Professor Ferdinand von Prondzynski is the current President of Dublin City University and his ten-year term will come to an end in July 2010. This begs the question: what will such an esteemed academic do next? There are rumours that he may be considered for the distinguished position of Provost of Trinity; while these have not been confirmed it is not entirely out of the bounds of possibility as, coincidentally, the current Provost John Hegarty’s ten-year term comes to an end in 2011. Arguably, the more pertinent issue is not whether Professor Ferdinand von Prondzynski will apply for the post of Provost or not, but whether he would be an apposite candidate and ultimately make a good Provost.
Professor Ferdinand von Prondzynski has a fascinating family history; he is an Irish citizen of German origin. He comes from a military heritage, a direct descendant of his namesake Ferdinand von Prondzynski, a 19th-century Prussian General from Groschowitz near Oppeln in Silesia (now Groszowice, near Opole in Poland). His grandfather fought in WWI and his father was a Captain during WWII and a Knight of the Order of Malta. Later his father became a director of the cement-producing company, Dyckerhoff AG.
Professor Ferdinand von Prondzynski’s academic career began in Trinity; he graduated in 1978 with a BA and an LLB. He subsequently went on to obtain a PhD in Law from Cambridge. From 1980 to 1990 he was a Lecturer in the School of Business Studies in Trinity and became a Fellow of the College in 1987. He earned the nickname the “Red Baron” due to his views on industrial relations and labour law which were notably sympathetic to trade unions. He continued to be highly influential in these two areas as an active commentator and he co-authored the first Irish textbook on employment law.
Initially he argued for a disengagement of the law from industrial relations, believing that disputes were better resolved through bargaining rather than litigation and this was a very modern and forward-thinking approach for its time. His ideas were expressed in his book Freedom of Association and Industrial Relations (Mansell, 1987). Significantly, the recently established Commercial Court, which was set up specifically to deal with commercial disputes more expeditiously and expediently through encouraging and facilitating the use of alternate dispute resolution (ADR) methods rather than them culminating in a trial, concurs with this view.
Later his views began to moderate and he argued for a framework of employment regulation that took account of economic pressures and the need to maintain competitive conditions. He more prominently advocates that while the law should protect employees’ rights, it must also promote business success and economic growth, obviously a highly topical and concerning issue at present. He has also published a number of books and articles on social policy and in particular on the importance of legal protection against discrimination.
From 1991 to 2000, until he became President of DCU, von Prondzynski was Professor of Law in the University of Hull; for much of that time he was also a Dean: first of the School of Law, and later of the Faculty of Social Sciences.
It is interesting to note that during his Presidency of DCU there has been some controversy involving industrial relations disputes between the University and tenured academic staff. Three incidents reached the stage of litigation, peculiarly in the precise area of legal expertise – employment law. None of the actions were directed at von Prondzynski personally but he was involved in all of them.
On a personal level Ferdinand von Prondzynski is married to Dr. Heather Ingman, a novelist and Lecturer in English Literature in Trinity, and an occasional writer in The Irish Times with whom he has two sons. Von Prondzynski is a member of the Church of Ireland and an enthusiastic follower of Newcastle United football club. He is also a keen amateur photographer, and DCU has published several calendars of his photographs.
Von Prondzynski writes a fascinating blog (which is well worth having a quick read of) dealing with topics mainly relating – but certainly not limited – to higher education and public policy: ( It is succinct and insightful and focuses on pressing issues of education and employment that are extremely relevant to students; for example some of the recent topics discussed range from grade inflation to gender quotas in politics.
In conclusion, it seems that Professor von Prondzynski would certainly make an excellent Provost, not solely because of his undoubted academic stature and leadership experience in DCU, but because he is engaged and active in contemporary issues that matter, especially to students. He displays a critical, questioning and challenging attitude that all students should aspire to. This is perhaps best expressed and epitomised in his comment on his blog regarding the disapproval of Brother Shaun O’Connor of people attending a rugby match on Good Friday: “In fact, the one who died on Good Friday had a habit of mocking the rules and restrictions of the religious hierarchy of the time.”