American College Dublin was founded as a not-for-profit independent educational trust in May 1993 by Lynn University, a liberal arts institution located in Boca Raton, Florida. The College admitted its first liberal arts and business degree students in September 1993 and graduated its first class in 1996. The first graduation ceremony’s keynote speaker was Jean Kennedy Smith, American ambassador to Ireland and sister of former President John F. Kennedy, beginning a tradition of distinguished keynote speakers at the College commencements that would subsequently include Nobel Peace Prize recipients John Hume and Senator George Mitchell, former Attorney General and Goldman Sachs Chairman Peter Sutherland, former President of the European Parliament Pat Cox, Fianna Fail leader Micheál Martin, former Tánaiste Mary Harney and the sister of current US Vice President Joe Biden, Valerie Biden Owens. The development of the College’s Dublin campus continued apace through the 1990s; in 2002 the institution expanded its operations with the establishment of a sister campus in Delaware, which became known as American College Delaware.
American College Dublin’s programmes are accredited in Ireland by the Higher Education Training and Awards Council (HETAC). The College’s first offerings were baccalaureate honours programmes, placed at level-8 on the National Framework of Qualifications; in 2007 the College received approval from HETAC to offer its first master’s programme (an MB in International Business), which was placed at level-9 on the framework. In 2011 the College completed its quinquennial programmatic and institutional reviews with HETAC, and also received approval from the council to offer a new level-8 BA (Hons) in Liberal Arts (with majors in Irish studies, American studies, history and English literature), replacing the institution’s original liberal arts degree. In the USA, the College was granted approval in 2006 by the Department of Education of the State of Delaware to operate as an institution of higher education and initiated the process of applying for accreditation with the regional accrediting agency for the state, the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE). Responsible for higher education accreditation in the states of New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Washington, DC, and Delaware, MSCHE accredits five of the world’s top twenty higher education institutions (Princeton University, Columbia University, University of Pennsylvania, The Johns Hopkins University and Cornell University); there are more MSCHE-accredited institutions ranked in the top 200 in the world than those accredited by any other regional agency (2011/12 QS World University Rankings). ACD submitted a formal application to MSCHE in 2007; the College was granted applicant status in 2008 and, following a major site evaluation, candidate for accreditation status followed in 2009; the institution was invited in 2011 to initiate its self study exercise, the final paper submission before the granting of full accreditation, with a final evaluation site visit scheduled to take place in the 2013/14 academic year.
In the years since its foundation American College Dublin has consolidated its position as a high quality liberal arts institution. Student numbers have increased from a handful to the hundreds, with alumni numbering in the thousands since the first graduation ceremony. Physically, the College has grown from a single house on Merrion Square to one which occupies three adjacent properties, two to either side of the original site. The support facilities have expanded to include an enlarged library, computer laboratories, student dining and recreation facilities. Yet, amid the changes, some things have remained constant. The College retains its commitment to delivering a postsecondary education that adheres to the best traditions of the American liberal arts model; one that is stimulating, challenging, interesting and useful. It remains committed to teaching in small classes (generally no more than thirty students); to teaching which is responsive to the needs of students of varying abilities and backgrounds; and to teaching which actively involves the student in the learning and assessment processes. It continues to encourage and project an international outlook, through its student recruitment (70% of the total student body comes from outside the Republic of Ireland), through the content of many of its courses and through its fostering of links with the international community in Ireland. Finally, the College continues to promote its American connection, most obviously through its name, but in substance also: through its grounding in the liberal arts, its historical links with Lynn University, its sister campus in Lewes, Delaware, its US study abroad programme and its active recruitment of American students for four-year baccalaureate and master’s programmes of study.