Higher Education Minister proposes changes to Trinity governance

Academics are opposed to the changes, fearing that college will lose its independence

The Government has proposed to reduce the membership of Trinity’s ruling body, the university board, from 27 to 15 in an act which some Trinity academics say would diminish College’s autonomy. 

The proposals come from Higher Education Minister Mary Mitchell O’Connor and were discussed at a board meeting on September 11th. In addition to reducing the number of governors, the proposals look to change the structure of Trinity’s governance.  

In a report to the Irish Examiner, Fellows at Trinity have argued that the plans would have “grave consequences for the College’s autonomy and identity”.

Documents seen by the Irish Examiner stated: “These proposals would probably be implemented within two years; the college board would be reduced to 15 comprising mainly people external to college whereas currently, it comprises 27 people from across the different areas of college (Fellows, non-Fellows, non-academic staff, students; the visitor system would disappear, yet it often prevents unnecessary legal action; there would be a separation of the role of the Chair of the Board from that of the Provost; the college would essentially lose control of its governance and historic identity.” 

Two board members present at the meeting objected to the proposed changes. Senior academics at Trinity have argued that the Board Review Working Group does not contain a comprehensive enough membership to implement the proposed changes. 

Academics from College maintain that the working group would have to contain representation from all Trinity stakeholder groups before the Government could implement such significant changes in College’s governance. 

According to Trinity, the board’s responsibilities include all of College’s affairs including “education, scholarship, ethics, discipline, finance, and external relations”.  

Currently, the Board is made up of the Provost, Vice-Provost, Senior Lecturer, Registrar, Bursar, six fellows, five non-fellow members of the academic staff, two professors, three non-academic staff, four students (including one post-graduate), one non-employee and non-student, and one representative from the Minister of Education. The 27 members are meant to reflect the entirety of the college. 

Jessica Hobbs Pifer

Jessica Hobbs Pifer is a Deputy News Editor of Trinity News. She is a Senior Fresh Middle Eastern and European Languages and Cultures student.