Lecturers’ union cries foul over Trinity’s overseas recruitment plan

Forty assistant professors to be employed under five-year ‘tenure-track’ contracts

Trinity College Dublin has said it planned to commence an international recruitment campaign next month to fill assistant professorships in Children’s Literature, Medieval History, Global Politics, Midwifery and other areas. File photograph: Bryan O’Brien/The Irish Times

Trinity College Dublin has said it planned to commence an international recruitment campaign next month to fill assistant professorships in Children’s Literature, Medieval History, Global Politics, Midwifery and other areas. File photograph: Bryan O’Brien/The Irish Times

 

The trade union representing university lecturers has criticised plans by Trinity College Dublin to fill 40 new academic posts through contracts outside of traditional public service recruitment arrangements.

Mike Jennings, general secretary of the Irish Federation of University Teachers (IFUT), said it had “very serious concerns” about the plan to appoint the assistant professors across a range of departments from Law to Medicine under a “tenure-track” programme.

This would result in the appointees becoming “mainstreamed after a five-year period, subject to performance”, the university said.

However, Mr Jennings remarked: “This is all track and no tenure. It’s Orwellian - because it means the opposite of what it says. You are less likely to be tenured under this arrangement than under the current regime.”

International recruitment

The university said it planned to commence an international recruitment campaign next month to fill the posts, which include assistant professorships in Children’s Literature, Medieval History, Global Politics, Midwifery, Pharmaceutical Chemistry, Future Cities and the Internet of Things, Data Science, and Genome Analysis.

The posts, which are being named after Church of Ireland Archbishop James Ussher, a pioneering Trinity scholar, are being funded entirely by non-exchequer sources, the university said.

Some €16 million has been allocated for their recruitment, and the newly appointed professors are due to take up their positions in September 2016.

Chair of the recruitment process, Vice-Provost Professor Linda Hogan said: “This is part of our strategy to recruit excellent academics in areas where Trinity has strengths.

“We have identified the posts most crucial to executing our mission, and attracting talented people from around the world who will foster global engagement in education and research.”

‘Retained permanently’

Trinity said this was the second time it had recruited in this fashion, the first being in 2010. The university said it had retained 35 of the 39 professorships hired on that occasion, “24 of whom have been retained permanently”.

A spokeswoman added: “The process is as yet not complete, and a number are still going through the review process for permanent appointment. All of them were in receipt of pension benefits as will be the case for the future appointed Ussher professorships.”

However, Mr Jennings said staff were surprised by the latest announcement, adding the process was being introduced “without having any meaningful negotiations”.

Like other universities, he said, “TCD has been looking for ways to make appointments outside the employment control framework, and I might have some sympathy for that on the basis of the chronic underfunding of higher education, but it seems to me that the dangers far outweigh the benefits of getting additional staff.

“I doubt they will have the same academic freedom.”