It is the second largest university in Ireland, after the federal National University of Ireland. The university was established in 1968 as the New University of Ulster and can trace its roots back to 1845 when Magee College was established in Derry and 1849, when the School of Art and Design was inaugurated in Belfast.
The university incorporated its four campuses in 1984 under the University of Ulster banner; these are located in Belfast, Coleraine (site of the administrative headquarters), Magee College in Derry, and Jordanstown. A fifth distance learning campus, Campus One, delivers online programmes; mainly at graduate level.
Ulster is a member of the Association of Commonwealth Universities, the European University Association, Universities Ireland and Universities UK.
The university has one of the highest further study and/or employment rates in the UK, with 95% of graduates being in work or undertaking further study six months after they have completed their degree. In the 2008 RAE 86% of research activity at the university was rated as being of international quality, with 20% being classified as world-leading. Of particular note are the submissions within Biomedical Sciences, the Institute of Nursing and Health Research and Celtic Studies which were all ranked within the top three UK universities.