University governance


Sir, – Prof Neil Robinson of the University of Limerick (Letters, January 4th) refers to university legislation containing “Trinity-specific provisions”. He asks, “why is the legislation not requiring all universities to adopt Trinity’s governance structures if they are so above reproach?”

TCD’s autonomous and collegiate governance is based on royal charters which are binding in perpetuity on both governments and the college.

This vital provision was endorsed in the United States, also a postcolonial country, by the Supreme Court in the Dartmouth College case (1819).

The Belfast Friday agreement, endorsed by Ireland, the United Kingdom and the United States, and supported by referendums in the Republic and Northern Ireland, and endorsed in the revised Article 3 of Bunreacht na hÉireann, “all the people who share the territory of the island of Ireland in all the diversity of their identities and traditions”.

The TCD governance structures based on autonomy and collegiality are soundly based in law, cherish the diversity of identities and traditions on the island of Ireland and have built an outstanding international ranking and reputation for TCD and the island of Ireland.

I would endorse university autonomy and collegiality widely. I would not, however, make that governance model compulsory. Diversity of identities and traditions should be our guide, as in Article 3.

As one who helped the establishment of the MBA programme at the University of Limerick, I would welcome all support for TCD in its defence of the sole autonomous and collegiate university here. All allies are welcome.

The intensity of attacks on TCD’s autonomy has increased in recent decades, notwithstanding its legal status, constitutional protections and international reputation. The attacks are not justified and should cease. – Yours, etc,


Emeritus Pro-Chancellor,

University of Dublin.

Sir, – Conor Mooney’s letter on “university hospitals” raises a valid point (Letters, January 7th). What is it about the word “university” that gets Irish people so excited?

MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) and Caltech (California Institute of Technology) are justifiably two of the most prestigious institutions in the United States, if not the world, and the designation “institute of technology” is good enough for them. ETH Zurich, where Einstein once lectured, has the equivalent designation.

Dublin Institute of Technology has moved away from this in favour of the clunky and rather odd “technological university” designation.

I’m not alone in concluding that this is driven by managers and staff seeking improved prestige and pay. Just how many “universities” does a small island need? This is a variation on the classic “grade inflation”.

In my time, regional technical colleges were well regarded institutions where one could learn a trade or gain a certificate or diploma before a technical career or moving on to a university for a full degree. I know many successful accountants who took classes there as part of their traineeships.

I can recall the hilarious yet infuriating fallout from Waterford regional technical college becoming an institute of technology, when Cork regional technical college decided to keep up with the Joneses with a unilateral declaration that it was now “Cork IT”.

Naturally the exchequer was expected to keep quietly sending out the cheques despite the recipients’ name change. I don’t expect the Universities Act will enforce any more financial discipline or academic rigour on these taxpayer-funded institutions.

Heaven forbid we might see a radical rationalisation of academic programmes or reduction of overheads. – Yours, etc,




Co Dublin.