External candidates dominate shortlist for UCD presidency

Only three of eight candidates to be interviewed are internal applicants

 The University College Dublin campus at Belfield.

The University College Dublin campus at Belfield.


Only three of the eight candidates to be interviewed for next president of UCD are internal applicants, setting up the possibility of an external appointment for the first time in the institution’s history.

Deputy president and geneticist Prof Mark Rogers; dean of the school of business Prof Ciarán Ó hÓgartaigh; and head of electronic engineering Prof Tom Brazil have been shortlisted, along with several applicants from other Irish universities and overseas.

Prestigious post
A fourth internal applicant, Prof Brigid Laffan of the college of human sciences, had also been shortlisted but she informed recruiters last week she was withdrawing from the contest. It is understood she is in discussions about a prestigious teaching post in Europe, which became available since the UCD job was first advertised late last year.

There is some concern in academic circles about the length of time involved in appointing a successor to Dr Hugh Brady, whose 10-year term as president ends on December 31st.

The process stalled in January due to legal complications. The Public Service Pension Act, which came into force on January 1st, changed the criteria affecting retirement ages and pension rights and the college feared it could have excluded potential candidates.

The change, which came into force after the job was first advertised but before the closing date for applications, set the maximum retirement age for anyone joining the public sector at 70. There was no maximum retirement age for anyone who had joined between 2004 and 2012, while if you joined before April 2004 the maximum retirement age was 65. The post was readvertised with a closing date of April 5th, and candidates were subsequently screened by a search committee in one of a series of recruitment steps which had been agreed between management and stakeholders at UCD.

A 10-person selection committee chaired by Don Thornhill, the former head of the HEA, and including two overseas members, is set to interview the shortlisted candidates.

Under college rules, a six-person committee representing staff and students on the governing authority will also meet and “engage” with the candidates but won’t have a vote in the process.

A final decision is not now due until July.

Consultants PwC have also been engaged to help with selection for the post, which carries an annual salary of €200,000.

Growing disquiet
The process of electing a president has been the subject of long discussion on the campus, with growing disquiet among some staff about perceived lack of input in strategic decision-making. A lengthy consultation process led to the drafting of a report by the UCD governing authority in December 2011 recommending changes to the recruitment process.

This included a demand that the final shortlist of candidates “be required to engage with a representative group of UCD staff and students”.

UCD has had eight presidents in its lifetime, all male and all coming from within its own academic ranks.