Gender inequality ‘a systemic issue for Irish higher education’

Review of gender policies in third level colleges to be completed within a year

‘Gender inequality, like all discrimination, damages all of us” - Tom Boland (above), chief executive, Higher Education Authority. Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

‘Gender inequality, like all discrimination, damages all of us” - Tom Boland (above), chief executive, Higher Education Authority. Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

 

The Higher Education Authority is to appoint a panel of Irish and international experts to review gender equality in Ireland’s third-level institutions.

The review is to be published within a year, and comes following controversy surrounding the appointments process at NUI Galway and wider concerns over gender imbalance in senior academic posts.

Announcing what it called “a system-wide independent review”, the authority said “gender-inequality is a systemic issue for Irish higher education that is not confined to one institution.

“Indeed it is a much broader issue as evidenced by the fact that the levels of inequality in Irish higher education are typical of the broader international experience.”

The review will examine the current policies and practices in higher education institutions, and also recommend measures to promote gender equality.

Tom Boland, chief executive of the authority, said: “Gender inequality, like all discrimination, damages all of us - the women of talent who do not get promoted and the wider society who do not have the benefit of that talent, properly and fully realised.

“This review will not be a mere audit of what is happening in the sector, but will an important instrument itself in bringing about change.

“Our aim is an ambitious one - to make Ireland a world leader in equality in our academic communities. It is entirely realisable.”

The review is taking place in tandem with the promotion of the Athena Swan charter in all seven universities, 14 institutes of technology and the College of Surgeons, aimed at increasing women’s participation in senior posts.

Figures published by the HEA last December showed only 19 per cent of university professors are women. In institutions of technology, women make up 45 per cent of academic staff but just 29 per cent of senior academic staff.

The review will include the issuing of a self-evaluation questionnaire to institutions in November-December, and site-visits next Spring. The final report is due to be published in May-June 2016.