Tag Archives: athena swan

More lack of transparency at NUI Galway revealed in big way

There is yet more lack of transparency at NUI Galway.

The University has more than €57 million in a private fund-raising foundation but has resisted declaring the funds despite government pressure, according to a blockbuster story in Tuesday’s Irish Times.

The Campaign has seen such lack of transparency before when it comes to promotions at the University. Some might call it hypocrisy.

The University steadfastly claims that it is ‘comprehensively addressing’ the gender inequality issue, but where is the real change to back up its claim?

If the University is truly addressing gender discrimination, then why have virtually all of the recent appointments for senior posts gone to men? As has been noted before on this website, of the five College Deans — all of whom are male — four have been replaced in the last three years – by four more men!

I think we can all agree that recruitment and appointments should – and must – be transparent at NUI Galway if the University is serious about addressing gender inequality. That’s why it’s so shocking that in NUI Galway’s recent job advertisement for a leader to succeed President Jim Browne, whose term ends next year, there is but a cursory mention of gender equality.

Such a poor reference is particularly glaring because a 2016 Higher Education Authority (HEA) report recommended that new university presidents have leadership skills in advancing gender equality and that this be included in recruitment requirements. (A link for the report is at: http://www.hea.ie/sites/default/files/hea_review_of_gender_equality_in_irish_higher_education.pdf).

Tuesday’s story in The Irish Times reported that NUI Galway and other colleges have now pledged to be more transparent regarding funds raised by private foundations, but went on to say that an independent review is ongoing at the University of Limerick.

More significantly, that review was resisted by UL until a new president – Prof Des Fitzgerald – took over in recent weeks.

Will the new president at NUI Galway be as forthcoming? And what about gender equality? The Campaign is concerned that if NUI Galway’s advertisement for a new president gives short shrift to gender equality, then the new president will not have the leadership skills to advance such equality – skills that were specifically recommended in last year’s HEA report on gender equality in Irish higher-education institutions.

And what about the origins of that HEA report? Yes, the Campaign has discovered even more questions about transparency.

NUI Galway’s draft of its application for the Athena SWAN Bronze Award at https://www.nuigalway.ie/media/nuigalwayie/content/files/aboutus/DRAFT-Athena-SWAN-Application-March-2017.pdf implies that Dr Browne was personally responsible for the commissioning of the report. The draft application states that:

‘In tandem with the establishment of the Gender Equality Task Force in NUI Galway, the President wrote to the then Chief Executive of the Irish Higher Education Authority and asked that the HEA set up a review of Gender Equality across the Irish Higher Education System. The HEA moved as requested and the HEA National Review of Gender Equality in Irish Higher Education Institutions, under the chair of Dr Máire Geoghegan-Quinn, Former EU Commissioner was established and reported in June 2016.’

If that’s the case, then why are the report’s very specific recommendations so ignored in the presidential recruitment brochure? (downloadable at https://candidates.perrettlaver.com/vacancies/255/president/

The Campaign could find only one mention of ‘gender’ – on Page 21 of the 25-page brochure. ‘Promote gender balance and equality of opportunity among students and employees of the University’ is one of the points listed under ‘Key Responsibilities’. How many points in all are listed? 10. Where does gender equality rank? 8th. And that one mention comes more than four-fifths of the way through the brochure.

Moreover, the Foreword to the 2016 report on gender equality written by the HEA’s chief executive indicates that it was commissioned by the HEA:

‘Reflecting the requirement, enshrined in higher education legislation, for institutions to promote gender-balance among students and staff, and for the Higher Education Authority to promote the attainment of equality of opportunity, we commissioned this review.’ 

There is no mention of NUI Galway requesting the review.

2016 HEA report

The Expert Group’s “HEA National Review of Gender Equality in Irish Higher Education Institutions”, issued last June, makes a number of recommendations for Higher Education Institutions (HEIs).

On Page 47 of the report, Point 1.1 states the objective as: “To foster gender balance in the leadership of HEIs” (our emphasis) and recommends that the final pool of candidates for new university president comprise an equal number of women and men.

“The achievement of gender equality needs to be led from the top,” the report continues, “with the ultimate responsibility for its achievement sitting with the HEI president, or equivalent.

“Therefore, it is the Expert Group’s expectation that all candidates for presidential appointments will have demonstrable experience of leadership in advancing gender equality, and that this will be included in the recruitment criteria and the framework for evaluating the performance of candidates.”

The report recommendations don’t stop there: Point 1.2 states that the objective is “to ensure HEI leaders foster a culture of gender equality in their HEI” and, to do this, it recommends a requirement of appointment will be demonstrable experience of leadership in advancing gender equality.

The actual job description for a new president, as issued by NUI Galway, comes up way short of those recommendations.

The Irish Times story on the foundation funds can be read in full by clicking on this link: http://www.irishtimes.com/news/education/universities-resisted-declaring-tens-of-millions-in-assets-1.3084158#.WRqUjhwzZng


NUI Galway applies for gender equality award – again. Campaign supporters have until May 17th to voice opinions

The Campaign has learned that NUI Galway has resubmitted its application for an Athena SWAN Bronze award. The university’s application for the gender equality award was rejected in 2015, in the first round open to Irish institutions.

Such an award recognises that the “institution has a solid foundation for eliminating gender bias and developing an inclusive culture that values all staff.” The Higher Education Authority last year stipulated that Irish universities should obtain at least a Bronze award if they are to continue receiving certain funds.

The Campaign feels strongly that NUI Galway does not deserve the award because it has failed to recognise key improvements it needs to make to eliminate discrimination against women. To date, everything NUI Galway has implemented has been to improve the University’s image without addressing the real problem of the culture of exclusion.

An Athena SWAN Bronze award is given to an institution that “recognises a solid foundation for eliminating gender bias and developing an inclusive culture that values all staff: that includes [inter alia] [….] identifying both challenges and opportunities.” The key ‘challenges’ not addressed are outlined below.

Micheline will be sending a letter of objection regarding NUI Galway’s application to the UK-based Equality Challenge Unit (ECU), which manages the Athena SWAN awards. We urge any supporters who feel as we do, particularly if they are a member of staff, student or ex-student of NUI Galway, to also send a letter of objection.

Please send your objections to athenaswan@ecu.ac.uk no later than May 17th. They should be no more than 1,000 words.

The objections must be based on aspects of gender equality that the University is failing to address. Personal examples that you may know of are particularly useful. We would suggest the following points. If you have the time, it would be better to put these points in your own words rather than cut and paste them:

1) — The extreme gender imbalance that occurred in the round of promotions to Senior Lecturer in 2008/09 – 16 men (50% of candidates) and only one woman (6.7% of candidates) – has never been addressed by the University even though it has accepted in its submission that there was a problem. Six women were deemed suitable for promotion in that round, but not ranked high enough to be promoted. Subsequently, Micheline Sheehy Skeffington won a case in November 2014 at the Equality Tribunal on the grounds of gender discrimination and was promoted. Her Tribunal ruling made it abundantly clear that the issues were wider than just her case. In the Tribunal Conclusions (Section 4), the ruling mentions seven men against whom she compared more favourably, but who received higher scores than she did. In addition, three of the other five women are specifically mentioned as having been subject to indirect discrimination on the grounds of gender.

a. The University has never attempted to address this obvious case of gender discrimination and has never conducted an internal investigation of that promotion round. The five women also deemed suitable took court cases only after exhausting all other avenues over six months of trying to get the University to deal with the issue. Therefore, the court cases cannot be used as an excuse by NUI Galway for not addressing this issue. Provision for an independent investigation is made in the form of a Visitor under the Universities Act. Such an investigation should be part of the NUIG self-assessment for addressing gender imbalance in the institution.

2) — NUI Galway policy is now to have at least 40% women in key decision-making positions (see Section 4.4. Organisation & Culture of NUI Galway application).

a.  But in the past two 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.)

b.  The Academic Council, the University’s top academic decision-making body, is still more than 80 percent male. Of the 150 Council members, 121 are men, which amounts to 80.7%, and 29 are women, which amounts to 19.3%.

c.  More than 95% of new directors of Institutes and research programmes at the University are men.

d.  Therefore, this policy has not resulted in any substantial change in the representation of women in many of the important decision-making roles.

3) — 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). The Irish universities with the highest percentage of female senior staff are Limerick (33%) and Trinity (31%). The rest are: UCD (30%); Maynooth (29%); DCU (27%) and Cork (26%). Highlighting the gender bias further at NUI Galway, only 12% of its Professors are women while 52% of its Junior Lecturers are women.

a.  There has been no substantive change in the percentage of females at the Professor level over the last three years and the number of female Senior Lecturers has fallen since 2015 (see Table 3.2.1 of NUI Galway application).

4) — 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 (2013/14, see Table 4.3.1 of NUI Galway application). This is not a sufficient policy shift to bring about change and does not reflect the more than 50% female lecturers at the level below that.


Here is the link for NUI Galway’s draft submission: https://www.nuigalway.ie/media/nuigalwayie/content/files/aboutus/DRAFT-Athena-SWAN-Application-March-2017.pdf

The website also includes a copy of an undated “Report on the Athena SWAN Culture Survey.” https://www.nuigalway.ie/media/nuigalwayie/content/files/aboutus/Athena-SWAN-Culture-Survey-report.pdf

The Campaign would like to point out another discrepancy here. The introduction of the report refers to the Culture Survey conducted by the Self-Assessment Team in March 2015. Why wasn’t a Culture Survey conducted in 2017?

The Guidelines for Athena SWAN awards are here: http://www.ecu.ac.uk/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/Athena-SWAN-Charter-Post-May-2015-guide-to-processes.pdf. NB submissions must not be anonymous and will be sent to NUI Galway for a response, if considered valid.

Micheline Sheehy Skeffington’s Equality Tribunal Ruling can be read here: http://www.workplacerelations.ie/en/Cases/2014/November/DEC-E2014-078.html


Thousands of euro spent to address NUIG image on gender discrimination, while staff remain highly critical

City Tribune NUIG 26 Feb 2016 copy (2).jpg


Last week (26th February 2016), the Galway City Tribune’s Dara Bradley wrote two contrasting articles on NUIG as it lurches from crisis to crisis in relation to gender discrimination issues. (Both articles appear above.)

The main article addressed the release online of the report of the NUI Galway Athena SWAN internal survey file, nearly a year after the university’s bid to achieve gender equality accreditation through the new scheme. Nearly half (46%) of the total staff responded, most of them permanent staff and two-thirds of them women. The overwhelming view was of an ingrained ‘misogynist’ ‘culture of sexism’ and ‘cronyism’. See: (https://www.nuigalway.ie/media/nuigalwayie/content/files/aboutus/Athena-SWAN-Culture-Survey-report.pdf)

This information since appeared in the Irish Times on Wed 2nd March http://www.irishtimes.com/news/education/nuig-staff-recount-misogyny-and-bullying-in-workplace-culture-1.2557138

This survey corroborates the findings of Micheline’s Equality Tribunal ruling (https://www.workplacerelations.ie/en/Cases/2014/November/DEC-E2014-078.html) and, despite NUI Galway making a fuss in setting up the Gender Equality Task Force, employing an equality consultant and compiling this report, little has changed at the university in regards to gender equality. The lack of real change was predictable and confirms the campaign’s view that many of the university’s actions are a smokescreen to be seen as doing something, while not actually tackling the issues.

The second article reveals that a Dublin PR consultancy was paid over €22,000 from February-July 2015, when NUIG was in the eye of the women’s health questionnaire storm. The article notes this payment to the consultancy was in addition to the five full-time communications staff salaries.

The same week that the City Tribune published the two articles, NUI Galway announced the appointment of the new Vice President for Equality & Diversity (http://www.irishtimes.com/news/ireland/irish-news/nui-galway-appoints-vice-president-for-equality-and-diversity-1.2550418). At a starting salary of over €106,500 per annum, this position is further evidence of NUI Galway being more willing to spend large sums of money to improve its image rather than making substantial changes to bring about gender equality. University staff need more than another highly paid manager to improve their conditions.

To read the two articles by news reporter Dara Bradley, which were also published in the Feb. 29th edition of the Connacht Tribune, click on the following links:






Of spin, glass ceilings and sticky floors

Spin spin spin

A recent addition to the growing collection of UNIVERSITY PRESIDENT cartoons: Spin, spin, spin. You can view the original and others on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/uniprez.

“As we were shown in Dr Micheline Sheehy Skeffington’s successful action in the Equality Tribunal, 84 per cent of senior posts in NUIG are held by men, exemplifying the environments in which women must function.”

That’s a quote from an August 30th Irish Times Opinion piece about the painfully slow change in the number of women election candidates. Written by equality issues campaigner Laura Harmon, the article is well worth the read, not just because it refers to Mich’s Equality Tribunal case. Here are other highlights:

  • We can talk all we want about breaking glass ceilings but there are also sticky floors. When one woman or member of a minority group breaks a glass ceiling, it often doesn’t help those who are stuck on the floor below.
  • Education institutions often act as a mirror for wider society. Over 50 per cent of the higher education population are women yet, just 19% of university professors and, out of seven universities, three of the registrars are women.
  • The list of women in public life in Ireland today has certainly grown. … However, without proactive measures, the pace of change is painfully slow. In 1995, the Dáil comprised 12 per cent women, with only a 4 per cent increase in the interim.

Here’s the link to Harmon’s article, http://www.irishtimes.com/opinion/parties-already-have-more-women-candidates-for-election-than-in-2011-1.2332606


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Galway Bay fm newsroom – NUI Galway says it plans to act on detailed feedback from the Athena SWAN gender equality programme.

The university has failed to be recognised by the Athena SWAN awards, which reward academic institutions for their efforts to ensure gender equality.

Dr Michelene Sheehy Skeffington says NUI Galway should never have applied for the award.

A gender equality taskforce was set up last year following an Equality Tribunal ruling which found that botanist Dr Sheehy Skeffington had been discriminated against in a 2008-2009 promotions round.

Dr Sheehy Skeffington told NewsBreak that the university shouldn’t have applied for the award.

In a statement to NewsBreak, NUI Galway says it’s received detailed feedback from Athena SWAN on the strengths and weaknesses of its application.

NUI Galway has commended the award recipients, Trinity College Dublin and University of Limerick.

It says it’s confident that by acting on the feedback received, it can strenghten its application for a future submission.

Dr Michelene Sheehy Skeffington says if this is to happen, more transparency is needed.


The Micheline’s Three Conditions campaign gained a major victory this week when the Athena SWAN Framework rejected NUI Galway’s application for a gender equality award.

The refusal vindicates the campaign’s efforts and its arguments that NUI Galway is more interested in salvaging its public image than actually improving gender relations. And if the public thought the university’s gender discrimination problems were all sorted through the appointment of a non-independent Gender Equality Task Force, then the decision makes it clear that the university still has a long way to go. 

Since Dr Micheline Sheehy Skeffington won her gender discrimination suit against NUI Galway at the end of 2014, the university has put all its efforts and money into a public relations campaign to improve its image – and distract the public and the powers that be from the real issue: the fact that five other women lecturers at NUI Galway have filed gender bias suits in the High and Labour courts. The Irish Times published a portion of a press release issued by the campaign in response to the Athena SWAN announcement in the following July 30th news story:

Campaign named after Micheline Sheehy Skeffington says decision ‘vindicates’ efforts


Trinity College Dublin and the University of Limerick have received British Athena SWAN bronze awards, but NUIG and three other Irish higher education institutions were unsuccessful.

Trinity College Dublin and the University of Limerick have received British Athena SWAN bronze awards, but NUIG and three other Irish higher education institutions were unsuccessful.

A campaign for equality at NUI Galway (NUIG) says that the university’s failure to secure a new accreditation for gender equality policies “vindicates” its efforts.

Trinity College Dublin and the University of Limerick have received British Athena SWAN bronze awards, but NUIG and three other Irish higher education institutions were unsuccessful.

The “Micheline’s Three Conditions” campaign said that NUIG’s performance vindicated its claim that actions taken by the Galway university were “nothing more than efforts geared at improving its public image”.

The campaign is named after botanist Dr Micheline Sheehy Skeffington who won an Equality Tribunal case against the university last year after she was passed over for promotion.

Trade union Siptu said it was “unfortunate, but not surprising” that NUIG had not secured the award. It confirmed that its academic section had objected to NUIG’s application.

NUIG said it commended the success of its higher education colleagues in attaining the award, and said it remained committed to delivering on a detailed action plan to address gender equality.

It noted that the “process has been a rigorous one with many benefits for the university”.


It should be pointed out that the press release issued by the campaign also contained this information that was left out of the Irish Times news story:

The campaign argues that since the Sheehy Skeffington case, NUI Galway has merely focused on improving public relations rather than making substantive changes in how women lecturers eligible for promotion are treated at the university.

Specifically, the campaign points out the following:

  • The NUI Galway Gender Equality Task Force appointed in February was not independent. Indeed, UL Prof Pat O’Connor, an expert on gender equality, declined to advise the task force because she had ‘serious reservations’ about its make-up, saying she would not be used as a ‘corporate mudflap’ by NUI Galway.
  • Despite the fact that the Equality Tribunal, which heard the Sheehy Skeffington case, described NUI Galway’s approach to academic promotions as ‘ramshackle’, NUI Galway President Jim Browne is still fighting the promotions of five women who were eligible for promotion in 2008-2009, the same round as Dr Sheehy Skeffington.
  • Browne is still using university funds to fight the promotions of these five women.
  • Although the Equality Tribunal highlighted that a male lecturer was promoted in the 2008-2009 round without actually being eligible for promotion, the university still has not promoted the next person rightfully in line for that honour – a woman lecturer.
  • NUI Galway still has not met the three conditions emphasised by the Micheline’s Three Conditions campaign, which are: to promote the five women who were denied promotion in the 2008-2009 round that saw 1 in 15 women but 16 of 32 men promoted; to admit that the subsequent round of promotions in 2014, for which there have been at least 20 appeals, was also flawed; and to aim to have an equal number of women as men in senior academic posts.