Tag Archives: HEA

Law journal article examines fallout from Sheehy Skeffington case, says implementation is key for change

  • The Sheehy Skeffington v NUI Galway decision helped expose systemic gender discrimination at Irish universities.
  • The landmark ruling led to the Higher Education Authority issuing a Gender Equality Review with recommendations for bringing about the radical change needed to ensure gender equality.
  • Unless implemented, the recommendations change nothing.

These are some of the main points of ‘Disrupting the Status Quo? Discrimination in Academic Promotions’, an eight-page article by Dr Shivaun Quinlivan, NUI Galway law lecturer, for the Irish Employment Law Journal.

While the HEA’s Gender Equality Review is in many respects radical, Dr Quinlivan concludes, ‘without implementation it is merely a report gathering dust on the shelves.’

The article, published last July, brings to the fore the core issues and requirements for effecting real change for gender equality in Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) in Ireland by examining the Sheehy Skeffington case, which ‘has had repercussions far beyond the actual decision.’

In addition to referencing the Equality Tribunal’s characterisation of the Senior Lecturer interview process as ‘ramshackle’, the article outlined the bias in favour of men during the 2008-2009 Senior Lecturer promotion round during which 17 people were promoted – 16 men and 1 woman.

The article is the first clear acknowledgement of the combined effects of the Micheline’s Three Conditions campaign and the SIPTU equality campaign.

Essentially, the article looks at:

  1. The wider effects of the ruling in Micheline’s case, which proved direct and indirect discrimination, and was ‘significantly more far reaching’ than Dr Sheehy Skeffington, leading to lawsuits filed by five other women as well as the HEA report.
  2. How the next highest-ranked applicant (Dr Elizabeth Tilley) should never have had to take her case to court after it was revealed that one of the successful candidates wasn’t even eligible for promotion.
  3. The furor over the discrimination raised by SIPTU and the Micheline’s Three Conditions Campaign.
  4. The HEA report’s emphasis on the need for an ‘organisational and cultural shift’, noting that the authors of the report would ‘not have believed it necessary’ to have to make such radical recommendations.
  5. How the ‘disparity of power and position’ (with respect to gender) across the HEI sector is highlighted in the report.
  6. The cascade system for gender quotas* and how there is resistance even from women despite studies proving they increase, not decrease, excellence. (*One of Micheline’s Three Conditions).
  7. The glass ceiling is noted as being clearly between Lecturer and Senior Lecturer, not at the Professor level.

The Quinlivan article also mentions the HEA recommendation stating that funding should be contingent on the institution receiving a minimum Bronze Athena SWAN award. NUI Galway, which has yet to achieve Bronze level, submitted its third application for such an award in November 2017.

The article’s emphasis on the need to change the culture of an institution is significant as such change is not quantifiable in easy metrics, a factor picked up by the HEA report:

http://hea.ie/assets/uploads/2017/04/hea_review_of_gender_equality_in_irish_higher_education.pdf  on p. 17.

Dr Quinlivan’s article can be read in full here.

Also of interest is that in the most recent HEA report (July 2017; http://hea.ie/assets/uploads/2017/07/HEA-Institutional-Staff-Profiles-Gender-July-2017-003.pdf), Athena SWAN awards applied for or obtained are listed for each institution.


Government task force on gender bias welcomed, but at NUI Galway and other Irish Universities, it helps to look at where the power is

In July, the Higher Education Authority issued this year’s figures for gender percentages in Irish Universities and other higher-education institutions. Because this Web page focused on the four female lecturers’ mediation coming to an end at NUI Galway, we made no comment on the HEA report – and we didn’t produce an updated version of our table ranking the Irish Universities. But we found we didn’t need to: This year’s HEA figures got a lot more media coverage than last year’s, including Page One of The Sunday Times and most reports, including RTE‘s, singled out NUI Galway for still being the worst. It’s even come to the attention of the French science monitoring service!

As a result, we were pleased to hear the announcement by Minister of State for Higher Education Mary Mitchell O’Connor that she would be setting up a Task Force and was inclined to implement gender quotas in promotion to correct the imbalance in Irish Universities. We hope the Minister will note what happened at NUI Galway when an Equality Task Force was appointed in 2015. President Jim Browne made much of the Task Force and the resulting adoption of gender quotas at NUI Galway. But where are we two years later? We have a new promotion round this year from Junior to Senior Lecturer where the gender quota adopted is 40% – just 1% higher than the percentage of women promoted in the last round and 12% lower than the percentage of Junior Lecturers who are women. If it is to have any meaningful effect, the minimum gender quota adopted by the new Task Force must, at the very least, reflect the percentage of women in the positions from which they are being promoted. The quotas should also apply to appointments from outside.

NUI Galway has a sorry record of proclaiming improvements for women and then backtracking on its commitments – as Micheline keeps pointing out.  President Browne also likes to claim that the 2015 HEA report into gender discrimination, commissioned shortly after his Task Force was formed, somehow came about through his efforts and not because of Micheline’s Equality Tribunal win. That HEA report made many excellent recommendations, including regarding the appointment of University presidents, which it considered critical in order to effect real change in the third-level sector. Regarding appointment criteria for president, candidates should have ‘demonstrable experience of leadership in advancing gender equality’ and this should be ‘included in the recruitment criteria and the framework for evaluating the performance of candidates’ (p. 47). We have learned that, at a meeting where the process of the replacement of Jim Browne as President was discussed, NUIG Governing Body instructed NUIG management to implement this HEA recommendation. However, it was subsequently ignored, as is apparent from the ad and on-line brochure for the NUIG presidency. It says it all. So much for NUI Galway being ahead of the curve on correcting gender discrimination.

Everything we’ve seen so far at NUI Galway has been window dressing to make it look like the University is doing something when actually it is doing very little. They created a Vice President for Equality and Diversity and then must have given her a very limited brief. So, as well as rolling out a hugely expensive unconscious bias training programme, which has yet to prove its worth, they have increased the number of women on some committees and on the management team, so that at least some percentages look good.

However, if you want to assess change, you should look at where the power is. It was notable in the recent HEA figures that every single Irish university continues to have a man as President – as they always have. At NUI Galway, every College Dean, virtually every head of a Research Institute as well as the Registrar – the only posts with real power besides the President – is still a man, despite at least a dozen appointments in the last couple of years. Things will have changed when half of them are women.

We gather that the final short-list for the Presidency comprises seven candidates, of whom two are women. What are the chances of either woman being offered the post?


Hanna and Me: Passing on the Flame: There are only 12 days left to raise the amount needed to fund the documentary film about the centenary of Hanna Sheehy Skeffington’s courageous speaking tour of the US in 1917. To help Micheline follow her grandmother and tell her own campaign story in the US, please support the crowdfunding here.


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


Scepticism surrounds EU’s SHE Glass Ceiling Index statistics: What is the truth about Irish universities’ ranking?

One of the statistics that Dr Micheline Sheehy Skeffington regularly quotes, and one we have referred to many times on this Web page, is the position of Ireland, second to worst after Malta, for the Glass Ceiling Index (GCI) for European academics. The GCI is the measurement of the percentage of women in senior posts relative to the percentage of women in all posts. If there is no difference, and therefore no glass ceiling, the index will be 1, while the higher the index above 1, the worse the glass ceiling is. Here is the figure we have been referring to, which shows the relative position of each European country, slightly adjusted for ease of reading.

GCI Ireland corrected 2009

This graph comes from the European Union’s SHE figures published in 2009. Every three years, the European Union produces this set of statistics which assesses the position of women in science (including political and social science), engineering and technology. The statistics cover universities and technological institutes for all European countries, both those within and outside of the European Union. These figures provide a comparison of the relative position of academic women in senior posts between countries, the only such comparative statistics we have.

In the next set of figures, from 2012, no data were supplied from Ireland and Malta for the GCI. Their absence left Cyprus as the worst country in Europe in terms of the Glass Ceiling Index.  We assumed that Ireland and Malta were embarrassed at being on the bottom so they did not submit data. In response, we simply kept on using the 2009 figures, but meanwhile looked forward to the publication of the 2015 SHE figures, wondering whether Ireland would reappear next time, and if so, where on the list.

The 2015 figures were due out at the end of last year but were only finally issued in early May this year. To our great surprise, Ireland had shot up the ranking so that it was now 7th from best. Ireland was up there with Norway, Denmark and Iceland, all known for their much better record for promoting women to senior posts. Even more amazing, Malta was now top! Here are the equivalent 2015 figures, the layout adjusted for ease of comparison.

GCI Ireland SHE2015

Note that the Glass Ceiling Index for every other country has improved by only a few decimal points over their result for 2009, and their relative position has changed little. The index for Ireland, however, has improved from 3.8 to 1.45 over the 6 years. Compare that to the UK,  for which the index has improved from 2.4 to 2.25.

So one of our supporters wrote to the EU to find out how this disparity might have come about. The supporter was passed to the ‘Statistical Correspondent for Ireland’, a civil servant from the Strategic Policy Division in the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation. She in turn has been in correspondence with the Higher Education Authority (HEA). After some consideration, the two departments have agreed that the data submitted for the 2015 SHE figures were inappropriate and, consequently, they have reverted to the HEA head count used in the 2009 SHE figures. As a result, Ireland is back at the worst end of the GCI graph along with Estonia, Cyprus, Luxembourg and Lithuania. Here is the same graph but with Ireland’s result corrected to the new GCI supplied by the government.

GCI Ireland corrected 2015

But we are still puzzled. The Irish GCI was 3.80 in 2009; it is now 2.32. That is still an incredible improvement compared to the 0.15 drop the UK managed in the same period, and, therefore, still not believable. The 2009 index was derived from university-only totals, according to the SHE report, while the newly proposed index includes institutes of technology and colleges for the total staff numbers. However, totals of Grade A staff came solely from universities as there is no equivalent at other institutions of learning of full Professors undertaking research, as defined in the SHE report. Correcting the index by using only the university head count as sent to us makes little significant difference to the index. So our supporter has now written back asking if the HEA might also be able to account for the still-significantly marked GCI improvement. We hope to update you. Meanwhile, we publish at the end of this post the figures the supporter was sent and how they were apparently calculated. Perhaps someone reading this post can work out how the HEA have managed this statistical feat. If so, let us know by making a comment on this post or sending us an e-mail.

And as for Malta? In the 2009 SHE figures, Malta provided data only for 2004 and had a GCI so high, it was off the graph as we printed it. In the 2015 SHE figures, Malta provided data only for 2013 and managed a GCI less than 1! This remarkable change seems likely to be due to a government not giving this statistical exercise the respect it deserves. It is important that Ireland is never again associated with such questionable results. Later this week, the HEA will present their report on proposed changes to address the lack of promotion of female academics in Irish universities. The Glass Ceiling Index in the SHE figures, which rank Ireland within Europe, will be the means of checking whether any changes which are adopted are working.

The following is the information sent to one of our supporters regarding Ireland’s GCI:

IrishGCIsent (1)

Irish Times letter: ‘The bar has been set lower for men’

‘There is a growing consensus that the very concept of academic excellence that universities hold so dear is inherently gendered. A man has a better chance going into a selection process purely because there is a man’s name on the application. Or to put it another way, the bar has been set lower for men.’

The above quotation is an excerpt from Dr RM Hilliard’s Letter to the Editor that was published in today’s (April 27th, 2016) Irish Times. The letter follows in full below. You can also read it by clicking on this link: http://www.irishtimes.com/opinion/letters/gender-quotas-and-universities-1.2625368

Gender quotas and universities

Sir, – Higher Education Authority (HEA) figures show that of the seven universities, NUI Galway has the lowest representation of women at senior levels. Ireland also has the second poorest record in Europe for the representation of woman at senior academic levels. While individuals’ career experiences may differ, the systemic inequality at NUI Galway cannot be dismissed.

The Equality Tribunal, in their finding for Dr Micheline Sheehy Skeffington, reviewed 10 years of academic promotions at NUI Galway and determined there was “prima facie of direct discrimination” given that men had a 50 per cent success rate in those rounds compared to 30 per cent for women.

In 2016 little has changed for women in NUI Galway. HEA figures released in December 2015 show that NUI Galway still has the poorest representation of women at senior levels.

The senior lecturer promotion scheme was revised and a promotion round was held in 2013/14.

Equal numbers of men and women applied, equal numbers were shortlisted, but with 19 men and nine women (plus three women on appeal) identified for promotion, women still had only a 25 per cent success rate.

This imbalance is not confined to senior academics. Women dominate the junior and more precarious academic grades – 80 per cent of university teachers, 66 per cent of fixed-term contracts and 53 per cent of junior lecturers.

Women make up 95 per cent of the lowest administration grades, but 45 per cent of our senior administrators are men.

International research has shed light on how gender bias can hold back women’s academic careers.

Women receive less glowing references, less credit for their research, less credit for their publications, poorer teaching evaluations, fewer awards, and fewer citations.

There is a growing consensus that the very concept of academic excellence that universities hold so dear is inherently gendered. A man has a better chance going into a selection process purely because there is a man’s name on the application. Or to put it another way, the bar has been set lower for men.

Academic appointments are not gender-blind and selection processes cannot be fixed easily. We cannot wait for education and culture to achieve what has not moved in the last 20 years, or in the last 120 years.

The short-term use of gender quotas would offer NUI Galway the opportunity to make significant progress in addressing the legacy of discrimination and signal strong commitment to changing the culture. – Yours, etc,




NUIG Employee Seeks Whistleblower Protection

SUMMARY: The Connacht Tribune reported recently that a ‘senior staff member’ at NUI Galway has sought protection under whistleblower legislation after disclosing concerns to the Higher Education Authority regarding the appointment of people to positions within NUIG and to the use of consultants.

This latest development could eventually shed some light on the endemic gender discrimination and bullying at the university. (The full story follows.)

NUI Galway: subject of whistleblower allegations.
NUI Galway: subject of whistleblower allegations.
by Dara BradleyMar 31, 2016

A senior staff member at NUI Galway has ‘blown the whistle’ on alleged malpractice at the university.

The employee, who has sought protection under whistleblower legislation, has made a series of disclosures to the Higher Education Authority (HEA).

The Department of Education and Skills is aware of the case involving alleged wrongdoing and irregularities.

It is understood that a central feature of the complaint relates to the appointment of people to positions within NUIG and to the use of consultants.

The university denies the allegations levelled by the whistleblower.

NUIG has interviewed staff about the allegations and compiled a report for the HEA.The NUIG report, compiled by a senior member within the institute, is in response to the whistleblower’s dossier. It sets out a rebuttal of the claims.

In a statement in response to a series of questions put to the university, NUIG press office said: “We have no comment on this.”

However, several well placed sources within NUIG have confirmed to the Connacht Tribune that a senior member of staff has made disclosures under the whistleblower legislation that came into force in July, 2014.

The HEA does not comment on individual cases.


You can also read the full Connacht Tribune story online at http://connachttribune.ie/nuig-employee-seeks-whistleblower-protection-475/

Another Year, Another Dismal Performance at NUI Galway

Gender equality group cites worsening statistics

in call to promote 5 female lecturers at NUI Galway

SUMMARY: In a press release issued Tuesday, the Micheline’s Three Conditions Campaign called for the end to just talking about gender equality and actually begin to implement it by promoting the five female lecturers overlooked for promotion since 2009 and who have been forced to take their gender discrimination cases to court. The release was issued in response to 2014 statistics released this week by the Higher Education Authority pointing to NUI Galway’s continued last-place performance among all Irish universities for the promotion of women to senior positions. Below is the press release that was sent to news outlets: 

GALWAY  — With NUI Galway’s latest dismal performance regarding the number of women in senior posts, the Micheline’s Three Conditions Campaign is demanding the end to rhetoric and calling for real change at the university, beginning with the promotions of five female lecturers who have had to take their fight to court.

Newly released Higher Education Authority (HEA) national statistics for 2014 confirm that NUI Galway is still at the bottom – across the board among all Irish universities – for the percentage of women in senior academic positions, with the percentage of associate professors who are women actually decreasing. The poor performance came despite the university’s claim that it takes gender equality seriously and has launched initiatives, such as a Gender Equality Task Force, to address the long-standing problem.

“These statistics prove what we’ve been saying all along – that NUI Galway talks about its commitment to gender equality but, in actuality, is only going through the motions to do something about it,” said Dr Micheline Sheehy Skeffington. “Real change can only come about by promoting a higher percentage of qualified women. That’s why we are calling for the immediate promotions of the five female lecturers who were denied promotions in 2009 and are now battling for their rights in court, costing them thousands of their own euro along with the stress of going against the juggernaut institution of NUIG.” The former NUI Galway botanist’s landmark win a year ago in the Equality Tribunal set off the firestorm for the call for gender equality not just at the Galway institution but at universities throughout Ireland. “One year on today –what real changes have come about?” she asked.

The breakdown of the latest figures released by the HEA shows that the number of female junior lecturers at NUI Galway increased from 52% in 2013 to 53% in 2014. Yet, contrary to the university’s claims of improving gender equality, the percentage of female associate professors fell from 13% in 2013 to 10% in 2014 while the percentage of female senior lecturers and professors remained the same at 30% and 14%, respectively. The Irish Federation of University Teachers said this was the poorest performance of any university across all three senior grades.

As a whole, however, the seven universities included in the HEA statistics did not fare much better. All together, the percentage of female junior lecturers increased from 50% in 2013 to 51% in 2014. Yet, the percentage of female associate professors dropped dramatically from 26% in 2013 to 20% last year while the percentage of senior lecturers who are women went from 35% to 34% and, for female professors, from 19% to 20% those years. Ireland is still bottom of the European list after Malta, with the second-highest Glass Ceiling Index for female academics.

The campaign states that NUI Galway is more interested in publishing rhetoric and improving the university’s public relations than actually confronting gender bias. Members cite that Dr Jim Browne, NUI Galway president, said in an Irish Times article published in May 2015 that the university recognised the problem with gender discrimination in 2009 when only one of 17 promotions to senior lecturer went to a woman. Browne said he “led and pushed” the Governing Authority to agree to a quota system. “But the figures don’t lie,” said Rose Foley of the Micheline’s Three Conditions campaign. “The truth is that the proportion of women in senior posts actually dropped in 2014.”