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Radical changes planned for Cork university

University College Cork president Prof Gerry Wrixon has outlined a series of radical restructuring moves which will see the university…

University College Cork president Prof Gerry Wrixon has outlined a series of radical restructuring moves which will see the university's seven faculties reduced to four colleges.

Each new college will have an executive dean who will have control of and responsibility for each college's budget.

The four executive deans will become members of a university management group that will replace the current and larger executive management group.

Under the proposals, the faculties of science, engineering and food science will be grouped into one college while the faculties of commerce and law will also merge.

The faculty of arts and Celtic studies, which has the largest number of students with 22 departments, will become the College of Arts and Social Sciences, while the faculty of medicine and health will become the university's fourth college.

University College Cork has around 16,500 students and over 1,500 staff. It has an annual budget of €100 million, and also has the highest amount of research funding of any Irish university.

Details of the restructuring proposals come as it emerged that the Higher Education Authority has given the go-ahead to Prof Wrixon for a four-year extension of his term in office after he turns 65 later this month.

It is understood that UCC has not yet received any official confirmation of the decision, but the decision has been communicated to Minister for Education Mary Hanafin and Minister for Finance Brian Cowen, who both have to give their approval.

Earlier this year the university's academic council voted by almost two to one against Prof Wrixon getting the extension but Prof Wrixon received the backing of the majority of members of the university's governing body.

Under the proposals, both pay and non-pay budgets will be fully devolved to each college. The executive deans will allocate funding to the college's schools, departments and programmes.

The heads of departments and schools will operate within these budgets and will be responsible for the strategic planning, leadership and delivery of teaching and research within their department or school.

Prof Wrixon has indicated he wants the four colleges to operate effectively as soon as possible. As a result, the budgets will be devolved from September.

The executive deans will receive fixed-term contracts for three years with the possibility of renewing for a second term, though the contract is governed by performance criteria.

The university management group will include the president, four vice-presidents, four deans of the colleges and the university's chief financial officer.

The proposals follow reports by both a restructuring steering group and the academic council restructuring committee.

The Irish Times understands that the faculties have broadly agreed with the need for change.

Prof Wrixon has warned that the university needs an appropriately sized management forum that would allow for discussion of medium- and long-term strategy as well as greater co-ordination of cross-disciplinary developments.

He has also noted that the review found that the existing structures had placed far too rigid boundaries around faculties and departments which made it difficult to respond to interdisciplinary developments and the changing clustering of subjects.