TCD provost defends rebranding as staff turn on ‘insipid’ logo

Professors say ‘botched’ redesign amounts to ‘throwing away the family jewels’

Trinity College Dublin provost Patrick Prendergast: ‘We need to decide here whether we want to reclaim ‘University of Dublin’ or let it slip’

Trinity College Dublin provost Patrick Prendergast: ‘We need to decide here whether we want to reclaim ‘University of Dublin’ or let it slip’


Trinity College Dublin provost Patrick Prendergast has warned staff against being complacent or “self-satisfied” about the university’s international status as he faced down criticism of a planned rebranding of the 400-year-old institution.

Some senior academics and students accused him of overseeing a “botched” job and selling out on tradition at a “town hall-style” meeting on the campus yesterday, although other speakers in the 200-strong audience expressed support for his attempt to revamp TCD’s public image.

Geneticist Prof David McConnell drew loud applause when he said “we are losing very much more than we will gain” by moving away from the use of TCD and adopting “Trinity College, the University of Dublin” in official communications.

He said the college’s research output was associated with the name TCD and to change the name would greatly damage its standing.

“You are losing the central identity that has carried us since 1592. It’s throwing away the family jewels,” he said. “I would appeal to you, provost, to rethink this.”

As for creating a new college logo, Prof McConnell said, “The current crest that we have has mystery; it has gravitas, it has history, it has meaning.” When people look at it “they know it’s old”.

Pointing to the new blue-and-white design, he said: “That is not old and it’s our age more than almost anything else that distinguishes us from every other university on the planet.”

TCD pro-chancellor Prof John Scattergood told the provost he had “simply botched it” by trying to combine both university and college shields in the new design, retaining the lion, harp and castle while converting the closed Bible into an open book. “What you have succeeded in doing is draining meaning out of those symbols.”

Prof Scattergood said the college crest “has a religious agenda” and highlights historical links going back to the Tudors. By creating a hybrid logo with “anaemic” blue and white, the two shields have been “wrecked”.

Economist Prof Brian Lucey said that while consistency in branding was welcome, the logo looked “cheap, bland and insipid”.

As for the name of the college, he said TCD was already well known as a brand. If some students in Asia had difficulty figuring out whether it was a university: “Are they the sort of students we want to get?” he asked.

But Dr Prendergast replied: “There is big complacency here that people know about Trinity College Dublin around the world. This is not the case so don’t be self-satisfied about this.”

Trinity had always had “University of Dublin” attached to its name, he said. However, he pointed out that when you type it into Google, “you don’t get Trinity College”. UCD shows up in the first reference instead.

“We need to decide here whether we want to reclaim ‘University of Dublin’ or let it slip.”

While tradition was important, he said the age of the college was not something he emphasised when selling the university overseas; rather he pointed to quality of education and personnel.

As for the logo, he said he understood his predecessor John Pentland Mahaffy, in the early 1900s, had “opened the clasps” on the bible “to show knowledge should be accessed”, while recent research linked the symbol to the word “ libris not biblica . . . so we are not sure if it was a bible”.

He also assured Irish-language speakers that the “default” brand for use domestically would be the bilingual one, while the English version would be used overseas.

Dr Prendergast said the board would address certain concerns, including the relative sizing of the symbols and whether some had been rendered “toylike”, before making a final decision.