Today University College Cork marks it's 175th anniversary

UCC celebrates a special anniversary today. To mark the occasion, here’s some history about the college
Today University College Cork marks it's 175th anniversary

A picture of The Quad at UCC, around 1910.

UNIVERSITY College Cork celebrates its 175th anniversary today, December 30; on this date in 1845, the university formally came into being as Queen’s College Cork (QCC).

QCC was founded as one of three Queen’s Colleges located in Belfast, Cork, and Galway, under an Act “to enable her Majesty” — Queen Victoria — “to endow Colleges for the Advancement of Learning in Ireland”.

George Boole and the first female professor in Ireland

From 115 students in 1849 UCC has grown to over 21,000 students today, UCC has had many firsts in its long history, including Mary Ryan who in 1910 was appointed the first female professor in Ireland.

Pioneering female academics in UCC’s history include Dr Dora Allman and Dr Lucy E Smith who both graduated from the University in 1898.

Dr Dora Allman was the first female medical graduate of UCC and was the first women to be appointed as Chief Medical Officer in a Mental Hospital in Ireland and Great Britain. Dr Lucy Smith became Cork’s first female obstetrician as well as visiting physician to Cork Women’s Prison.

UCC’s first Professor of Mathematics was George Boole, the founder of Boolean algebra who was appointed in 1849 and is recognised as one of the fathers of computer science.

UCC’s Contribution

Throughout its history, UCC and its students have been a force for positive change. The scientific research of Edwin J Butler (Medicine, 1898) helped improve farming and alleviate famine in India. After World War Two, UCC welcomed Polish refugees exiled by war as its first international students, and greatly expanded access to higher education to adults, people with disabilities, and those from under-represented backgrounds.

Removing barriers and extending opportunities through education have always been core objectives for UCC. 

President Windle’s landmark University extension lectures commenced in 1911 and were succeeded by President O’Rahilly’s inspired diploma courses for workers in 1946. These set the foundation for our thriving Adult and Continuing Education Department which continues to successfully provide effective adult education for up to 3,000 learners annually.

Today, its Quercus Talented Students Programme recognises and rewards student excellence across academic, social, and sporting fields. The Access programe supports the transition of school leaving students from DEIS schools into Further Education.

Over the last 175 years, with the support of governments and philanthropists, UCC has developed a strong and distinct cultural identity, including the historic Quadrangle, Aula Maxima, and Honan Chapel, to more recent architectural gems such as the Glucksman Gallery.

From its establishment, UCC has been recognised as producing research at the highest international levels. The work of original thinkers like George Boole, Mary Ryan, Daniel Corkery and Seán Ó Riada continues to resonate into modern times when UCC’s research in food and health, photonics, sustainability, and perinatal medicine is recognised as world-leading.

UCC has a proud tradition in pushing the boundaries of research and innovation, creating significant impact in the community beyond the institution – from the very early days when George Boole created his famous Laws of Thought to the present day when, annually, over €100m is invested in ground-breaking research across multiple disciplines, over 2,000 research articles are published, and where are our research community collaborates with over 4,000 institutions from across the world.

Our foresight saw UCC establish the ninth website in the world in 1991 - the first in Ireland.

UCC is proud to have been the first university in the world to be awarded a Green Flag by the Foundation for Scientific Education in 2010, for environmental sustainability. This year, its wonderful collection of over 2,500 trees across its 42 acre campus has been awarded global accreditation by the prestigious ArbNet body.

Our students

The lifeblood of our University, our students continue to inspire with their energy, creativity, commitment, and compassion. UCC students participate in over 100 societies, covering interests such as politics, society, charity, the arts, science, gaming and more.

Beginning with 115 students when it opened as Queen’s College Cork, UCC now has a student population of over 21,000 drawn from around the world who make a direct contribution to the vitality of their community.

Where we sported and played

Sport has played a central role in life at UCC throughout the past 175 years, and the university has a proud history of excellence on track, field and beyond. The world’s first national inter-varsity athletics meeting was held at the Mardyke Cricket Grounds on 19 May 1873.

Countless intercounty players of all codes have played Gaelic games at UCC.

Among the highlights, our 40 Fitzgibbon Cup wins makes UCC by far the most successful third level institution for hurling, while our Camogie club has 32 Ashbourne Cup titles to its name.

UCC’s men Gaelic footballers won the first Sigerson Cup in 1911, and have won the title 23 times, their female counterparts contested the first Michael O’Connor Cup in 1987 and have claimed the trophy three times.

In soccer our Collingwood Cup side has won 13 titles, with a number of players and coaches going on to participate at League of Ireland level with Cork City FC, with whom UCC has forged a valued partnership.

UCC Reconnects with its 175-Year History

In Spring, 2021, Interim President John O’Halloran will host an event on the Quad to mark UCC 175, with involvement of both Quercus and Access student representatives from each of the four Colleges of the University, celebrating our history, our diversity, and our shared ambition.

Commenting on the events for next year, Prof O’Halloran said:

“It is most appropriate that we mark UCC 175 with our Quercus and Access students on the Quad. Our limestone Quad, designed by Deane and Woodward, is modelled on Christ Church of University of Oxford, and the Quad itself continues to represent the heart of our University, while the reach of our engagement and impact is now global. Our Quercus and Access students represent the essence of how our students and staff at UCC continue to challenge the norms and push boundaries in addressing societal grand challenges.”

This event will be organised in strict compliance with public health rules and guidance. Other UCC 175 events and activities will be announced later in the current academic year, via our website and social media channels.

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