Trinity College Dublin will unveil the first female provost to lead the university in its 429-year history on Saturday afternoon.
About 860 full-time academic staff are eligible to vote in the election which will take place online this year.
The all-female shortlist of three senior academics includes Prof Linda Doyle, dean of research; Prof Linda Hogan, a theologian and former vice-provost; and Prof Jane Ohlmeyer, a high-profile historian.
Prof Ohlmeyer, who has led a high-profile campaign on social media, is widely considered to be the front runner for the role. However, observers say it is difficult to predict how staff at the college will vote.
In normal times, the electorate gathers in Trinity’s dining hall to elect the new provost in a conclave; this year, voting will take place online.
The run-off vote on Saturday morning will involve the elimination of the candidate with the lowest votes, followed by a vote between the top-two candidates.
The successful candidate will reside in one of the most prestigious addresses in Dublin – No 1 Grafton Street – with an impressive art collection including works by Jack B Yeats. The 10-year position will be accompanied by a €200,000 salary.
The successful candidate will replace Prof Patrick Prendergast who finishes up his term of office on July 31st.
Among the key challenges facing the new university provost are new legislation which academics fear will undermine Trinity’s autonomy; funding challenges linked to the Covid-19 pandemic and Brexit; question marks over whether to expand the college; and returning students to on-campus learning in the new academic year.
The election process has proved controversial, however. Associate professor Dr Sarah Alyn-Stacey, who has been critical of university management, claims she was unfairly disqualified from running.
She said she was excluded from the shortlist of three final candidates to stand for the election after an interview process that gave college human resources staff a “crucial role” in selecting who will be elected next provost.
The university has defended the process and said an appeals committee found interview procedures applied were fair and in accordance with the college statutes.
Trinity’s next provost will be the latest in a series of women who have been appointed to lead Irish universities.
Prof Kerstin Mey, interim president of the University of Limerick, became the first woman to head up an Irish university when she was appointed last year. Last month Maynooth University announced the appointment of Prof Eeva Leinonen as its next president.
Women’s hour: the three candidates for provost of Trinity
Prof Linda Doyle
Professor of engineering and the arts
A Cork native, Prof Linda Doyle studied electrical engineering at University College Cork and went on to complete a Master's and PhD in Trinity.
She has a strong track record in research and has expertise in areas such as wireless communications, spectrum management and creative arts practices.
Prof Doyle also was a founding director of Connect, a Science Foundation Ireland national research centre for future networks and communications.
She has held a number of senior roles including dean of research at Trinity and chairs a number of boards including the Douglas Hyde Gallery.
Prof Linda Hogan
Chair of ecumenics
Prof Linda Hogan, originally from Co Kilkenny, studied theology and history at Maynooth University and went on to complete a PhD at Trinity College. She holds the chair of ecumenics at Trinity.
She is an internationally-recognised scholar and has published extensively on religion, gender and human rights.
In addition, she has held a number of senior roles at the college including vice-provost/chief academic officer of Trinity College Dublin and she is founder of the college's EthicsLab.
She chairs a number of organisations including the Coombe hospital and the Irish Council for Bioethics.
In 2017 she was elected to the International Women’s Forum, a global network of high-achieving women.
Prof Jane Ohlmeyer
Erasmus Smith professor of modern history
Born in what was then Northern Rhodesia – now Zambia – to a Northern Irish mother and a South African father, Prof Jane Ohlmeyer grew up in Belfast during the height of the Troubles.
She studied history in Scotland before going on to complete a PhD at Trinity.
She has held teaching positions at the University of California, Yale and the University of Aberdeen.
At Trinity she has held a number of senior positions including vice-president for global relations and director of the Trinity Long Room Hub, an arts and humanities research institute. She is also chair of the Irish Research Council.
Earlier this year she delivered the James Ford Lectures at the University of Oxford, one of most prestigious history lecture series in the UK.