New President of NUI Galway wants clean slate

New NUI Galway President, Ciarán Ó hOgartaigh.
New NUI Galway President, Ciarán Ó hOgartaigh.

The new President of NUI Galway has kicked off his ten-year term by extending an olive branch to colleagues, inviting female lecturers who are suing the college for discrimination to a meeting and vowing to review the “precarious contractual positions” of many workers.

Professor Ciarán Ó hÓgartaigh takes up the most senior position of his academic career at a particularly fraught time in the university’s history.

While it is among the top 1% of universities in the world at 243rd position of the QS 2018 World University Rankings – behind Trinity College Dublin (88th) and University College Dublin (168th) – its future research funding hangs in the balance as it awaits the outcome of an independent assessment on gender equality.

Five Irish universities – UCC, UL, Trinity College, UCD and DCU – have received the Athena SWAN bronze awards from the Equality Challenge Unit after demonstrating they have “a thorough understanding of gender equality issues and have put an action plan in place”. NUIG has been turned down twice for the award and submitted a third application late last year.

By 2020, colleges will be required to secure Athena SWAN Bronze awards in order to be eligible for research funding from Science Foundation Ireland, the Irish Research Council and the Health Research Board. By the end of 2023 they will be required to hold Athena SWAN Silver awards to attract funding, providing evidence they are improving gender equality.

Dr Micheline Sheehy Skeffington – the first woman in academia in Ireland or the UK to have proven gender discrimination in promotion – is leading a campaign for a third refusal.

Prof Ó hÓgartaigh said he would be “quite hopeful” about winning the designation given the policies now in place at NUIG since the taskforce on gender equality was set up in 2015 and the appointment of Prof Anne Scott as vice-president for equality and diversity.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.