NCAD History


The National College of Art and Design occupies a unique position in Art and Design Education in Ireland. It offers the largest range of Art and Design degrees in the State at undergraduate and postgraduate level and is the only Irish University institution specialising in Art and Design.

Many of the most important Irish artists, designers, and art teachers have studied or taught in the College and it has long been central to art and design education in Ireland. The origins of the College date from 1746, when a private drawing school was taken over and run by the Dublin Society. Throughout the 18th Century there were three schools covering figure drawing, landscape, ornamental drawing, and architecture drawing. A school of modelling was added in 1811 and from 1854 the institution was controlled by the Department of Science and Art, London. In 1877 it was renamed the Dublin Metropolitan School of Art and the Department of Education in the new Irish State took control in 1924. Twelve years later it became the National College of Art and in 1971 the National College of Art and Design was established by an Act of the Oireachtas. The College is  governed by a board (An Bord) appointed by the Minister for Education and Skills. 

From 1975 NCAD pioneered undergraduate art and design degrees, including BA and BA Joint Honours Degree. Postgraduate research degrees have been offered since the late 1980’s. In 1996 NCAD became a Recognised College of the National University of Ireland and remains the sole provider of art and design education with in the university sector.

In recent years, the College has conferred honorary associateships on Sybil Connolly, Dr. James White, Patrick Scott, Jan de Fouw, Sonja Landweer, Conor Fallon, Dr. Seamus Buachalla, Leonora Curry, Paul Costelloe, Prof. Anne Crookshank, Charles J. Haughey, Dr. Patrick Moriarty, Dr. Edward Walsh, Professor George Dawson, Michael Farrell, Paul Hogan, William Walsh, Mealla C. Gibbons,Ronald Le Bas, Bro. Joseph McNally, Juan O'Callahan and Anthony Cronin.

In 1998 the College opened a new wing, the School of Design for Industry and now houses all of its activities on the Thomas Street campus in the centre of Dublin. Since 2005 PhD Research has been undertaken together with post-doctoral research. NCAD’s primary degree awards are Level 8 on the National Framework of Qualifications, but offers courses from Level 6 to Level 10.

NCAD’s Library houses NIVAL, the National Visual Arts Library, supported by the Arts Council of Ireland, which is a unique resource on the Island for research in art and design, containing papers, documents, and archives of Irish artists, designers, and organisations. 

NCAD has over 950 full time students and a further 600 students who take award and non-award bearing part-time classes.  The College has four Schools, Design, Education, Fine Art, and Visual Culture.  With the exception of the Industrial Design course,  first year  provides the first year of all undergraduate courses, but this will change in 2013. The curriculum has been revisioned from a four year to an integrated three year undergraduate programme and a two year postgraduate degree (3+2) with the option to continue to PhD study (+3), the three year degree will operate with a modular common first year.

Artists and designers of international repute are invited to teach or give special lectures in the College. Exchange programmes with colleges and universities in Europe and the United States now take place annually and individual staff members are linked to numerous professional organisations at home and abroad. NCAD is a member of the Europe League of Institutes of the Arts. Parallel to the change to 3+2 (+3) NCAD has also recently established a strategic Academic Alliance with University College Dublin and is now a Recognised College of UCD. This will facilitate the development of new courses, the internationalisation of the student body, and the transformation of the campus.

As is clear, NCAD has regularly reinvented itself -  and the current process of change is typical of that developmental momentum reflecting change in the sector and society – in order to meet the highest expectations of the Society and the State.