Promoting universities

If you follow the media reports, Trinity College Dublin has got itself into a spot of bother because of its decision to complete the process whereby 27 academics have been promoted to Senior Lecturer, Associate Professor and Professor. The current Employment Control Framework, which is to run until December of this year, purports to prohibit promotions of any kind, but Trinity College’s argument is that these promotions were in train before the ECF was imposed, and the salary element will not be applied until the ECF has run out at the end of this year.

It would be fair to say that the reaction to this news has not been positive. The Department of Education has been reported as seeking a report from the Higher Education Authority about the whole thing, and Trinity has mounted a defence (according to the Irish Times) based on the timing of the original promotion decisions.

But in the end that’s not really so important. Others were in a similar position. The crucial issue is that taking away promotions, and thereby telling employees that there is nothing much to work for, is hardly going to motivate them to do their bit for the ‘smart economy’. Right now we need universities, and academics, who are fired up and engaged and who will help drive forward policies to attract new jobs to Ireland.

The obvious common sense rule applies: the government should determine the higher education budget, and then let the institutions themselves work out how they think it should be spent. Micromanaging universities is not a good idea, but more crucially it is not necessary or even helpful in achieving government objectives and targets.

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9 Comments on “Promoting universities”

  1. kevin denny Says:

    Removing the universities ability to hire people and also to promote staff is insane. What purpose is served? The government has a legitimate interest in controlling public expenditure- something it has been notably unsuccessful at doing. There is no basis for determining the composition of the expenditure, for ostensibly autonomous bodies. Despite all the baloney about the smart economy, the government’s policy towards the sector is closer to “Death wish”.

  2. jon Says:

    Now TCD has promoted some staff, who were lucky to be included in this round, at a time when it is not in a position to run another promotions round, extremely demotivating for all but the lucky twenty odd. Idiots.

  3. Vincent Says:

    I seem to remember that TCD has guarantees set in stone. Or at least in Anglo Irish treaties.

  4. Gordon Says:

    The combination of the recruitment ban and the promotion ban effectively makes universities moribund institutions. The contrast between the dynamism of the ever increasing student numbers and the dwindling and depressed ranks trying to teach them is remarkable. We should be the success story of the country: record demand for our services in the most efficient higher education system in Europe. So it is very worrying that we are held in such contempt.

  5. Marie Says:

    However the HEA document on ECF clearly stated that posts funded by non-exchequer funds could be considered differently, i.e. were not subject to the same constraints which allowed for an opt out and two Irish universities acted accordingly as this was aligned with their strategic intent.

    It would seem that more fund-raising is needed for the sector. The McCarthy report suggested that the cuts in the university sector would save €5,000,000. Could the hard facts of the economic savings under the current ECF be publicised? Or maybe I’ve missed them.

    I would not make too much of the argument of the rising demand for places as these will all too easily be satisfied by the UK. Irish students have already gone there in increasing numbers over recent years and with low cost travel, instant communication, etc this is not such a daunting prospect as one might imagine.

  6. cormac Says:

    Great post F, I couldn’t agree more. I strongly disagree with Jon’s argument that promoting the few discourages the many. The whole point of promotion is to give people something to aim for.
    I suspect the change in salary from senior lecturer to assoc prof is tiny – whereas the kudos bestowed are significant. Smart management in my view..

    • jon Says:

      Without cursing and name calling I can’t really answer the casual way you dismiss the feeling of staff who have missed out promotion through ill-luck and bad timing, so I won’t get into it, you pompous boob.

  7. iainmacl Says:

    according to the report they are being promoted in title only and payment defered in accordance with the ECF.


  8. […] the clear message we are supposed to take from the piece. In fact that’s nonsense. As we have noted in this blog, Trinity’s decision related to the completion of a promotions round initiated […]


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