Ulster University is a multi-campus, co-educational university located in Northern Ireland. It is the second largest university in Ireland, after the federal National University of Ireland. The university was established in 1968 as the New University of Ulster, merged with Ulster Polytechnic in 1984, and can trace its roots back to 1845 when Magee College was endowed in Derry, and 1849, when the School of Art and Design was inaugurated in Belfast. The University held the name University of Ulster for a number of years before rebranding in October 2014 as Ulster University.
The university incorporated its four campuses in 1984 under the University of Ulster banner; these are located in Belfast, Coleraine (site of the administrative headquarters), Magee College in Derry, and Jordanstown. The university has branch campuses in both London and Birmingham, and an extensive distance learning provision.
Ulster is a member of the Association of Commonwealth Universities, the European University Association, Universities Ireland and Universities UK.
The university has one of the highest further study and/or employment rates in the UK, with 95% of graduates being in work or undertaking further study six months after they have completed their degree. In the 2008 RAE 86% of research activity at the university was rated as being of international quality, with 20% being classified as world-leading. Of particular note are the submissions within Biomedical Sciences, the Institute of Nursing and Health Research and Celtic Studies, which were all ranked within the top three for UK universities.
The Research Excellence Framework 2014 exercise identified Ulster University as one of the top five universities in the UK for world-leading research in law, biomedical sciences, nursing and art and design; under some metrics, it ranked Ulster University top in Northern Ireland for research into biomedical sciences, law, business and management, architecture and built environment, art and design, social policy, sport, media studies and nursing.
The New University of Ulster (NUU) incorporated Magee College founded in 1865 in Derry. Magee College was a college of the Royal University of Ireland from 1880 and later became associated with the University of Dublin (better known as Trinity College) when the Royal University was dissolved in 1908 and replaced by the National University of Ireland. In 1953 Magee College broke its links with Dublin and became Magee University College. It was hoped by groups led by the University for Londonderry Committee that this university college would become Northern Ireland's second university after The Queen's University of Belfast. However, this did not happen and instead it was subsumed into the New University, primarily as a result of the unwillingness of the Unionist government at Stormont to have the second university sited in overwhelmingly nationalist Derry, in which "The Troubles" were just beginning to break out. The decision caused an outcry at the time.
The university was built at Coleraine as part of Her Majesty's Government's expansion of higher education in the 1960s. Coleraine today is the university's headquarters and main campus. Following a review of higher education in Northern Ireland under the chairmanship of Sir Henry Chilver in 1982 the direct-rule government decided to merge NUU with the Ulster Polytechnic to form the University of Ulster (dropping "New" from the name.) The merger took effect on 1 October 1984. This was the first, and as of 2010, only merger in UK higher education whereby what is now called a plate glass university merged with what would now be a post-1992 university.
There was a high demand for places in 2004–05, contributing to a record number of applications to keep the University of Ulster in the top 10 of the UK's most popular universities. Ulster was shortlisted for the Sunday Times University of the Year award in 2001. In the field of biomedical sciences, the university obtained a 5* rating, as well as being ranked joint first in the UK, following the Research Assessment Exercises in 1996 and 2001.
The university is ranked annually by the Complete University Guide, The Guardian, and jointly by The Times and The Sunday Times; this makes up the UK University League Table rankings. The University has a history of variable and rather sporadic rankings which change much year on year. It is thought that this is due to the cessation in growth the university had possessed before the credit crunch, after which major financial cutbacks restricted spending. In addition, the university has traditionally accepted lower achieving students in a number of subjects which further contributes to the lowering of the university ranking. It is anticipated that the University's rank will begin to rise with the future expansion of its Belfast campus. However, this is still speculative. In spite of its falling rank the university has consistently held a number of top ten and number one ranked subjects.
Campus One, the Virtual Campus of the university, was launched on 8 October 2001. It represents a revolutionary new route to learning via the World Wide Web and was selected by the European Commission to deliver the world's first Higher Educational Programme in Hydrogen Safety Engineering.
It developed the world's first ever fully on-line Masters programme in biomedical sciences. Campus one is now referred to as e-Learning by the university.