The Free University of Ireland
The Free University of Ireland or, in Gaelic, Saor-Ollscoil Na hÉireann, was established in 1986 by a small group of specialists in the theory of education, with a creative vision of the lifelong learning process. The university is a free and independent institute which does not receive state funding. Saor-Ollscoil Na hÉireann was created as an university of civil society and their motto is 'Beholden to None'.

Saor-Ollscoil has been established as a research college with charitable status. It is a unique educational establishment because all of the lecturers and administrators offer their time and expertise free of charge, which is their contribution to the establishment of Saor-Ollscoil. The lecturers also have to be very enthusiastic about the subjects they teach to give such a commitment. Students pay only a nominal registration fee per year for their courses, and the fees are used for administrative costs. Apart from the annual registration fee, there is no further charge. Saor-Ollscoil na hÉireann offers a B.A. Degree in the Liberal Arts, M.A. and Ph.D. degrees are also conferred in respect of theses based on approved research.

The university welcomes students of all ages who have a love of learning and who wish to expand their knowledge in an academic environment. Saor-Ollscoil offers a B.A. degree in the Liberal Arts and the degree is awarded by the Academic Board of the Saor-Ollscoil Na hÉireann. A student is awarded the degree after completion of the necessary requirements.

Saor-Ollscoil has an open system to suit the needs of adult students, and the system of credits is based on cooperation. There is no competition encouraged, there are no exams, and credits are awarded for written assignments. The student may aim to complete the degree in a minimum of three years or in his/her own time. Students are surrounded by like-minded people who are there because of their interest in learning in the broadest sense. The groups are small, which allows for interaction between student and lecturer, and student. The atmosphere created for the student is that of peaceful cooperation and learning.

Saor Ollscoil na hÉireann provides third level education of degree standard for mature students. A wide variety of courses are offered in the area of the humanities and social sciences. Strong emphasis is placed on student-centered learning in a supportive, exam-free environment. Students are encouraged to develop their own thinking through dialogue and essays, instead of cramming for final exams. They believe that education is not a means to an end, but education is an end in itself.

The structure of the credit system used in the Saor-Ollscoil means that students can work in a system that suits them with no artificial exam pressures. The university has no academic entrance requirements or restrictions because they are interested in students who have a love of knowledge, a love of learning and an open mind. These are the main entrance requirements and they encourage people of all ages and backgrounds.

Saor-Ollscoil is open to students from age twenty who have a love of learning and a wish to develop their capacity for logical reasoning and clear thinking. Places are offered to students through informal interviews. Apart from the basic skills of reading and writing, the main entry requirement for a student is a commitment to the approach of Saor-Ollscoil as set out in its philosophy. Saor-Ollscoil na hÉireann has an open and flexible system to suit the needs of mature students, who work at their own pace to earn the B.A. degree in a minimum of three years or longer, at their choice.

A Brief History of the Building:
Saor-Ollscoil Na hÉireann is situated in the Old City Arms Hotel at 55 Prussia Street in Dublin, just down from Hanlon's Corner. The building itself has a varied history and it is mentioned over twenty times in James Joyce's 'Ulysses'. James Joyce frequented the hotel when he lived in St. Peters Terrace, Phibsborough, and indeed he has immortalized the premises in 'Ulysses'. The main character, Leopold Bloom, stayed in bedroom number nine, beside 'the smelly loo', on numerous occasions, and had many a debate with the cattlemen up with their cattle. The smelly loo is long gone but room number nine is still there on the third floor.

Prior to the hotel, it was the home of the Jameson family, the well known distillers who came over to Dublin from Scotland. They built this imposing residence on the site which was adjacent to their distillery works. John Jameson is shown as the occupant of the premises according to the tax valuation of 1850 when the house, together with the outhouses and yard, on an area of over seven acres, had a listed valuation of £126 per year.

It was the residence of the Bloom family from 1893 to 1894 while Bloom was employed as a clerk in the cattle market, which was situated beside the building on the junction of Prussia Street and the North Circular Road.

In the late 1700's, the premises was occupied by H.S. Reilly, a Royal Canal director after whom the canal bridge at Rathoath Road is named. He is the same Squire O'Reilly of Burton's strange topographical romance entitled 'Oxmantown'.

The building still contains some of the original ceiling plaster work as well as some of the later details of the hotel decor, including a mirror and a mosaic.

Click here for further information about Saor-Ollscoil Na hÉireann (The Free University of Ireland).

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