Lay people will be entitled to apply for State-funded chaplaincy posts in third-level colleges under changes aimed at ensuring they meet public sector recruitment rules.
This follows a review to be published shortly by the Higher Education Authority that raises concern about the arrangements used in many colleges to hire chaplains.
The report shows higher education authorities are spending almost €2 million a year on chaplaincy services, funded for the most part by a combination of State grants and student contributions.
However, it found many institutions have “legacy” arrangements in place, which did not involve a formal process of appointment in line with public sector rules.
Among the findings are:
A “predominance of provision” by Catholic chaplains, despite commitments to access chaplaincy services to all students; Some long-standing arrangements which mean Catholic dioceses have a right to appoint chaplains, which are funded by the State; Chaplains’ salaries ranging from about €35,000 (St Patrick’s College in Drumcondra) to €66,000 per year (University of Limerick), and Dublin Institute of Technology spending the most (€240,000) on chaplaincy services annually.
The report recommends that all colleges must ensure these appointments are in line with public sector rules within 12 months.
Atheist Ireland, which raised concerns with authorities two years ago, last night said it welcomed the report.
It said: “We’re delighted that our position has been vindicated, with the requirement for State-funded chaplaincies to move away from clerical and denominational appointments . . .”