Why was the 2008/9 Promotion Round to Senior Lecturer at NUI Galway so much worse for the promotion of women than any other, before or since?

President Jim Browne made a point during his questioning by the parliamentary Public Accounts Committee ten days ago, that the 2008/9 round of promotion, which was so bad for women, was worse than those which had preceded it. This is true, as you can see from the table. It was shockingly bad, while the preceding two rounds were just very bad and the other only ‘bad’ (considering for all of them that the percentage of female Junior Lecturers in NUI Galway was over 50%).table4blogMicheline Sheehy Skeffington once told the campaign about the formal meeting she requested with the Registrar following her failure to be promoted in 2008/9 and how at that meeting she had asked him how many women had been promoted. As he scanned down the list before him the Registrar’s face fell, and then fell further. Eventually he mumbled “one”. Just hearing how he reacted tells you a lot about the NUI Galway’s management, doesn’t it: the Registrar, responsible for promotions, hadn’t even realised only one woman had been promoted against sixteen men, and that this women was ranked number 17 so that he had to scan down 16 men to get to her.

That was the third time Micheline had been rejected for promotion. Each time she was told she hadn’t been quite good enough and to apply again next time, and now she had had enough. But those previous rounds, although very poor for women, were nowhere near as bad as 2008/9. The 2008/9 promotion round was also significant for another reason. It was the first in the reign of the present President, Jim Browne. For the previous two bad, but not as bad, rounds, he’d been Registrar and Deputy President.

Having previously been in the role of Registrar, Jim Browne must have come to power in February 2008 knowing what he wanted to do and how he intended to do it. As everyone at NUI Galway knows, Jim Browne’s focus throughout his Presidency has been on NUI Galway’s ranking. He’s an engineer and it’s numbers that seem to matter, not people. He’s also someone, we are told, who likes to have subordinates around him who do what he wants, rather than working by consensus. The 2008/9 promotion round was his first opportunity to implement the promotion aspect of the master plan he had developed while Registrar.

Four of the men promoted in 2008/9 stand out for how short a time they’d spent as ‘Junior Lecturers above the bar’ (this is the name NUI Galway has for a position this if often called elsewhere ‘College Lecturer’). While Micheline had been promoted to College Lecturer eighteen years previously, all of these men had been a College Lecturer for less than four years by the application date. That is an exceptionally short time to have to wait for promotion at NUI Galway. We’ve already dealt with one of them, the male candidate who was ineligible to be promoted (see: Was it really an administrative error that allowed an ineligible man to apply and be promoted in 08/09?). Within two weeks of this man’s promotion to Senior Lecturer, he was given a senior management role at a specially convened meeting for which we have the minutes. It was a role in which he was potentially very helpful to the new President.

The other three men were all appointed to College Lecturer from outside the university, and all of them work in areas of research which involve large grants. In Ireland nearly all grant-aided scientific research happens in universities – in all those shiny new buildings on campuses. So Irish universities now compete for grant money and the researchers who receive it. How much grant money a university receives is a major factor in working out their rankings.

To attract such researchers NUI Galway would have wanted to offer them promotion, but the Irish Higher Education Authority limits the percentage of staff who can be Senior Lecturers in a University. However, what NUI Galway could do was appoint them to the top end of the College Lecturer pay scale and promote them at the next round. There may even have been a promise of promotion. If there was, it would have been given during Jim Browne’s time as Registrar, when one of his responsibilities was outside appointments. We have no way of finding that out, but what we can see is how Jim Browne went about changing the promotion system to facilitate their promotion once he was President. In the report of the Senior Lectureship Promotions Board of May 2008, which he, as the new President, chaired, there is a section on ‘Eligibility’ which reads as follows:

The Promotions Board recognises that there will, occasionally, be lecturers recruited at ‘above the bar’ level who will, as a result of previous experience elsewhere, be given advanced incremental placing and who will be confirmed in post within one year of their appointment, as is provided for under the Probations Scheme. The Board recommends that such appointees be deemed eligible to apply for promotion to Senior Lecturer considering that not to deem them eligible would act as a disincentive in seeking to recruit high-quality, experienced academics from other institutions. Accordingly, it now recommends that the existing provision be amended to read as follows:

‘A Lecturer who has attained the maximum point of the salary scale, above the bar at the closing date for receipt of applications, shall, provided he/she has been confirmed in post, be eligible to apply for promotion.’

That change to ‘above the bar’ Junior Lecturers, or College Lecturers, meant that a researcher promoted from outside to the top end of the College Lecturer pay scale could be promoted to Senior Lecturer a year after his appointment, instead of waiting two further years as previously. Jim went on to argue for this new eligibility criteria at the next meeting of the Academic Council on June 12th 2008.

The President said that the main changes were the provision for eligibility for application on reaching the top of the scale, without having to spend two years thereon… 

In response to Dr. Lo Prete, he explained that the removal of the two-year wait would benefit the relatively small number of applicants who previously would have had to spend two years at the top of the scale.

It seems quite reasonable doesn’t it, and there’s nothing about grants and money, is there. Instead it is ‘high-quality, experienced academics’ who are to be favoured. And that is how it would have been, if NUI Galway’s own guidelines for accessing candidates for the next promotion round had been followed. Those guidelines defined what a ‘high-quality, experienced academic’ is. Amongst the various aspects listed are three for which a minimum was quantified. They were: hours of teaching (150 scheduled contact hours per year), number of post-graduate students supervised to completion (3 PhD’s or 5 Research Masters or 15 Taught Masters) and the number of research papers published (10).

We have researched the three men involved with a view to these three criteria. As far as we can see the three men do little teaching at NUI Galway – they were appointed for their research, after all. While all three supervise PhD students, none of those students could have completed their PhD by that promotion round as their supervisor wouldn’t have been there long enough. So these three men could only have satisfied one of the three quantified criteria, the number of publications. We’ve also had a look at their CVs online to check if they may have supervised PhD students at their previous posts, as NUI Galway might argue that these would count. But it seems highly unlikely for two of them, either because of the nature of the post and/or the institution, and for the third, there is no evidence he supervised PhD’s there.

So we can conclude that according to the guidelines for the 2008/9 round these three men did not deserve promotion. They may well have deserved promotion by the next round but instead they were fast tracked in 2008/9. This fast tracking excluded other candidates from promotion, such as Micheline. Micheline is a Plant Ecologist, whose research, and that of her many PhD students, is very important for our natural heritage. But that research doesn’t bring in big money. No shiny new buildings for Jim. That’s why the Equality Officer noted, in her ruling in favour of Micheline:

Significant marks seemed to be given under the research heading for attracting funding for which the complainant had a fair record. However, others who worked in the areas which attract funding easier, fared better. It is legitimate for a university to put an emphasis on candidates obtaining funding but this should be stated clearly in the guidelines.

The Equality Officer also spotted that there was another man who had been promoted against the guidelines, in addition to the three who were fast tracked:

…one candidate did not possess a PhD (which I would have thought was de rigeur for a Senior Lecturer in a leading University in the 21st century).

The guidelines state that a candidate should have a ‘PhD or equivalent’. So there is nothing wrong with the guidelines, they are a fair attempt at describing the minimum that would be expected in a ‘high-quality, experienced academic’. Management simply chose to ignore them in promoting these five men, the three who were fast tracked, the man without a PhD, and the man not even eligible to apply. Micheline says she found seven men through her Equality Tribunal case, who didn’t deserve to be ranked for promotion above her or the other five women shortlisted but not promoted in 2008/9. She can’t reveal their names and details as she was given access to their application forms on this understanding. We have now worked out who five of those seven men wrongly promoted in 2008/09, are.

So the reason why the 2008/9 Senior Lecturer promotion round was so much worse for women than men is because the Promotions Board, chaired by the new President, Jim Browne, ignored the promotion guidelines in pushing through his new agenda. There was probably no actual intention to favour men over women, it was simply that he and his male management team were blind to the abilities of women and only chose men to favour.

These salacious details are why there has never been any attempt by NUI Galway to investigate what went wrong in 2008/9, despite it being obvious there is an injustice and despite all the fuss that it has been made about it. It is also why NUI Galway sought a pre-hearing to contest the legal arguments for the High Court case instigated by the five un-promoted female lecturers. If NUIG win that pre-hearing they will prevent the reasons behind the promotion of sixteen men but only one woman in 2008/9 being exposed in open court.

It is this hypocrisy and mendacity by NUI Galway that we are demonstrating against on May 4th at 11.30 outside the Dublin High Court, which is the first day of the pre hearing. Please join us and help the fight against gender discrimination, of which this is such a blatant example. Bus tickets from Galway are available here.

If you can’t come perhaps you can make a Donation to help with the bus costs which the campaign are subsidising.

Notes.  We aren’t naming the male academics favoured in 2008/9, as we feel the injustice was purely the work of management. But anyone who wishes to check the claims in this blog can contact us at mich3c@gmail.com and we will supply the Academic Council minutes that list those promoted in 2008/9 so you can work out all of the above from the men’s online CVs, as we did. We intend returning to the case of the man who was not even eligible to apply, and what has happened to him since, in a future blog, where we will give further evidence.

More disinformation and hypocrisy from Jim Browne


Last Thursday, NUI Galway President Jim Browne was called before the Oireachtas Public Accounts Committee and grilled for more than an hour by its members. Inevitably, even at a meeting about finance, some of the questioning concerned the problems for women at NUI Galway. The session was filmed and is available online, where Jim Browne’s belligerent responses (referred to as ‘tetchy’ by one TD) make fascinating viewing. However, here we want to focus on his response when asked about the High Court cases being undertaken by the female lecturers who were not promoted along with Micheline in the 2008/2009 promotion round. Amidst his hypocritical expressions of concern and regret, there was a choice example of Jim Browne’s propensity for disinformation. To quote him exactly:

‘There are now four female colleagues who have taken us to the High Court. …. I seriously regret that. I would have preferred they had taken it through our own procedures. They did not choose to do that. That is their right…. ’

He implies that if only the five women had dealt with this matter internally, all could have been resolved, does he not? So what procedures might he be referring to?

When Micheline was turned down for promotion in 2009, she appealed the decision using NUI Galway’s internal procedure. It did her no good: She was told there was no gender discrimination and there was nothing wrong with the promotion process. So that can’t be the procedure that Jim Browne is suggesting the other women should have taken.

After Micheline had won her subsequent appeal to the Equality Tribunal, she went to see Jim Browne and told him the discrimination she had unearthed and how it applied equally to the other five women. He refused to do anything about it. So that can’t be the procedure he is thinking of.

Once the five women had met with Micheline and found themselves a solicitor, they went to see Jim Browne. This was before they instigated their High Court cases. He told them they had been judged by their peers and had to accept it. So that can’t be the procedure.

At a meeting of NUI Galway’s Governing Body, some of the members proposed that the five women should be promoted. Jim Browne told them the Governing Body had no powers in the matter. So that can’t be the procedure.

The five women later met with both Jim Browne and the Chair of the Governing Body, Catherine McGuinness. The women were told there was nothing that could be done. So that can’t be the procedure.

The injustice for the five women was brought up by other academics at the university’s Academic Council. Jim Browne said the Academic Council could do nothing. So that was not the procedure.

So where is this internal NUI Galway procedure that Jim Browne regrets the women did not make use of? The truth is that every attempt to deal with the injustice suffered by the five women has been stonewalled, usually by Jim Browne himself. Thus, it is both hypocritical and dishonest for him to imply that the five women are at fault for not seeking to resolve the matter through NUI Galway. Both they and Micheline have consistently tried to find a resolution, often delaying the next step in the hope that a resolution could be found. Despite Jim Browne’s public utterances that he wants to help the women, he has never initiated a meeting himself and has never offered to do anything for them at the meetings they have instigated. Instead, he says that he can do nothing.

However, this, too, is untrue. NUI Galway could have done something. At the least, there could have been an internal investigation into the 2008/2009 promotion round following Micheline’s tribunal ruling. But there never has been, despite all the fuss. Further to that, NUI Galway could have asked the National University of Ireland to provide an independent auditor (or Visitor), who could have examined that promotion round and made recommendations on any actions that should be taken by NUI Galway – such as promoting the five women. Why has Jim Browne never done any of this? Is it for the same reason that NUI Galway has sought the pre-trial hearing on May 4th where their lawyers will attempt to have the women’s cases thrown out? Could it be that NUI Galway does not want the facts revealed — the facts that explain how so many men and only one woman were promoted in the ‘08/’09 promotion round?

Jim Browne said something else significant to the Public Accounts Committee. He told them that the ‘08/’09 round was the fourth in a series of promotion rounds undertaken through the same process, and how the previous three rounds had been much better at promoting women. The fourth round has another fact which separates it from those previous three rounds, which he did not mention. It was the only one presided over by Jim Browne.

If you object to the hypocrisy and mendacity of NUI Galway please join us on May 4th at 11.30 to demonstrate outside the High Court. Bus tickets from Galway are available here.

If you can not come perhaps you can make a Donation to help with the bus costs which the campaign are subsidising.

Jim Browne’s answers are given in response to excellent questioning by Catherine Connolly, Indepenednt TD for Galway. West. They occur 32 minutes into the video: Oireachtas video

The truth behind the window dressing at NUI Galway


The Gender Equality Campaign has produced posters, such as the one above, to highlight the lack of significant change at NUI Galway.

Reality speaks louder than public relations drivel, no matter how you spin it.

To wit, NUI Galway says it’s doing all it can to address gender inequality at the university.  After all, the university has repeatedly pointed out, it set up a Task Force for Gender Equality, has adopted a mandatory female quota of at least 40% for the next promotion round to Senior Lecturer, and hired a Vice President of Diversity and Equality.

From our vantage point, these changes are merely window dressing.

The truth behind the changes?

  • The task force was not independent and its scope was far too narrow, according to both the trade union SIPTU and Micheline Sheehy Skeffington.
  • The report issued by the task force suggested a cascade system of promotion, but this is being watered down. Although 52% of Junior Lecturers are women, only 40% of those promoted to Senior Lecturer are required to be women, amounting to a 1% increase over the number of women promoted in the last round.

As Micheline wrote in a Letter to the Editor last month in the City Tribune, ‘The task force in itself was a face-saving exercise, as it had no brief to address past issues. … Specifically, it did not address the cases of the five other women who, like me, were deemed eligible, but who were not promoted. I know, from what I saw during my case, that they deserve promotion as much as I did.’

  • The Vice President of Diversity and Equality earns more than €100,000 a year – more than it would cost to promote the five women.
  • Further, the City Tribune revealed recently that concern was raised at a Governing Body meeting last November regarding how much her office was spending. Approximately €500,000 was mentioned as part of the cost of the office – including continuation of unconscious bias training costs.

This is the training that helps to stop staff from giving advantage to men over women. The meeting minutes, obtained by the Tribune through Freedom of Information, said that: ‘One member was extremely surprised at the cost of the unconscious bias training and would like to be convinced in respect of the impact of such training.’ An additional €120,000 was added for enhanced maternity coverage and €90,000 for research for staff returning from academic and carers’ leave, bringing gender equality-related expenses to €700,000. The amount of money involved is amazing, particularly when you compare it to how much less it would cost to promote the five women.

  • Inspired by Micheline’s letter to the Tribune, the campaign has produced these posters (above and below) to highlight the window dressing by management.

As Micheline further explained in her Letter to the Editor, the university’s continued failure to address gender inequality – particularly regarding the five women who have taken the university to court – ‘is the clearest indication of their real attitude to women.’

PROMOTE THE FIVE! And join us on Thursday, May 4th, as we demonstrate outside the High Court in Dublin in support of the five women.

*To read the March 27th City Tribune article (‘Alarm at NUIG’s €700k bill to tackle “unconscious” gender bias’ by Dara Bradley), click on the following link: http://connachttribune.ie/alarm-nuigs-e700k-bill-take-unconscious-gender-bias/

*To read Micheline’s Letter to the Editor, see the post on this page: https://michelinesthreeconditions.wordpress.com/2017/03/27/nui-galway-management-hypocrisy/

Our benefit concert was ‘a HUGE success’.

IMG_8196We’ve been inundated with thanks and praise for the benefit concert on Wednesday night. It really was a great night and it felt lovely to have organised something that gave such happiness to nearly everyone involved: audience, the performers and all the volunteers wearing our yellow T shirts.IMG_81852.jpg The only complaint was from a woman who thought she was coming just to see the ‘stunning Tommy Tiernan’. Otherwise it was just heartfelt thanks. Someone told us it was the best gig they’d ever been to, and they weren’t young! The reason it went so well was the shared aspiration of nearly all the 800 people: there to help the five women.

So a great big thank you to the two bands for doing it for us. My Fellow Sponges opened the show with sweet melodies and wonderful words. Then after the interval The Stunning were magnificent, and the quality, with IMG_8191excellent sound and backing brass was amazing for a benefit concert. They did us proud and rocked us into the night. But most amazing of all was Tommy. If you didn’t catch his opening riff about the University management you missed one of the best things to have happened so far in the campaign! We really hope someone has it recorded.

We share here the best of the images we have. If you have anything good please send it in to mich3c@gmail.com and we will put the best up on Google Drive. We’d particularly like a film clip of Tommy playing the air guitar and singing ‘Like a Rolling Stone’ along with the two bands for the finale. It was Derek Murray of The Stunning who suggested they do that number as Tommy is a great Dylan fan. Sure enough Tommy knew all the words and helped Steve Wall to recall the last verse. IMG_8223

At the end of the show, backstage, Helen Mortimer and Micheline gave Tommy a portrait of Bob Dylan painted by Helen’s son, as a thank you.  His eyes popped out when he saw it. He’d already given the highest bid for one of the other portraits by Oisín Carey we were auctioning, because he liked it so much, and now he was being given one of his hero!

Also a thank you to all the volunteers selling the raffle tickets, our merchandise, running the cloak room and preparing the Black Box, and to Nick, Micheline’s partner, who ran the night. We took over €21,000!! After we’ve paid off all the expenses it will be a big help with the legal fees. But the most important thing was the enormous publicity the event generated, raising awareness of the upcoming High Court hearing and our demo, and the amount of good will produced. As Micheline said in her short speech ‘now let’s get 800 people outside the High Court on May 4th!’. And as Tommy commented before the show, ‘May the forth be with you!’

Benefit concert with The Stunning, Tommy Tiernan sold out!

The benefit concert this Wednesday at the Black Box is sold out.

The concert has been sold out for more than a week and both the organisers and the Town Hall Theatre Box Office have been turning ever-increasing numbers of people away.

Rose Foley, one of the organisers, commented, ‘The concert really seems to have caught people’s attention. There are 800 tickets and all of them started selling really quickly a couple of weeks back.  Now I figure we could have sold them twice over.’

It is a unique line-up. The Stunning have not played Galway since their amazing outdoor concert in the harbour for the Volvo Ocean Race in 2012, and they have never done a concert with comedian Tommy Tiernan. The line-up is completed by My Fellow Sponges, a band which is especially popular with NUI Galway students. They are all doing the benefit to support the five female lecturers taking legal cases for gender discrimination against NUI Galway.

‘I really appreciate what Tommy and the musicians are doing,’ Dr Micheline Sheehy Skeffington said. ‘Not only will we raise a lot of money for the women’s legal bills, but the concert has raised awareness of the High Court case that is happening on May 4th. I was particularly impressed with how Tommy agreed to do it. We wrote him a long e-mail explaining what it was all about and got one line back saying “I’m good to go!” ‘

If there are any supporters who have tickets they cannot use, they can return them to the campaign or if tickets were to be collected, let the campaign know whose name they were reserved under and we can re-use them.

And thank you for all your support!

NUI Galway management = Hypocrisy

Hypocrisy seems to be de riguer at NUI Galway.

On Wednesday, NUI Galway President Jim Browne revealed at his biannual speech the university’s hypocritical stance regarding the treatment of female staff, particularly the women who have sued the university in the High Court for gender discrimination, and then on Friday, Micheline further exposed the university’s hypocritical attitude towards the women in a Letter to the Editor in the Galway City Tribune.

Dr Browne gave his biannual speech to all NUI Galway staff last Wednesday and three women, including Micheline, stood up to raise the issue of the High Court gender discrimination case against the university and the dire treatment of women generally by NUI Galway positions. His response was interesting, to say the least.

The women highlighted that the case has been fought for 2 years, 4 months. They emphasised the ‘human cost’ as well as the ‘stress and strain’ caused by the case, saying it is ‘financially draining’ and an ‘emotionally and mentally crushing process.’

We are ‘putting our careers, wellbeing and finances on the line to fight for what is right,’ one of the women said, adding that the sacrifice is ‘not only for ourselves but, more importantly, for others.’

In the past, Dr Browne has responded to such statements with obvious annoyance, even outright anger.

This time, he claimed heartfelt concern.

‘I regret to the core what the five women are going through,’ he told them and added that he wished he could help them but he was unable to do anything about it, explaining that ‘the issue is very complicated.’


He has said in the past that ‘I can’t and won’t promote them’ and that it is for the women to prove they deserve promotion in court. That’s why the women filed the court case in the first place. Yet, instead of allowing the case to continue and let the facts come out, the university is dragging out the process – using taxpayers’ money while the women have to fund raise to pay their costs.

At the request of the university, a pre-trial hearing has been scheduled for Thursday, May 4th in the High Court. Such a hearing will look only at the case’s legal basis – not the facts. In short, the hearing is merely an attempt to have the women’s court case thrown out so that the facts won’t be revealed to the public and the women won’t be able to prove that they were discriminated against.

According to The Irish Times, the preliminary issues centre on whether the lecturers’ claims can be dealt with by the High Court or must they be first determined by the Workplace Relations Commission and/or Circuit Court. Two years and four months later, this is where the case stands?

But wait, the hypocrisy at NUIG continues.

Mich letter

In a Letter to the Editor (reprinted in full above) in the most recent edition of the Galway City Tribune, Micheline exposed the hyprocrisy of NUI Galway management regarding the treatment of women at the university.

Micheline referred to an article in the March 17th edition in which NUI Galway rejected Senator Trevor Ó Clochartaigh’s claim that the university has done little for the female staff in the last two years.

According to the article (“We’re taking action,” Page 15), the university said it is ‘comprehensively addressing the issue at all levels.’

However, Micheline refuted this statement, saying, ‘Yet I see no evidence that key “college decision-making bodies” come anywhere near having the 40% of female representation they claim.’

Micheline pointed out that:

  1. In the past three years, four of the five male College Deans have been replaced – by four more men. (The College Deans are the Deans with the real power at the university.)
  2. The Academic Council, the top academic decision-making body, is still at least 80 percent male.
  3. More than 95% of new directors of Institutes and research programmes at the university are men.
  4. July 2016 HEA figures show that NUI Galway ranks a clear last of all third-level institutions with 21% female senior staff (Senior Lecturers and Professors).
  5. The mandatory 40% female quota being adopted for the next promotion round is only 1% higher than the percentage of women promoted in the last round.

‘The continued failure of NUI Galway to address this injustice is the clearest indication of their real attitude to women,’ she wrote.

She said, in fact, the university is doing all it can to prevent the five women from getting justice. That’s why the benefit concert is being held on Wednesday, March 29th at the Black Box. It is not just about raising money but also awareness of what is happening. And that’s why the Students’ Union is providing buses to Dublin on May 4th so that students can protest outside the High Court. The demonstration is being held precisely to highlight the hypocrisy of what NUI Galway are attempting to do. Please come and join us and the students! 12 noon at the High Court, May 4th! We will be arranging our own bus for supporters.