European Association for International Education (EAIE) Site Visit to Trinity College
Long Room Hub, Trinity College Dublin
Tuesday,11 September 2012
Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Welcome to Trinity College Dublin, - The University of Dublin!
It is a pleasure to have the opportunity to open this site-visit to Trinity here in the Trinity Long Room Hub which is our Arts and Humanities Research Institute.
It is great to see representatives from so many of Europe’s great universities, and indeed from further afield, from Asia, and North America - you’re all very welcome to this international academic gathering on this day which celebrates internationalism in education.
As many of you know, later today, in about four hours actually, we will be launching the QS World University Rankings from our Trinity Biomedical Sciences Institute. It is fantastic that the QS Rankings and the European Association for International Education conference have both come to converge on Dublin. Tomorrow I believe 3,000 delegates will descend on the city. Today, 300 delegates will be present for the QS launch, and of course many thousands more will be watching live, online, around the world.
It’s an honour for Dublin to be hosting the European Association for International Education and for Trinity to be launching the Rankings. It’s been a really great year for Dublin and Trinity – in July we had the privilege of hosting the European Science Open Forum - the largest general science conference in the world - with a series of exciting talks and exhibitions. And you’re luckier in the weather now than we were in July....
This afternoon you’ll be getting a tour of the campus, taking in the Old Library, the Museum Building, and the Science Gallery, this means you’ll get to see the earliest and the latest in Trinity’s heritage. Our Dean of Students, Dr Amanda Piesse, will shortly tell you about our educational programmes, and Professor Jane Ohlmeyer, Vice-Provost for Global Relations, will talk about our international office and the student exchange programmes.
So I’d like, in the time I have, to give you a brief overview of Trinity’s history and talk about how this links into our vision for the future.
Trinity was founded in 1592 when a group of influential Dublin citizens petitioned Queen Elizabeth the First, of England. It was modeled after the collegiate universities of Oxford and Cambridge, and many of our early Provosts were Cambridge dons.
But, unlike Oxford and Cambridge, only one college was ever established, so "Trinity College Dublin" is the "University of Dublin" to all intents and purposes. There is a difference of course; in the statutes Trinity College Dublin is ‘the mother of’ the University; I challenge even the best legal minds to work out what that means! The degrees we award are University of Dublin degrees.
By the eighteenth century, Trinity was established as a flourishing multi-faculty university. We were lucky in our early scholars. They immediately set a standard that was to endure. In the 17th Century, Archbishop Ussher prioritized the use of primary sources, insisting on authenticity and accuracy in the use of medieval manuscripts. To this day, a Trinity education is research-led and every undergraduate undertakes primary research, using original sources.
Trinity was an outward-looking university from very early on, which is something I’d like to stress to this group in particular.
In the early 18th century, our great philosopher, George Berkeley, provided endowments for the libraries at Harvard and Yale, along with scholarships for graduate studies.
A few decades later our engagement with Asia began with the founding in 1762 of a Chair in Oriental Languages, and the subsequent appointment of a Professor of Arabic, Hindustani, and Persian.
In 1907 missionaries from Trinity established the Trinity School Foochow in China, known today as Fuzhou Foreign Languages School, a most distinguished school which counts a Nobel Prize winner among its alumni. Trinity was also one of the earliest universities to admit women students, and before Oxford and Cambridge, in 1904 – which is also, of course, proof of outward thinking.
After Irish independence, in 1921, there were a few decades of what I call ‘involuntary isolation’ when Trinity was finding how to best navigate the new political waters, but beginning in the 1950s, under my predecessor Provost A.J. McConnell, Trinity began its journey back into the mainstream of Irish life. Afrer several decades of relentless change, today Trinity is Ireland’s highest ranking university, with 16,400 students, 3,300 staff, and a world reputation in research. We continue to think globally, and recently signed up to new partnerships with universities, some of whom I’m glad to say are represented here today. As the VP Global Relations will tell you presently, our 21st century mission is to have more international students, more student exchanges, and more research collaborations with peer institutions around the world.
From the 1960s, Provosts began building enthusiastically, adding contemporary buildings to reference the older ones. The last decade was a particular boom period: the Biomedical Sciences Institute went up, and the Sports Hall, the Science Gallery, this building the Long Room Hub, and the Lir: The National Academy for Dramatic Art. We’re fortunate in having such a fine campus to build on, but space is at a premium and we have begun to expand into the streets around the main campus, such as Pearse St.
We are currently looking to develop the east end of the campus. The old chemistry extension is to be replaced by a new engineering and natural sciences complex.
The contemporary buildings - I hope you’ll agree, walking round – manage to add to, rather than detract from the older buildings, and I like to see this juxtaposition as part of the Trinity heritage and mission - the traditional and the modern working together in harmony.
We believe in exchanges and collaborations - that’s international exchanges of students and staff; and collaborations between the old and the new, between academia and industry, and between disciplines, departments, institutes, and countries. We have great faith in our way of doing things but our faith is flexible, and incorporates learning from others.
We know that some of the most fascinating new research discoveries take place at the interface of disciplines. And of course industry-academia collaborations have led, globally, to the commercialisation of research, to campus companies, and to an innovation revolution, which is providing immense opportunities for universities round the world.
In Trinity we are proactive about innovation, including establishing, together with UCD, the Trinity/UCD Innovation Academy to help create a new breed of PhD student, one who will honour the value of what they create, and one who is ready to think entrepreneurially.
In the past academic year, we had thirteen new campus companies, and we’re hoping that some of them are going to prove as successful as Havok, a Trinity spin-out which developed the physics-engine that has transformed the gaming and virtual worlds. Trinity is contributing to growing the Irish economy and this is very important to us.
We take our position as Ireland’s highest ranking university seriously. As you can see, we’re situated in the centre of the city and have been, for 400 years, one of the great Dublin landmarks.
In all countries, but in particular I think in smaller countries, leading universities assume a special, pivotal place. It’s certainly the case with Trinity and Ireland. We’re a university working in the spirit of public service, with a keen sense of serving the public good. I like to use a line which I think captures the nature of Trinity’s relationship with Ireland: “Trinity is a university playing for Ireland on the world stage”.This brings across that symbiosis between the local and the global, which leading universities strive for. As such I hope it resonates with you, the delegates of the European Association for International Education conference.
A week which brings the QS launch and this conference to Trinity and Dublin is a good week to reiterate this mission. Thank you all for travelling to be with us, and I wish a most successful visit and conference.