St Mary’s University College Identity

St Mary’s is a Catholic Higher Education Institution which specialises in the education of teachers and also offers a Liberal Arts degree programme. Our academic community works within a framework of religious, academic, civic and professional values and seeks to facilitate the integration of Christian faith and learning. We place the greatest emphasis on respect for the dignity of the human person and on promoting excellence.



The identity of the College today is defined by a fundamental and distinctive characteristic which remains as it was in 1900 when the Diocese of Down and Connor entrusted the Dominican Sisters with the work of training teachers. St Mary’s has the Christian faith embedded in its identity enabling a form of educational provision which emphasizes coherence as well as interconnectedness and furthermore has been demonstrated to be successful.

College Tower

Christian ethos

The Christian ethos at the heart of the College identity is a defining characteristic of over twelve hundred other Catholic universities and colleges as well as thousands of Catholic schools worldwide. The culture of the College is one of openness, inclusion and collaboration, enabling it to interact effectively with other institutions of higher education, particularly Queen’s University with whom we share a collaborative partnership of academic provision. We share our approach of Christian faith embedded in our identity with over five hundred local schools in the Catholic education sector of which St Mary’s is an integral part in Northern Ireland. At the same time we share with all educational institutions in the jurisdiction common aims for our education system with regard to the wellbeing and development of children, citizens, society and economy. At St Mary’s we believe that differentiated educational provision reflects the choices of citizens in a democratic and pluralistic society. In that regard St Mary’s is open to anyone who seeks to study or work in the College and who has the requisite qualifications and experience.

The Bishop with a student

Student formation

The education we offer our students has a profound sense of the sacred dignity and value of every human person, made as we believe we are in the image and likeness of God. We believe that this has to be more than a glibly trotted out cliché: in our increasingly secular and materialistic world, St Mary’s serves the common good by the quality of our testimony to this truth. Through hard work and commitment, we have gained a sterling reputation for pastoral care and for the intellectual, moral, social and spiritual development of our students. Our approach to education is ambitious for the students: it wants each and every one of them to recognise and develop their own gifts and talents to the highest level, and then to use them, not merely for their own benefit, but in the service of their neighbours. This represents excellence in education from our perspective. Our successful approach to student formation reflects the distinctive identity of the College and we wish to both celebrate this and communicate it widely.
A student


At St Mary’s we place great emphasis on a sense of community. The very nature of human beings is that we are communal creatures. We live and grow in community. We cannot survive and thrive without community. Therefore, to speak of the dignity of the person makes sense only if it is done in the context of the person’s relationships within the wider society. This is a difficult truth to be taught, particularly in our time, when individualism is a dominant and sometimes rampant cultural force. An education at St Mary’s aims to enable students to be part of an educational community which cherishes the concept of communal support as well as mutual understanding and enrichment and calls our students to develop a broader vision for society and for social justice in particular.

St Mary’s continues to develop and enhance its distinctive identity and, in particular, to engage with staff and students about the College’s fundamental and distinctive character and its core convictions. By promoting self-evaluation and reflection on the nature of its identity, St Mary’s both strengthens its distinctiveness and contributes to a process of self-improvement.