Rebranding Trinity College Dublin

Thu, Apr 10, 2014, 01:55

Sir, – Your Education Correspondent (April 9th) could not have been more ineptly informed about the provost’s response to the discussions on Trinity’s name and coat of arms.

The discussions were initiated by the provost and board on Friday last at an open college meeting. Your paper reported accurately that I spoke in favour of retaining and standardising the coat of arms and the name, Trinity College Dublin, in our documents. Where appropriate we can substitute the frequently used abbreviations, Trinity, or Trinity College or TCD.

Trinity is the essence of our name, as meaningful for us as Imperial, or Harvard, or Cambridge, or Karolinska, or MIT or ETH or Caltech, is for those institutions. The fact that few of your readers have heard of ETH or Caltech (my second alma mater) does not matter to the great Swiss Institute of Technology or to the magical California Institute of Technology. Those who need to know do know, and they know why they know.

I was at the scholars’ dinner on Monday where I heard the best provost’s speech of that annual occasion for more than a decade, for which the provost received warm and prolonged applause. Those of us who were among the strongest critics of the mooted changes stood the longest and applauded most sincerely. In a fine address, after thanking David Berman for his memorial discourse on the philosopher AA Luce, welcoming the scholars of the decade (two from 1944), and congratulating the new scholars and fellows, he spoke at length on the name and coat of arms, saying to us all that he and the board would take stock of the points raised in the discussions. His language was Trinity language and, while I await further developments, I do not expect the board to make changes that will detract in any way from the value and meaning of our coat of arms and our name. I heard no heckling at the dinner – there may have been some banter at the back of the hall but one happy scholar does not make a summer.

We are the University of Dublin and while this legal fact may be valuable in certain circumstances, our task is to enhance the awareness and reputation of Trinity. That reputation depends on many factors, but most of all on our 420-year record, our graduates and on our current staff and students.

More than half of the 14 new fellows are not Irish. Many of our new scholars do not have recognisably Irish names. These academics and their successors, some among the new scholars, are the future of Trinity, and would not have come to Trinity Light. I hope Irish people will be pleased that Trinity ranks overall 30th in the world in the Times Higher Education Top 100 Most International Universities (2014) and overall 61st in the World in Research Influence (Citations) among the Top 200 Universities. A large question is whether the Government will realise and foster the global status and long-term potential of Trinity.

DAVID MCCONNELL,

Professor of Genetics,

Senior Fellow,

Smurfit Institute

of Genetics,

Trinity College Dublin