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The university was founded in 1845 as Queen's College, Galway and was more recently known as University College, Galway (UCG)The college opened for teaching in 1849 as Queen's College, Galway with 37 professors and 91 students and a year later became a part of the Queens University of Ireland.
In 1906 Alice Perry graduated from the college, believed to be the first female engineering graduate in the world, having received a first class honours degree in civil engineering.
The Irish Universities Act, 1908 made this college a constituent college of the new National University of Ireland, and under a new charter the name of the college was changed to University College, Galway.
The university college was given special statutory responsibility under the University College, Galway Act, 1929 in respect of the use of the Irish language as the working language of the college.
The university college retained the name University College, Galway until 1997 when the Universities Act, 1997 changed the name to National University of Ireland, Galway and made the college a constituent university of the National University of Ireland.