaemia Institute. The College also owns a large set of residences four km to the south of the college on the Dartry Road in Rathmines called Trinity Hall.[Note 2]

A panorama taken from Parliament Square. The row of buildings is framed by the Public Theatre on the left and the Chapel on the right. In the middle lies Regent House with its archway leading to the Front Gate.


Interior of Trinity College Chapel, Dublin
Exterior of Trinity College Chapel, Dublin

The current chapel was completed in 1798, and was designed by George III’s architect, Sir William Chambers, who also designed the public theatre opposing the chapel on Parliament Square.[26] Reflecting the college's Anglican heritage, there are daily services of Morning prayer, weekly services of Evensong, and Holy Communion is celebrated on Wednesdays and Sundays, however it is no longer compulsory for students to attend these.

The chapel has been ecumenical since 1970, and is now also used daily in the celebration of Mass for the Roman Catholic members of the college. In addition to the Anglican chaplain, who is known as the Dean of Residence, there are two Roman Catholic chaplains and one Methodist chaplain. Ecumenical events are often held in the chapel, such as the annual carol service and the service of thanksgiving on Trinity Monday.[27]


The Long Room of the Old Library

The Library of Trinity College is the largest research library in Ireland. As a result of its historic standing, Trinity College Library Dublin is a legal deposit library (as per Legal Deposit Libraries Act 2003) for the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and has a similar standing in Irish law. The College is therefore legally entitled to a copy of every book published in Great Britain and Ireland and consequently receives over 100,000 new items every year. The Library contains about five million books, including 30,000 current serials and significant collections of manuscripts, maps, and printed music. Three million books are held in the book depository, "Stacks", in Santry, from which requests are retrieved twice daily.

The Old Library, housing the Book of Kells and other ancient manuscripts.

The Library proper is composed of several library buildings in college. The original (Old) Library is Thomas Burgh's masterpiece. A huge building, it originally towered over the university and city after its completion. Even today, surrounded by similarly scaled buildings, it is imposing and dominates the view of the university from Nassau Street. It was founded with the College and first endowed by James Ussher (1625–56), Archbishop of Armagh, who endowed his own valuable library, comprising several thousand printed books and manuscripts, to the College. The Book of Kells is by far the Library's most famous book and is located in the Old Library, along with the Book of Durrow, the Book of Howth and other ancient texts. Also incorporating the Long Room, the Old Library is one of Ireland's biggest tourist attractions, and holds thousands of rare, and in many cases very early, volumes. In the 18th century, the college received the Brian Boru harp, one of the three surviving medieval Gaelic harps, and a national symbol of Ireland, which is now housed in the library.

Arnaldo Pomodoro's Sphere Within Sphere sculpture stands outside the Berkeley Library

The buildings referred to as the College's BLU (Berkeley Lecky Ussher) Arts library complex consist of the Berkeley Library in Fellow's Square, built in 1956, the Lecky Library, attached to the Arts building, and the James Ussher Library which, opening officially in 2003, overlooks College Park and houses the Glucksman Map Library. The Glucksman Library contains half a million printed maps, the largest collection of cartographic materials in Ireland. This includes the first Ordnance Surveys of Ireland, conducted in the early 19th century.

The Library also includes the William Hamilton Science and Engineering Library and the John Stearne Medical Library, housed at St James's Hospital.


The College, officially incorporated as The Provost, Fellows and Scholars of the College of the Holy and Undivided Trinity of Queen Elizabeth near Dublin, is headed by the Provost. Patrick Prendergast has been the Provost since 2011.


Statue of former provost George Salmon (by John Hughes) and the Campanile, both in Parliament Square

The body corporate of the College consists of the Provost, Fellows and Scholars. In general, amendments to the College Statutes (which must be proposed by the Board) require the consent of the Fellows. Where a change requires parliamentary legislation, the consent of the whole Body Corporate may be needed, with Scholars voting alongside Fellows. This last happened when the governance of the College and University was revised and re stated by an Act of the Oireachtas in 2000.

The Provost serves a ten-year term and is elected primarily by fellow academic staff. A small number of students have votes. Election to Fellowship and Scholarship is for academic staff and undergraduates respectively. The decision to elect is made by the Board. Fellows were once elected for life on the basis of a competitive examination. The number of Fellows was fixed and a competition to fill a vacancy would occur on the death or resignation of a Fellow. Fellows are now elected from amongst existing College academics and serve until reaching retirement age, and there is no formal limit on their number. They are drawn from College academics. Election to Fellowship is recognition that they have excelled in their field and as such, amounts to a promotion for those receiving it. Any person appointed to a Professorship who is not already a Fellow, is elected a Fellow at the next opportunity.

Scholars continue to be selected by competitive examination from the Undergraduate body. The Scholarship examination is now set according to the several undergraduate courses. (So there is a scholarship examination in History, or in Mathematics or Engineering, and so forth). The Scholarship examination is taken in the second year of a four-year degree course (though, in special circumstances, such as illness, bereavement, or studying abroad during the second year, permission may be given to sit the examination in the third year). In theory, a student can sit the examination in any subject, not just the one they are studying. They hold their Scholarship until they are of "MA standing" that is, three years after obtaining the BA degree. (So most are Scholars for a term of five years).

Fellows are entitled to residence in the College free of charge; most Fellows do not exercise this right in practice, with the legal requirement to provide accommodation to them being fulfilled by providing an office. Scholars are also entitled to residence in the College free of charge, they also receive an allowance, and. if relevant, have the fees paid for courses they are taking within the college. However, due to pressure on College accommodation Scholars are no longer entitled (as they once were) to free rooms, or any rooms at all, if they are not actually students whether undergraduate or post graduate. Fellows and Scholars are also entitled to one free meal a day, usually in the evening ("Commons"). Scholars retain the right to free meals even after graduation, and ceasing to be students, should they choose to exercise it.

The Board

Aside from the Provost, Fellows and Scholars, Trinity College has a Board (dating from 1637), which carries out general governance. Originally the Board consisted of the Provost and Senior Fellows only. There were seven Senior Fellows, defined as those seven fellows that had served longest, fellowship at that time being for life, unless resigned. Over the years a representational element was added, for example by having elected representatives of the Junior Fellows and of those Professors who were not Fellows, with the last revision before Irish Independence being made by Royal Letters Patent in 1911.

The governance of Trinity College was next formally changed in 2000, by the Oireachtas, in legislation proposed by the Board of the college, and approved by the Body Corporate viz The Trinity College, Dublin (Charters and Letters Patent Amendment) Act, 2000. This was introduced separately from the Universities Act 1997. It states that the Board shall comprise:

The fellows, non-fellow academic staff as well as non-academic staff are elected to serve for a fixed term. The four student members are the President, Education Officer and Welfare Officer of the Students' Union and the president of the Graduate Students' Union (all ex officio) and are elected annually for one-year terms. The vice-provost/chief academic officer, senior lecturer, registrar and bursar are 'annual officers' appointed for one-year (renewable) terms by the Provost.

The Council

There is a Council (dating from 1874), which oversees academic matters. All decisions of the Council require the approval of the Board, but if the decision in question does not require a new expenditure, the approval is normally formal, without debate. The Council had a significant number of elected representatives from the start, and was also larger than the Board, which at that time, continued to consist of the Provost and seven Senior Fellows only. The Council is the formal body which makes academic staff appointments, always, in practice on the recommendation of appointments panels, but which have themselves been appointed by the Council. An illustration of the relationship between the Board and the Council, is where a decision is made to create a new professorial chair. As this involves paying a salary, the initial decision to create the chair is made by the Council, but the decision to make provision for the salary is made by the Board, consequently the Board might over rule, or defer a Council decision on grounds of cost.

The Senate

Seal of the University Senate

The University of Dublin was modelled on University of Oxford and University of Cambridge in the form of a collegiate university, Trinity College being named by the Queen as the mater universitas ("mother of the university"). As no other college was ever established, the College is the sole constituent college of the university and so Trinity College and the University of Dublin are for most practical purposes synonymous. However, the actual statutes of the university and the college[28] grant the university separate corporate legal rights to own property and borrow money and employ staff. Moreover, while the Board of the College has the sole power to propose amendments to the statutes of the University and College, amendments to the university statutes require the consent of the Senate of the University. Consequently, in theory, the Senate can overrule the Board, but only in very limited and particular circumstances. However it is also the case that the University cannot act independently of the initiative of the Board of Trinity College. The most common example of when the two bodies must collaborate is when a decision is made to establish a new degree. All matters relating to syllabus, examination and teaching are for the College to determine, but actual clearance for the award of the degree is a matter for the University. In the same way when an individual is awarded an Honorary Degree, the proposal for the award is made by the Board of Trinity College, but this is subject to agreement by a vote of the Senate of Dublin University. All graduates of the University who have at least a master's degree are eligible to be members of the Senate, but in practice only a few hundred are, with a large proportion being current members of the staff of Trinity College.


The College also has an oversight structure, the Chancellor of the University who is elected by the Senate and the judicial Visitor who is appointed by the Irish Government from a list of two names submitted by the Senate of the University of Dublin. The current judicial Visitor is the Hon. Dr. Justice Maureen Harding Clark. In the event of a disagreement between the two visitors the opinion of the Chancellor prevails. The visitors act as a final "court of appeal" within the College, with their mode of appointment giving them the needed independence from the College administration.

Academic associations

Parliament Square: The Campanile

Trinity College is a sister college to Oriel College of the University of Oxford and St John's College of the University of Cambridge.[29][30]

Two teaching hospitals are associated with the college:

A number of teaching institutions are involved in jointly taught courses:

The School of Business in association with the Irish Management Institute forms the Trinity-IMI Graduate School of Management, incorporating the faculties of both organisations. Trinity College has also been associated in the past with a number of other teaching institutions. These include St Catherine's College of Education for Home Economics (now closed), Magee College and Royal Irish Academy of Music, which is a music conservatoire, as well as The Lir National Academy of Dramatic Art, which is the national conservatoire for theatre training actors, technicians, playwrights and designers to a professional and industry standard - the Lir is also advised by the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in the UK.

Parliamentary representation

The University has been represented since 1613 when James I granted it the right to elect two members of parliament (MPs) to the Irish House of Commons. Since the new Constitution of Ireland in 1937, the University has elected three Senators to Seanad Éireann. The current representatives of the University are Ivana Bacik, David Norris and Lynn Ruane. Notable representatives have included Edward Gibson, W. E. H. Lecky, Edward Carson, Noel Browne, Conor Cruise O'Brien and Mary Robinson. The franchise was originally restricted to the Provost, Fellows and Scholars of Trinity College. This was expanded in 1832 to include those who had received an M.A. and in 1918 all those who had received a degree from the University.

Academic profile

Since considerable academic restructuring in 2008, the college has three academic faculties:

Each faculty is headed by a Dean (there is also a Dean of Postgraduate Studies) and faculties are divided into Schools, of which there are currently 24.[31]


Most undergraduate courses require four years of study. First year students at the undergraduate level are called Junior Freshmen (regardless of sex); second years, Senior Freshmen; third years, Junior Sophisters; and fourth years, Senior Sophisters. The Freshman Years usually have a set or minimally flexible basic curriculum with the Sophister years allowing for a much greater degree of course variation, as well as taking a year abroad. The passing of two sets of examinations is a prerequisite for a degree. Junior and Senior Freshmen sit preliminary annual exams in Trinity Term of each year which must be passed so that they "rise" to the year above. At the end of the Junior Sophister year, undergraduates sit Part I of the Moderatorship exams, subject to attaining an upper-second, allows them to take an Honours degree and sit the Part II (Final) of the Moderatorship exams. Successful candidates receive first-, upper or lower second-, or third-class honours, or simply a "pass" without honours if they perform insufficiently in Part I of the Moderatorship.

Most non-professional courses take a Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree. As a matter of tradition, bachelor's degree graduates are eligible, after nine terms from matriculation and without additional study, to purchase for a fee an upgrade of their bachelor's degree to a Master of Arts The four-year degree structure makes undergraduate teaching at Dublin closer to the North American model than that of other universities in England and Ireland (Scottish universities, like Dublin, generally also require four years of study for a bachelor's degree).

Degree titles vary according to the subject of study. The Law School awards the LL.B., the LL.B. (ling. franc.) and the LL.B. (ling. germ.). Other degrees include the BAI (engineering) and BBS (business studies). The BSc degree is not in wide use although it is awarded by the School of Nursing and Midwifery and the School of Pharmacy; most science and computer science students are awarded a BA.


At postgraduate level, Trinity offers a range of taught and research degrees in all faculties. About 31% of students are post-graduate level, with 1,600 students reading for a research degree and an additional 2,200 on taught courses (see Research and Innovation).[6][32]

Trinity College's Strategic Plan sets "the objective of doubling the number of PhDs across all disciplines by 2013 in order to move towards a knowledge society. In order to achieve this, the College has received some of the largest allocations of Irish Government funding which have become competitively available to date."[33]

In addition to academic degrees, the college offers Postgraduate Diploma (non-degree) qualifications, either directly, or through associated institutions.

Academic year

The academic year is divided into three terms. Michaelmas term lasts from October to December; Hilary term from January to March; and Trinity term from April to June, with each term separated by a vacation. Whilst teaching takes place across all three terms in postgraduate courses, for undergraduate programmes, teaching is condensed within the first two terms since 2009, with each term consisting of a twelve-week period of teaching known as the Teaching Term. These are followed by three revision weeks and a four-week exam period during the Trinity Term.[34]

Internally at least, the weeks in the term are often referred to by the time elapsed since the start of teaching Term: thus the first week is called "1st week" or "week 1" and the last is "Week 12"/"12th week".

The first week of Trinity Term (which marks conclusion of lecturing for that year) is known as Trinity Week; normally preceded by a string of balls, it consists of a week of sporting and academic events. This includes the Trinity Ball and the Trinity Regatta( a premier social event on the Irish rowing calendar held since 1898),[35] the election of Scholars and Fellows and a College banquet.


Admission to undergraduate study for European Union school-leavers is generally handled by the CAO (Central Applications Office), and not by Trinity College. Applicants have to compete for university places solely on the basis of the results of their school leaving exams. Through the CAO, candidates may list several courses at Trinity College and at other third-level institutions in Ireland in order of priority. Places are awarded in mid-August every year by the CAO after matching the number of places available to the academic attainments of the applicants. Qualifications are measured as "points", with specific scales for the Irish Leaving Certificate, and all other European Union school leaving results, such as the UK GCE A-level, the International Baccalaureate along with other national school leaving exams.[36]

For applicants who are not citizens or residents of the European Union, different application procedures apply.;[37] 16% of students are from outside Ireland and 40% of these are from outside the European Union. Disadvantaged, disabled or mature students can also be admitted through a program that is separate from the CAO, the Trinity Access Programme.[38] This aims to facilitate the entry of sectors of society which would otherwise be under-represented. The numbers admitted on this program are significant relative to other universities, up to 15% of the annual undergraduate intake.

Admission to graduate study is handled by Trinity College.


Entrance Exhibition and sizarship

Students who enter with exceptional Leaving Certificate or other public examination results are awarded an Entrance Exhibition. This entails a prize in the form of book tokens to the value of €150.00.[39] Exhibitioners who are of limited means are made Sizars, entitled to Commons (evening meal) free of charge.


Announcement of Fellow and Scholars at Trinity College Dublin on Trinity Monday 2013

Undergraduate students of Senior Freshmen standing may elect to sit the Foundation Scholarship examination, which takes place in the Christmas Vacation, on the last week before Hilary term. On Trinity Monday (the first day of Trinity Term), the Board of the College sits and elects to the Scholarship all those who achieve First in the examination. Those from EU member countries are entitled to free rooms and Commons (the College's Formal Hall), an annual stipend and exemption from fees for the duration of their scholarship, which lasts for fifteen terms. Scholars from non-EU member countries have their fees reduced by the current value of EU member fees. Scholars may add the suffix "Sch." to their names, have the note "discip. schol." appended to their name at Commencements and are entitled to wear Bachelor's Robes and a velvet mortarboard.

Competition for Scholarship involves a searching examination and successful candidates must be of exceptional ability. The concept of Scholarship is a valued tradition of the College and many of the College's most distinguished members were elected Scholars (including Samuel Beckett and Ernest Walton). The Scholars' dinner, to which 'Scholars of the decade' (those elected in the current year, and every year multiple of a decade previous to it, e.g., 2013, 2003,..) are invited, forms one of the major events in Trinity's calendar. A Scholarship at Trinity College is a prestigious undergraduate award; a principal aim of the College is the pursuit of excellence and one of the most tangible demonstrations of this is the institution of Scholarship.

Under the Foundation Charter (of 1592), Scholars were part of the body corporate (three Scholars were named in the charter "in the name of many"). Until 1609 there were about 51 Scholars at any one time. A figure of seventy was permanently fixed in the revising Letters Patent of Charles I in 1637. Trinity Monday was appointed as the day when all future elections to Fellowship and Scholarship would be announced (at this time Trinity Monday was always celebrated on the Monday after the feast of the Holy Trinity). Up to this point all undergraduates were Scholars, but soon after 1637 the practice of admitting students other than Scholars commenced.

Until 1856 only the classical subjects were examined. The questions concerned all the classical authors prescribed for the entrance examination and for the undergraduate course up to the middle of the Junior Sophister year. So candidates had no new material to read, 'but they had to submit to a very searching examination on the fairly lengthy list of classical texts which they were supposed by this time to have mastered'. The close link with the undergraduate syllabus is underlined by the refusal until 1856 to admit Scholars to the Library (a request for admission was rejected by the Board in 1842 on the grounds that Scholars should stick to their prescribed books and not indulge in 'those desultory habits' that admission to an extensive library would encourage). During the second half of the nineteenth century the content of the examination gradually came to include other disciplines.

Around the turn of the 20th century, further examinations for "Non-Foundation" Scholarships were introduced. This initially was a formula to permit women to become Scholars, but without entitling them to the same voting rights as men. Non-Foundation Scholarships are now awarded to those who meet the qualifying standards and Foundation Scholarships given to those whose performance was considered particularly exceptional. While the number of Foundation Scholars remains fixed at seventy, there is in theory no limit on the number of Non-Foundation scholars. The only practical difference between the two is that the Foundation Scholars are members of the body corporate of the College and are entitled to certain voting rights.


Trinity College is the most productive internationally recognised research centre in Ireland.[40] The University operates an Innovation Centre which fosters academic innovation and consultancy, provides patenting advice and research information and facilitates the establishment and operation of industrial laboratories and campus companies.

In 1999 the University purchased an Enterprise Centre on Pearse Street, seven minutes' walk from the on-site "Innovation Centre". The site has over 19,000 m² (200,000 ft²) of built space and contains a protected building, the Tower, which houses a Craft Centre. The Trinity Enterprise Centre will house companies drawn from the University research sector in Dublin.


As of September 2016
University rankings
ARWU[41] 151-200
Times[42] 160
QS[43] 98
160th globally, 77th in Europe, 1st in Ireland[44]
98th globally, 36th in Europe, 1st in Ireland[45]
74th THE ranking,[46] 61st QS ranking[47]

In response to a long-term decline in rankings (from 43rd according to the last combined THE/QS ranking in 2009[48] to 98th in QS[49] and 160th in THE for 2016) Trinity announced a plan in 2014 to reverse the trend, aiming to re-enter the top 50 bracket.[50] However, there were setbacks in the 2016 rankings, in which Trinity fell out of the top 50 bracket for history and biological sciences, followed by an incident in March 2016 when the college was found to have breached QS guidelines in letters sent to alumni and supporters.[51] After reports that Trinity had fallen out of the top 200 universities in the 2017 THE ranking it was announced that the college would be temporarily dropped from the ranking pending a recalculation of Trinity's score which may have been negatively affected by incorrect financial information supplied by the college.[52]

THE rankings[53]
Year Rank (Change)
201077 (Decrease 34)
201176 (Increase 1)
2012117 (Decrease 41)
2013110 (Increase 7)
2014129 (Decrease 19)
2015138 (Decrease 9)
2016160 (Decrease 22)

Student life


Trinity College has a student life with 124 societies (in 2011). Student societies operate under the aegis of the Dublin University Central Societies Committee which is composed of the Treasurers of each of the Societies within the College. Society size varies enormously, and it is often hard to determine exact figures for most societies – several claiming to be the largest in the college with thousands of members, while smaller groups may have only 40–50 members.

Situated within the Graduates Memorial Building is the oldest of Ireland's such societies, University Philosophical Society (The Phil). Founded in 1683, the society has strong history in debating and paper-reading. Consequently, over the past four centuries it has been addressed by the world's preeminent thinkers and orators. The society meets each Thursday evening to debate motions of interest in the chamber of the Graduates Memorial Building. It counts among its Honorary Patrons multiple Noble Prize laureates, Heads of State, notable actors, entertainers, well-known intellectuals, such as Al Pacino, Desmond Tutu, Sir Christopher Lee, Stephen Fry, and John Mearsheimer.

Another such society is the College Historical Society which shares the GMB, traces it foundation to 1770, meets each Wednesday evening of Term to debate motions in the chamber of the Graduate Memorial Building, has been addressed by many notable orators including Winston Churchill and Ted Kennedy, and counts among its former members many of the most prominent men and women in Ireland's history.

Other societies include Vincent de Paul Society (VDP), which organises a large number of charitable activities in the local community; DU Players, one of the most prolific student-drama societies in Europe which hosts more than 50 shows and events a year in the Samuel Beckett Theatre; The DU Film Society (Formerly DU Filmmakers, formerly the DU "Videographic Society", founded in 1987) which organises filmmakers and film-lovers in College through workshops, screenings, production funding, etc.; The DU Radio Society, known as Trinity FM, broadcasts a variety of student made productions on a special events licence on FM frequency 97.3FM for six weeks a year; The Trinity LGBT society, which is the oldest LGBT society in Ireland and celebrated its 25th anniversary in the 2007/2008 year; The Card and Bridge Society also holds weekly poker and bridge tournaments and was the starting point to many notable alum including Andy Black, Padraig Parkinson and Donnacha O'Dea ;The Dublin University Comedy Society, known as DU Comedy, hosts comedy events for its members and has hosted gigs in college from comedians such as Andrew Maxwell, David O'Doherty, Neil Delamere and Colin Murphy; The Dance Society, known as dudance, provides classes in Latin and ballroom dancing, as well as running events around other dance styles such as swing dancing.[54] In 2011 the Laurentian Society was revived. This society played a key role as a society for the few Catholic students who studied at Trinity while "the Ban" was still in force.[55]


There is a sporting tradition at Trinity and the college has 50 sports clubs affiliated to the Dublin University Central Athletic Club (DUCAC).[56]

College Park, Trinity College

The Central Athletic Club is made up of five committees that oversee the development of sport in the college: the Executive Committee which is responsible overall for all activities, the Captains' Committee which represents the 49 club captains and awards University Colours (Pinks), the Pavilion Bar Committee which runs the private members' bar, the Pavilion Members' Committee and the Sports Facilities Committee.

The oldest clubs include the Dublin University Cricket Club (1835),[57] the Dublin University Boat Club (1836)[58] and the Dublin University Rifle Club (1840).[59] Dublin University Football Club, founded in 1854, plays rugby football and is the world's oldest documented "football club". The Dublin University Association Football Club (soccer) was founded in 1883,[60] the Dublin University Hockey Club in 1893,[61] and the Dublin University Harriers and Athletic Club in 1885.[62]

A winter scene in College Park

The largest sports club in the college is the Boarding Club with over 1000 registered members. The newest club in the University is the American football team, who were accepted into the Irish American Football League (IAFL) in 2008. Initially known as the Trinity Thunderbolts, the club now competes under the name "Trinity College". The most successful Trinity College sports club – based on Intervarsities victories – is Dublin University Fencing Club (DU Fencing Club). A total of thirty-six Intervarsity titles have been won by the club in fifty-nine years of competition. While the modern DU Fencing Club was founded in 1941, its origins can be dated to the 1700s when a 'Gentleman's Club of the Sword' existed, primarily for duelling practice.[63] There are several graduate sport clubs that exist separate to the Central Athletic Club including the Dublin University Museum Players (cricket), the Lady Elizabeth Boat Club (rowing) and the Mary Lyons Memorial Mallets (croquet).


Trinity College has a tradition of student publications, ranging from the serious to the satirical. Most student publications are administered by Trinity Publications, previously called the Dublin University Publications Committee (often known as 'Pubs'), which maintains and administers the Publications office (located in No 6) and all the associated equipment needed to publish newspapers and magazines.

The Students' Union funds a monthly newspaper called The University Times. This paper was launched in 2009 replacing the University Record. The Record, first published in 1997, had previously replaced an older publication called Aontas. The University Times has since become the largest student newspaper in Ireland, winning numerous awards; it was the recipient of the Student Media Award for Best Publication from 2010-2012, was granted the Website of the Year at the Student Achievement Awards 2013, and most recently won two awards at the Student Achievement Awards 2014, winning Best Publication and Best Journalist (Aisling Curtis).

The University Times is edited by the Communications Officer for the Students' Union, but enjoys editorial independence. This is set to change for the Academic Year 2015/2016, as the roles of University Times Editor and Communications Officer will become entirely separate. It has four major sections: News, Features, Opinions and Sport, and also publishes a widely read magazine, the UTZine, and a recently introduced supplement, with a rotating theme each issue.

Trinity News is also published in Trinity, and is Ireland's oldest student newspaper, having been founded in 1953. As of 2010 it is published on a fortnightly basis, producing twelve issues in total during the academic year. The focus is on students with sections including College News, National News, International News, Features, Science, Sports Features and College Sports. The paper also includes the cultural magazine called TN2. For the last 10 years the paper has been edited by a full-time student editor, who takes a sabbatical year from their studies, supported by a voluntary part-time staff of 30 student section editors and writers. Ireland's only student-run financial newspaper The Bull is also published quarterly. Student magazines currently in publication as of 2012 include the satirical newspaper The Piranha[64] (formerly Piranha! magazine but rebranded in 2009), the generalist T.C.D. Miscellany (founded in 1895; one of Ireland's oldest magazines), the film journal Trinity Film Review (TFR) and the literary Icarus. Other publications include the Student Economic Review and the Trinity College Law Review, produced independently by students of economics and law respectively, the Trinity College Journal of Postgraduate Research, produced by the Graduate Students Union, the Social and Political Review (SPR),[65] now in its 22nd year, the Trinity Student Medical Journal,[66] The Attic, student writing produced by the Dublin University Literary Society and the Afro-Caribbean Journal produced by the Afro-Caribbean Society. Some older titles currently not in publication include In Transit, Central Review, Harlot, Evoke, and Alternate.

The Trinity Ball

Trinity College Commencements

The Trinity Ball is an annual event that draws 7,000 attendants.[67] Until 2010, it was held annually on the last teaching day of Trinity term to celebrate the end of lectures and the beginning of Trinity Week. Due to a restructuring of the teaching terms of the College the 2010 Ball was held on the last day of Trinity Week. In 2011, the ball was held on the final day of teaching of Hilary Term, before the commencement of Trinity Week. The Ball is run by Trinity Students' Union and Trinity's Central Societies Committee in conjunction with event promoters MCD Productions, who hold the contract to run the Ball until 2012.[68] The Ball celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2009.[69]

Students' Union

The Students' Union's primary role is to provide a recognised representative channel between undergraduates and the University and College authorities. The Campaigns Executive, the Administrative Executive and Sabbatical Officers manage the business and affairs of the Union. The Sabbatical Officers are: The President, Communications Officer, Welfare Officer, Education Officer and Entertainments Officer and are elected on an annual basis; all capitated students are entitled to vote. The SU President, Welfare Officer and Education Officer are ex-officio members of the College Board.

The Students' Union Communications Officer is responsible for the publication of The University Times, which is published every three weeks by the Students' Union. The University Times is an independent newspaper and has distanced itself from being known as the voice of the Students' Union, as its predecessor publications had been (The University Record, Aontas).

The Graduate Students' Union's primary role is to provide a recognised representative channel between postgraduates and the University and College authorities.[70] The GSU president is an ex-officio member of the College Board.

The Graduate Students' Union publish the annual "Journal of Postgraduate Research".

Traditions and culture

The Latin Grace is said "before and after meat" at Commons, a three-course meal served in the College Dining Hall Monday to Friday. Commons is attended by Scholars and Fellows and Sizars of the College, as well other members of the College community and their guests.

Each year, Trinity Week is celebrated in mid-April on Trinity Monday and on the afternoon of Trinity Wednesday no lectures or demonstrations are held. College races are held each year on Trinity Wednesday.

There is a long-standing rivalry with nearby University College Dublin, which is largely friendly in nature. Every year, Colours events are contested between the sporting clubs of each University.

The more superstitious students of the college (during their undergraduate studies) never walk underneath the Campanile, as the tradition suggests that should the bell ring whilst they pass under it, they will fail their annual examinations.

In James Plunkett's Farewell Companions, one of the characters claims to have been "through Trinity", having entered at College Green and left at the Nassau Street Gate.

Parts of Michael Collins,[71] The First Great Train Robbery,[72] Circle of Friends,[73] Educating Rita,[74] Ek Tha Tiger[75] and Quackser Fortune Has a Cousin in the Bronx[76] were filmed in Trinity College. It served as the filming location for Luftwaffe headquarters in The Blue Max.

The Irish writer J.P. Donleavy was a student in Trinity. A number of his books feature characters who attend Trinity, including The Ginger Man and The Beastly Beatitudes of Balthazar B. H.A. Hinkson has written two books about Trinity, Student Life in T.C.D. and the fictional O'Grady of Trinity – A Story of Irish University Life.

Fictional Naval Surgeon Stephen Maturin of Patrick O'Brian's popular Aubrey–Maturin series is a graduate of Trinity College.

In the Channel 4 television series Hollyoaks, Craig Dean attends Trinity College. He left Hollyoaks to study in Ireland in 2007 and now lives there with his boyfriend, John Paul McQueen, after they got their sunset ending in September 2008.

All Names Have Been Changed a novel by Claire Kilroy is set in Trinity College in the 1990s. The story follows a group of creative writing students and their enigmatic professor. A photograph of Trinity is used in the cover art.[77]

In Karen Marie Moning's The Fever Series Trinity College is said to be where the main character, MacKayla Lane's, sister Alina was attending school on scholarship before she was murdered. The college is also where several of the minor characters who inform Ms. Lane about her sister are said to work.

In the novel Thanks for the Memories, written by Irish author Cecelia Ahern, Justin Hitchcock is a guest lecturer at Trinity College.[78]

Notable people

Amongst the graduates (and some staff) are included notable people such as Jonathan Swift, George Berkeley, Edmund Burke, Oliver Goldsmith, William Molyneux, William Congreve, Edward Hincks, Oscar Wilde, Samuel Beckett (Nobel Laureate in Literature), Dionysius Lardner, Bram Stoker, William Rowan Hamilton, E. T. Whittaker, Ernest Walton (Nobel Laureate in Physics), George Francis FitzGerald, George Johnstone Stoney, James MacCullagh, Thomas Preston, John Joly, Frederick Thomas Trouton, John Lighton Synge and his uncle John Millington Synge, Charles Algernon Parsons, Gordon Foster, Daniel Bradley, Richard Maunsell, Robert Emmet, Thomas Davis, Wolfe Tone, Henry Grattan, John Kells Ingram, Francis Ysidro Edgeworth, Edward Dowden, Mairead Maguire (Nobel Laureate in Peace), three holders of the office of President of Ireland, a Premier of New Zealand (Edward Stafford), Jaja Wachuku (first indigenous Speaker of the House of Representatives of Nigeria, first Nigerian Foreign Affairs Minister), William Campbell (Nobel Laureate in Medicine) and Louise Richardson, the first female Vice-Chancellor of both the University of St Andrews and the University of Oxford (the third oldest and oldest universities in the English-speaking world respectively).

See also


  1. 1 2 Extracts from Letters Patent ("First or Foundation Charter") of Elizabeth I, 1592: "...we...found and establish a College, mother of a (the) University, near the town of Dublin for the better education, training and instruction of scholars and students in our realm...and also that provision should be made...for the relief and support of a provost and some fellows and shall be called THE COLLEGE OF THE HOLY AND UNDIVIDED TRINITY NEAR DUBLIN FOUNDED BY THE MOST SERENE QUEEN ELIZABETH. And...we erect...that College with a provost, three fellows in the name of many, and three scholars in the name of many, to continue for ever. And further we make...Adam Loftus, D.D., archbishop of Dublin, chancellor of our kingdom of Ireland, the first...provost of the aforesaid College... And we make...Henry Ussher, M.A., Luke Challoner, M.A., Lancellot Moine, B.A., the first...fellows there... And we make...Henry Lee, William Daniell, and Stephen White the first...scholars... And further...we will...that the aforesaid provost, fellows and scholars of Trinity College aforesaid and their successors in matter, fact and name in future are and shall be a body corporate and politic, for ever the name of THE PROVOST, FELLOWS AND SCHOLARS OF THE COLLEGE OF THE HOLY AND UNDIVIDED TRINITY OF QUEEN ELIZABETH NEAR DUBLIN, and that in all future times they shall be that name, and shall have perpetual succession...and we really and completely create...them...a body corporate and politic, to endure for ever... And whereas it appears that certain degrees have been of assistance in the arts and faculties, we ordain...that the students in this College of the holy and undivided Trinity of Queen Elizabeth near Dublin shall have liberty and power to obtain degrees of Bachelor, Master, and Doctor, at a suitable time, in all arts and faculties. ...and that they shall have liberty to perform among themselves all acts and scholastic exercises for gaining such degrees, as shall seem fit to the provost and the majority of the fellows, (and that they may elect...all persons for better promoting such things, whether Vice-Chancellor, Proctor or Proctors), (for we have approved assignment of the dignity of Chancellor to...William Cecil, Baron Burghley...and...when he shall cease to be chancellor...the provost and the majority of the fellows shall elect a suitable person of this sort as chancellor of the College. And the chancellor, or his vice-chancellor, with the archbishop of Dublin, the Bishop of Meath, the vice treasurer, the treasurer for war, and the chief justice of our chief place within this our kingdom of Ireland, the mayor of the city of Dublin for the time being, or the majority of them who shall be called visitors, shall break off and limit all contentions, actions and controversies (which the provost and the majority of the fellows cannot settle), and that they shall punish all the graver faults not amended by the provost and fellows.)"
  2. Trinity Hall which houses 1,100 students, of whom the majority are first years.


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