Gender inequality in Irish universities

 

Sir, – Mary Mitchell O’Connor, the Minister of State with responsibility for higher education, is absolutely right in her reported comments on gender inequality in Irish universities (“Universities have failed to appoint a female president for 426 years, says Minister of State”, News, October 11th). This is a chronic problem entirely of the universities’ own making, and they should be obliged to put in place processes to address it themselves from their own resources as a priority.

Last month the Irish Universities Association unveiled a glossy “charter”.

This document, which addressed gender inequality issues primarily through the vacuous device of including far more females than males in the various photographs distributed throughout the text, pleaded not simply for increased State support for universities – who could disagree with that in light of a decade of austerity and underfunding for research, teaching and facilities – but also for greater freedom in awarding salaries.

Decoded, this means the right to pay supposed academic superstars in “strategic” disciplines more than existing pay scales permit.

One practical and cost-free step which the Government should take is simply to say no to that toxic request.

Much more importantly, however, the Government should tell universities now that they must address the rank injustice of long-serving staff holding CIDs (“contracts of indefinite duration”), which confers an employment status adjacent to but inferior to permanency.

I don’t know the full picture across Irish universities, but I can confirm that in my faculty in Trinity at least three senior academic colleagues hold such appointments – one only because she had the gumption to secure an employment tribunal determination in her favour when the college attempted to cut her loose. It will come as no surprise to your readers to know that the three academic “CIDs” of whom I speak are women. – Yours, etc,

EUNAN O’HALPIN,

Professor of Contemporary History,

Trinity College Dublin,

Dublin 2.