Tag Archives: irish times

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



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,




Micheline in Letter to the Editor: ‘Cascade quota system is, to my mind, fair’

The following is a Letter to the Editor written by Dr Micheline Sheehy Skeffington, who submitted it this week to The Irish Times in response to NUI Galway Emeritus Professor of Microbiology Emer Colleran’s letter on April 23rd objecting to proposed gender quotas at the university.


I agree with Emer Colleran (letters I.T. 23.4.16) that an academic should be promoted on his or her merit alone and I too do not like the idea of quota systems favouring women. However the situation in Irish universities, and particularly at NUI Galway where we were both employed, is so extremely wrong that something like the proposed cascade quota system has to be adopted, temporarily, to put it right.

For Professor Colleran to justify her statement on the basis that she did not suffer any gender bias is to imply that those of us not promoted simply did not deserve it and that female academics at universities in those European countries where 50% of the professors are women are simply better than us Irish. At NUI Galway only 13% of the professors are female. According to EU figures Ireland has the second worst glass ceiling index for senior female academics in the whole of Europe, after Malta. Ireland’s record is so bad that it should take the lead in adopting something radical to put it right, as it did, for instance, with the smoking ban and the plastic bag tax. Once the bias is corrected there will be no need for a quota system.

Universities comprise a body of academics whose affairs, including promotions, are run by the senior academics. Once the proportion of women in senior positions is balanced, there will be a balance of views and quota systems will not be needed. But at present in NUI Galway 81% of the Academic Council and 83% of the University Management Team is male. We have to do something radical to put that right as quickly and fairly as possible. The cascade quota system is, to my mind, fair: no particular woman is promoted just because she is female and the proportion of women promoted matches that in the level from which they are being promoted. To assert that this is not fair is to assert that female academics deserve promotion less than men do.

Yours, etc,

Micheline Sheehy Skeffington

Irish Times: Former academic welcomes gender quota proposal for NUI Galway

(SUMMARY: Today’s Irish Times (April 15th) reports Dr Micheline Sheehy Skeffington’s response to yesterday’s news that the gender equality task force recommends gender quotas. The article is published in full below.)

Dr Micheline Sheehy Skeffington won landmark discrimination case against university

Dr Micheline Sheehy Skeffington. Photograph: Joe O’ShaughnessyDr Micheline Sheehy Skeffington. Photograph: Joe O’Shaughnessy

An academic who was at the centre of a major gender discrimination battle with NUI Galway has welcomed proposals to introduce mandatory gender quotas for academic staff at the university.

A final draft of the college’s gender equality taskforce report says such a move would significantly increase the number of female academics in senior posts.

The move could also have significant implications for other colleges and public sector employers where women are under-represented

The taskforce was set up in 2015 after Dr Micheline Sheehy Skeffington – granddaughter of suffragette Hanna Sheehy Skeffington – won a landmark Equality Tribunal case against the university.

‘Appalling situation’

Dr Skeffington said: “It is great that NUI Galway have recognised they have to address the appalling situation for women in the university by implementing mandatory quotas for promotion rounds and the suggested way to do it is excellent.”

However, she said the policy should be applied to all staff and not just academics. And quotas needed to be applied from outside the university.

“If they do not do this, then I fear it will result in more outside appointments, mostly men, and so less promotions for internal staff,” she said. The college must address “injustices of the past” by promoting five women at the college who are taking legal actions over not being promoted. “I know they deserve promotion as much as I did because they were shortlisted along with me and through my Equality Tribunal case I saw the application forms for all the shortlisted candidates,” she said.

NUI Galway has also welcomed the draft report and said a final report would be issued to the college’s governing authority next month.

In the meantime, the university said the draft report – issued by the chair of the taskforce, Prof Jane Grimson – is being circulated to the wider college community.

“The draft final report contains 23 evidence-based recommendations which are aimed at promoting gender equality at NUI Galway,” the university said. “In welcoming the draft report, the university reiterates its commitment to addressing gender equality across the university with the highest priority and looks forward to the completion of the final report.”

In June 2015, as part of its preliminary report, the taskforce made a series of recommendations to NUI Galway’s governing authority aimed at addressing gender equality at a systematic level. The university said all four recommendations had been implemented.


You can also access the story by clicking on the following link:


Micheline responds to report of proposed mandatory gender quotas at NUI Galway


(The following is Dr Micheline Sheehy Skeffington’s response to today’s (April 14th) Irish Times story that NUI Galway’s Gender Equality Task Force proposes mandatory gender quotas to increase the number of women in senior academic posts at the university. The article points out that women hold just over half of all of the lecturer posts at NUI Galway, but their numbers fall to 30 per cent at Senior Lecturer level and to 10 per cent at Associate Professor level. Just 14 per cent are full Professors.)

Dr Micheline Sheehy Skeffington: 

‘It is great that NUI Galway have recognised they have to address the appalling situation for women in the university by implementing mandatory quotas for promotion rounds, and the suggested way to do it is excellent. The proposed cascade method was, in fact, the method our campaign proposed over a year ago. However, I have three major caveats:

  • This policy should be for all staff and not simply academics.
  • There should also be quotas for appointments from outside the university. If they do not do this, then I fear it will result in an increase in outside appointments, mostly men, and so fewer promotions for internal staff.
  • They have to address the injustices of the past. There are five women taking court cases from the 2008 round of promotions. I know they deserve promotion as much as I did because they were shortlisted along with me and, through my Equality Tribunal case, I saw the application forms for all the shortlisted candidates.