University of Limerick

University of Limerick
Ollscoil Luimnigh
Type Public
Established 1 January 1972
Chancellor The Hon. Mr. Justice John L. Murray
President Professor Don Barry[1]
Academic staff
Students 12,000 (2015)
Address National Technological Park
, Limerick, Ireland
52°40′26″N 8°34′16″W / 52.674°N 8.571°W / 52.674; -8.571Coordinates: 52°40′26″N 8°34′16″W / 52.674°N 8.571°W / 52.674; -8.571
Campus Suburban - 340 acres (137.6 ha) [2]

Burgundy, Blue and Gold[3]

Affiliations AUA

The University of Limerick (UL) (Irish: Ollscoil Luimnigh) is a university in the city of Limerick, Ireland. It was established in 1972 as the National Institute for Higher Education, Limerick and became a university by statute in 1989 in accordance with the University of Limerick Act 1989.[4] The university was the first university established since the foundation of the State in 1922, followed later the same day by the establishment of Dublin City University.

The university is located along the River Shannon, on a 137.5 hectares (340 acres) campus comprising 46 hectares (110 acres) on the north bank and 91.5 hectares (226 acres) on the south bank, 5 km from Limerick city centre. The university has currently in excess of 11,000 full-time undergraduate students [5] including over 2400 international students[6] and 1,500 part-time students. There are also over 800 research postgraduates and 1,300 taught postgraduate students at the university. The Co-operative Education (commonly called Co-Op) programme allocates all students with an 8-month work placement as part of their degree. This was the first such programmes in the state.

Professor Don Barry, a graduate of Yale University, is the current president of the university, having been appointed in 2007.[7]


Plassey House is part of an estate that pre-dates the University. Robert Clive was created 1st Baron Clive of Plassey in 1762 having defeated the Nawab of Bengal at the Battle of Plassey (Palashi) in 1757. Today it houses the Office of the President. The University's ceremonial mace is publicly displayed on the first floor of the main staircase.

Campaign for a University in Limerick

According to Dr Edward M. Walsh,[8] Founding President of the University of Limerick, the Mayor of Limerick applied to have a Queen's College[9] located in the city in 1845, but instead Belfast, Cork and Galway were established.

In 1908 there was also an attempt to establish a link between the National University of Ireland and Mungret College located about 5 km from Limerick. The college offered courses in the faculty of Arts to degree and masters level which were both conferred upon by the Royal University of Ireland from 1888 to 1908. The Royal University of Ireland was dissolved in 1909 and was replaced by the National University of Ireland. which marked the end of tertiary education at Mungret. Degrees were awarded to students at Mungret College by the NUI from 1909 to 1912 to accommodate students who had matriculated in the now extinct Royal University.[10]

The campaign for a University in Limerick began in earnest by the late 1950s. The Limerick University Project Committee was founded in September 1959[11] as a project of the 1957 Mayor of Limerick, Ted Russell. Another supporter, Mr Justice Dermot Kinlen, was a High Court judge and later the first State Inspector General of Prisons and Places of Detention. Both Mr Russell and Mr Justice Kinlen were awarded honorary degrees by the university in 2002.

National Institute of Higher Education, Limerick

Successful economic development policies of the 1960s led to an influx of foreign direct investment into Ireland and to a demand for advanced expertise not satisfied by the existing universities. In response the state decided to establish the National Institute for Higher Education (NIHE) at Limerick, modelled on new technological universities being developed in continental Europe. Dr Walsh took up office as Chairman of the Planning Board and Director of the Institute on 1 January 1970.[12] With finance secured from the World Bank, construction commenced on Phase 1, the largest and most advanced educational building project in the history of the state. Faculty and staff were recruited internationally and they, together with the extensive teaching and research facilities, served as a catalyst that attracted a succession of sophisticated foreign direct investment, led by Analog Devices that manufactured the first silicon chips in Ireland. The first students were enrolled in 1972 when the institute was opened by then Taoiseach, Jack Lynch. The second phase of development was financed by the European Investment Bank. Subsequently the billionaire philanthropist Chuck Feeney (through Atlantic Philanthropies) was a major donor to the university. The Shannon Development Company was also an early supporter of the project and supported the NIHE proposal to establish the National Technological Park [13] as an integrated campus. A change of government resulted in NIHE Limerick being required to apply for recognition as a Recognised College of the National University of Ireland which awarded degrees to its graduates in 1977. Arising from strong opposition mounted by students and others the NIHE Limerick was permitted to withdraw from the NUI and was established by legislation as an independent institution. From 1978 to 1988 the National Council for Educational Awards(NCEA) was the degree-awarding authority for the NIHE Limerick.

University Status & the Establishment of the University of Limerick

In 1989 NIHE, Limerick was established by legislation as the University of Limerick;[4] the first new university in the history of the state.[14] Under similar legislation NIHE, Dublin was established as Dublin City University, with powers to award its own degrees the legislative status of both new universities outranked that of the colleges of the NUI and of the University of Dublin.

The University expanded in 1991 following the incorporation of the Thomond College of Education, Limerick into the University. Thomond College shared a common campus with the University and was founded in 1973 as the National College of Physical Education, and now forms the Department of Educational and Professional Studies that focuses on secondary education programmes. From 1991 degrees offered at Mary Immaculate College, Limerick have also been awarded by the University of Limerick.[15] Degrees at MIC are offered in primary education and arts programmes, degrees awarded at St. Patrick's College, Thurles have been conferred by UL since 2012.[16][17]

The history of the University during the leadership of its founding president Edward M Walsh is profiled in Dr. Walsh's 2011 memoir "Upstart: friends, foes and founding a university".

"Ireland's American University"

From the outset many concepts developed in the US university system were adopted; including cooperative education, grade point average marking and the trimester system. During the 1970s, the limited state of public finances led Dr. Walsh and his team to seek World Bank and, subsequently, European Investment Bank funding. Later, sophisticated private sector fundraising programmes were developed based on models operated by US universities, and guided by a board of international leadership under the founding chairmanship of Chuck Feeney and subsequently Lewis Glucksman. Major campus developments took place as a result of the fundraising activity.

UL has been an active participant in the European Union's Erasmus programme since 1988 and now has a total of 207 partner institutions in 24 European countries. In addition, UL students may study at partner universities in the USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Brazil, China and Singapore.

UL formed a strategic alliance with National University of Ireland, Galway in 2010, allowing for shared resources.[18]

List of Presidents


The 1000-seater University Concert Hall,[19] seen from the northern end of a water fountain on the main campus.
Plassey House on the banks of the River Shannon in UL.
Schumann building at UL.


The university has four faculties. These are:

The 2 colleges linked to the University are:


The university has a Students' Union representing the student body. The Union is presided over by three sabbatical officers - the President, the Academic Officer and the Welfare Officer. Policy decisions are made by the sabbatical officers and the Class Representation Council. The current President is Sarah Dunphy while, Caolan O Donnell acts as Welfare Officer and Donal Foley is the Academic Officer.

ULSU is the representative body for 13,500 UL students. The Students Union operates from their office in the main courtyard which has recently been refurbished and providing a place for students to relax throughout the day.

ULSU Ents is a part of the Students Union which organises the entertainment events for the University's Students throughout the year, a majority of these are held throughout Freshers Week and Charity Week.

The university also has a Postgraduate Students' Union, with a full-time sabbatical postgraduate president, which represents the postgraduate student body. It is one of only two Irish universities with such a position.

Clubs and societies

There are over 70 student-run Clubs and Societies in the University. The clubs are supported by the Students Union, the Sports Department and the Arts Office. In March 2014 the clubs and societies refused the recognise the Pro-Life society the first[20] club and society to lose recognition from the council.[21] Since this stage every new club or society must be voted on by council and go through a trial period which is usually 14 weeks, with the exception of the Science Society which due to controversy surrounding actions taken by the current and founding president, Italian American UL graduate Michael O'Donnell, has been on an ongoing trial for 3 academic semesters

President's Volunteer Award

The President's Volunteer Award (PVA) is a programme run by the Community Liaison office in the University of Limerick. The PVA was established to harness, acknowledge and support the contribution that students at the University of Limerick make to their communities.[22]

The PVA draws on a strong tradition of student volunteering both on and off campus. The primary goals of the PVA are:

Notable alumni and staff

The university has had a number of internationally notable Alumni and members of staff since its foundation.


UL has one of the highest employment rates for its students in Ireland, due to the Co-operative Education programme. UL is ranked 4th for attracting students who attain over 500 points in the Leaving Certificate however in contrast it has one of the lowest rates of first class or 2.1 honours degrees of Irish universities.[23] The University is the only college in Ireland awarded the maximum 5 stars for sports facilities.[23]

UL is ranked 471-480 worldwide in the 2015 QS World University Rankings.[24] #71-80 worldwide for universities under the age of 50. UL's highest QS ranking of 394 was achieved in 2008. QS WU Ranking Faculty of Science and Engineering #364 worldwide.

The university was named University of the Year for 2015 by the Sunday Times Good University Guide due to the university's strong record in graduate employability, improved academic performance, the €52 million Bernal Project and a strong record in research commercialisation.[25]

UL is Ireland's only university to achieve 5 Stars for "Employability" of graduates and for "Teaching" in the 2011/12 QS Stars reports. It also received 5 Stars for "Infrastructure", "Internationalisation", "Innovation", and "Engagement".

Science and Engineering

The MSSI was established in 1998 and is a national centre of excellence that generates state-of-the-art fundamental research on topics of industrial significance in the fields of surface science and materials. The research strengths and interests of MSSI reside in four areas: (i) Nanomaterials (ii) Biomaterials (iii) Composite and Glass Materials (iv) Bio/Catalysis and Clean Technology.[26]

The Interaction Design Centre (IDC) was established in 1996 and is an interdisciplinary research group in the Department of Computer Science and Information Systems focused on the design, use and evaluation of information and communications technologies. The focus is on human-centred design and work in the IDC covers a wide spectrum, from the design and evaluation of new media installations and interfaces to field studies of technology in use in different settings.

The LRC was established in 1995 as the Localisation Resources Centre at University College Dublin (UCD) and moved to the University of Limerick (UL) in 1999 where it was re-constituted as the Localisation Research Centre (LRC) as the information, research and educational centre for the localisation industry in Ireland, offering the world's first MSc in Multilingual Computing and Localisation. The LRC leads localisation research in the Centre for Next Generation Localisation (CNGL), established with support from Ireland's Science Foundation. In 2009, the LRC spun off The Rosetta Foundation promoting Social Localisation and supporting the AGIS (Action for Global Information Sharing) initiative. In 2011, it signed a memorandum of understanding with the UN Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA).

The Enterprise Research Centre (ERC) is a research centre committed to conducting leading edge research on the challenges facing current and next generation enterprises. Staff associated with the centre have considerable research and practical experience in the modelling, scheduling and resource management of enterprise optimisation, design and implementation of integrated systems, product innovation and project management, and quality, reliability and productivity improvement tools.

The University hosts the Irish Software Engineering Research Centre (Lero).[27] Lero was established in November 2005 with support from Science Foundation Ireland’s CSET (Centre for Science, Engineering and Technology) programme. It is a collaborative organisation, embracing the software engineering research activities in the University of Limerick (UL – lead partner), Dublin City University (DCU), Trinity College Dublin (TCD) and University College Dublin (UCD).

The Stokes Institute, originally founded by Cambridge graduate Prof. Mark Davies to work on thermofluids problems, is now a large mechanical engineering research group working not only in fluid mechanics, but also in areas such as reliability physics, microfluidic cancer diagnostics and energy management. Applying its expertise to the engineering of ICT devices is a particular emphasis of the Institute. A spin-out from the Institute, Stokes Bio, was sold to US company Life Technologies in 2010 for $44 million.

The arts

Cast iron sculpture by Antony Gormley located in the Central Plaza of UL.

The University fosters the arts and is currently home to the:

All three bodies also engage in the commissioning and performance of new Irish music and dance.

The University is the permanent home of several Fine Art Collections. Some of its notable collections are:

The University Concert Hall (UCH) is the University's principal venue for the performing arts. It is a 1,000 seat multi-purpose venue and was the first purpose built concert hall in the country.

The Bourn Vincent Gallery is the University's principal venue for temporary exhibitions with an ancillary programme of seminars, lectures and performances. The Gallery aims to enhance enjoyment and appreciation of the visual arts of both Irish and international importance. It is particularly interested in contemporary practices. Since its establishment, the Bourn Vincent Gallery has exhibited collections by August Sander, Barry and Philip Castle, a selection of pieces from Gordon Lambert’s collection and hosts the annual exhibition of new additions to the National Self-Portrait Collection of Ireland and ev+a each year.

The University has a policy of commissioning and acquiring exemplary works of art. The University's own arts collection includes some outdoor sculpture by international artists including Michael Warren, Peter Logan, Alexandra Wejchert, James McKenna, Tom Fitzgerald, Antony Gormley and most recently Sean Scully.[28] These sculptures have added significantly to the artistic and cultural ambience of the University.


Many of the housing districts close to the University have a majority student population, especially in the adjacent Castletroy area. In recent years, several large student apartment complexes have been built (about 15-20 mins walk from the University) under Section 50 tax incentives. Unlike the majority of Irish universities, a significant amount of accommodation is on campus. There are five on-campus student villages, the most recent having been opened for residents in 2006.

The oldest is Plassey Village, situated opposite the university's main gate. This accommodates 424 students in terraced houses consisting of either four or eight bedrooms and a kitchen/living area. It is mostly occupied by first years. It was built between 1987 and 1992 in four phases. The village boasts a village hall and many small but beautiful gardens. During the summers of 2010 and 2011 all the village's residences have been renovated, and the houses are now of modern standard.

Kilmurry Village is the second oldest student village and is located in the east of the campus. It accommodates 540 students in six or eight bedroomed, terraced houses. It is the closest village to the University Arena, which has an Olympic standard 50 metre swimming pool. It was built between 1994 and 1997, in two phases. Minor renovations were carried out in Kilmurry during summer 2011, mostly to the Kitchens of the residences.

Dromroe Village was completed in 2001 and is located on the south bank of the River Shannon. The first with high rise accommodation, it houses 457 students in six, four or two bedroomed ensuite apartments.

Thomond Village was opened for the autumn 2004 semester and were the first university buildings to be located on the north bank of the River Shannon, in County Clare. It has accommodation for 504 students in six, four, two and one bedroom apartments.

Cappavilla Village is the newest student village, opened in September 2006 on the North Bank, in close proximity to the new Health Sciences Building. An extension to Cappavilla opened in September 2007.

Accommodation for students of the Medical School is under construction (albeit with delays). This is located next to the Health Sciences Building and the soon to be Medical School.

There are many off campus student accommodations ranging in distance from the campus. Elm Park, College Court, Briarfield and Oaklawns are popular estates with a large cohort of student residences. Troy Student Village and Courtyard Hall are two privately managed student residences located slightly further from the campus, and which are served by a shuttle bus service.

Ireland's Sporting Campus

Photo of the University of Limerick's North Campus Sport Facilities.

University Arena

The University Arena, located on campus, is Ireland's largest indoor sports complex.[29]

Open since 2002, it consists of the National 50m Swimming Pool which is the only water facility in Ireland which has the approval of FINA, the international swimming body, and is the first in the country to be built to Olympic standards.

The Arena's Indoor Sports Hall comprises 3,600 square metres laid out with four wood-sprung courts that cater for a variety of sports, a sprint track, an international 400m athletics track, and a 200m three-lane suspended jogging track. The facility also has a state-of-the-art cardiovascular and strength training centre, a weight-training room, team rooms, an aerobics studio and classroom areas. The Arena is often used by the Munster rugby team.

The €28m development was made possible through Government grant assistance of €7.6m, donations through the University of Limerick Foundation amounting to €6.9m, some €4m in contributions from students and significant commercial funding.[30] Each year it caters for over 500,000 customers along with many international sports athletes and teams.[31]

The University Arena hosted the 2010 Special Olympics Ireland Games. The Games took place over four days from Thursday, 9 June to Sunday 13 June. In what was one of the largest sporting events to take place in Ireland in 2010, 1,900 Special Olympics athletes from throughout the island of Ireland participated in the games.

All Weather Sports Complex

UL’s reputation as Ireland’s sporting campus was enhanced by the development of a state-of-the-art, all-weather sports complex on the North Campus of the University. The new €9 million facility is the largest all-weather sports field complex in Europe. This multi-purpose, fully floodlit synthetic grass park contains third generation pitches including two soccer, one rugby and one GAA pitch. Third generation all-weather surfaces play like natural grass and are designed for full contact. Each full-size pitch can be sub-divided to create smaller-sized playing areas for various sports. This is the largest artificial grass development in Ireland to date designed to IRB, GAA and FIFA specifications.

Player comfort is a priority and this synthetic surface is unlike most others as it reduces the risk of injuries caused by other hard or uneven surfaces. In addition to new playing fields, the Sports Pavilion Building contains changing rooms, squad rooms and coaching rooms, together with bar, restaurant and conference facilities. The development which cost €9million, is being funded from a number of sources including income raised from the operation of the facility and from funding generated by campus based commercial activities.

The playing pitches opened in July 2011 with the Sports Pavilion expected to open in November 2011. This exciting new facility is available to the general public as well as the campus community. In addition to these developments, conventional playing fields; tennis courts; an astro-turf pitch, an outdoor athletics track, and the University Boathouse are situated on the Limerick side of the river. The boathouse facility includes Ireland's only indoor rowing tank, which can accommodate up to 8 rowers simultaneously. This unique feature has the capacity to simulate various water conditions providing varied training opportunities for rowers in order to achieve international standards. The building also includes a launch jetty to the river Shannon, a pontoon. and a café area.


The Living Bridge over the River Shannon on the UL campus.
The renovated PESS Building on the UL campus.
The School of Medicine building on the UL campus. The building was shortlisted for the prestigious Stirling Prize in architecture.[32]
A photo of the expansion on the North side of the Living Bridge.
The Analog Devices Building.

The Foundation Building, including the University Concert Hall (now home to the Irish Chamber Orchestra), and the new library and several other buildings were built in the 1990s. The years 20002004 saw the addition of the Materials & Surface Science Institute (MSSI) building, Dromroe Student Village, a large sports arena and, alongside that, Ireland's first Olympic-standard 50 metre swimming pool. In 2005 the Engineering Research Building and Millstream Courtyard buildings opened in a complex near the Foundation Building.

The university is constantly expanding, with the Kemmy Business School building completed alongside the Schuman Building. This will be the first business school in the world to have a live trading floor present. Several new buildings have opening on the north bank of the River Shannon. The "University Bridge", officially opened in late 2004, provides road and pedestrian access to what is planned as a complete second "North Bank" campus. Thomond Village was the first facility on the North Bank, opening in 2004, and was followed by the Health Sciences Building in 2005. A second, pedestrian-only bridge, known as "The Living Bridge", extends between the North and South Banks from the Millstream Courtyard to the Health Sciences Building. Cappavilla Village was completed mid-2006 on the North Bank, and a building for the Irish World Music Centre (formerly located in the Foundation Building basement) was completed in January 2010. Construction of this building started in May 2007. A building for the School of Medicine is currently being built on the North Bank and a building for Architecture is being built opposite the CSIS building. The university owns more land on the north bank of the Shannon and it hopes to expand the North Bank campus to the size of the original campus.

Notable campus developments

Limerick 2030

UL has committed to developing a presence in Limerick city centre as part of the Limerick 2030 plan[33] to help drive a regeneration of the city centre. At present all the main faculties of UL are located in one campus in the Castletroy suburban district of the city which is about 5 km from the city centre.[34] The current President of UL, Don Barry outlined his vision of the plan in July 2013: "My dream is that in a few years’ time, there will be hundreds of students of the university participating in the life of the city, learning in the city, recreating in the city and contributing to the revitalisation of the Limerick city centre. Limerick is our city and we are its university,"[35] It remains unclear as to where the faculties will move to and what faculties will move. It has been suggested that the illfated Opera Centre site or Arthur's Quay may be the location of the city campus.

See also


  2. "Space Management". University of Limerick.
  4. 1 2 "University of Limerick Act, 1989". Retrieved 21 June 2015.
  5. "UL Facts and Figures".
  6. "University Fast Facts | Irish Universities Association". Retrieved 25 November 2016.
  7. "Presidents Inaugural Address - University of Limerick - Presidents Office". Retrieved 21 June 2015.
  8. "Ed Walsh". Retrieved 21 June 2015.
  9. The Early Years, Dr Edward M Walsh, President Emeritus
  11. UL25 - Origins
  12. "campus profile".
  13. Detached and Attached Universities: Developing the Dublin and Shannon Regions
  14. "History".
  15. MIC History, accessed 21 October 2007
  16. University of Limerick Degrees for Graduates of St Patrick’s College, Thurles University of Limerick Website, Friday, 6 May 2011.
  17. St Patrick’s College Thurles Offers UL Teaching Degrees Thurles Information, 5 May 2011.
  18. Universities form 'strategic alliance'. RTÉ. Thursday, 18 February 2010 20:06.
  19. "University Concert Hall".
  20. Pro-life society first ever rejected by University of Limerick clubs council, March 21, 2014.
  21. Pro-life society rejected by University of Limerick council by Aishling Phelan,, March 21, 2014.
  22. 1 2
  23. 1 2 O'€™Neill, Sean; Hamilton, Fiona. "Good University Guide - UL". The Times. London. C1 control character in |last1= at position 3 (help)
  24. "QS World Rankings". 2011. Retrieved 19 October 2011.
  25. "University of Limerick". Retrieved 21 June 2015.
  26. "Materials & Surface Science Institute". Retrieved 21 June 2015.
  27. "Lero article". Irish Times. 6 June 2008. Retrieved 15 April 2011.
  28. "UL Visual Arts Office". UL. 2012. Retrieved 1 June 2012.
  30. Pauline Ferrie. "The Irish Emigrant - Opening of UL's world-class sports complex, with Olympic-size pool". Retrieved 21 June 2015.
  31. "University Arena". Retrieved 21 June 2015.
  32. "Astley Castle wins Riba Stirling Prize for architecture". BBC. Retrieved 26 September 2013.
  33. "Limerick 2030- Official Info. Page".
  35. "UL 'committed' to multi-million investment in city". Retrieved 21 June 2015.
  1. "University of Limerick". Retrieved 21 June 2015.
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