Trinity could attract ‘star academics’ after Brexit if pay restraints eased

‘When competing for talent in an international sector we are constrained by public sector norms’

Thomas Molloy, director of public affairs and communications at TCD said Ireland was in danger of squandering opportunities presented by the UK’s departure from the EU.

Thomas Molloy, director of public affairs and communications at TCD said Ireland was in danger of squandering opportunities presented by the UK’s departure from the EU.

 

Constraints on public pay should be loosened after Brexit to attract international “star academics” working in important areas of national interest to Ireland, the Seanad has heard.

Thomas Molloy, director of public affairs and communications at Trinity College, Dublin, said Ireland was in danger of squandering the opportunities presented by the United Kingdom’s departure from the European Union.

“Star academics do bring a lot of good students and good research. These people are free to negotiate whatever salary they want...When competing for talent in an international sector we are constrained by the public sector norms,” Mr Molloy said.

“Maybe for star academics working in areas which are important to the national interest, the pay restraints should be loosened.”

Mr Molloy said even if international academics were recruited, Trinity’s current infrastructure could face problems because “our corridors are full, our offices are full”.

He was addressing the committee on the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union, sitting in the Seanad chamber on Thursday,

He also said there was concern about what would happen to students from Northern Ireland who wanted to study in the Republic, especially since Trinity prided itself on being an “all-island” university.

“No student in the North knows whether he or she will be paying €18,000 to €20,000 a year once the Brexit negotiations finish. That would be of course the end of students from the North coming here,” he said.

“The country has to decide whether it wants that to happen or not. If it doesn’t want that to happen it has to offer guarantees...You have to give them clarity. You can’t expect any family to sign what is effectively a blank cheque.”

He said most of the 12,000 students from the Republic who went to the UK every year would probably decide they could not pay the foreign student fees expected to apply to Irish people after Brexit and would come back.

So there could be an “overnight” 5 per cent increase in the Republic’s student population.

Meanwhile, the Government’s chief scientific adviser and director general of Science Foundation Ireland Prof Mark Ferguson said Brexit could provide more opportunities than challenges for Ireland.

He said Ireland should strive to attracted “outstanding” international researchers and students, as well as acting as a bridge between Britain and the EU.

Prof Ferguson said Ireland was not overly-dependent on the UK for scientific collaboration in successful EU programmes.

Fine Gael Senator Neale Richmond, who was chairing the meeting, said Prof Ferguson was one of the few witnesses who had appeared before the two-day session to “point out positives”.