Trinity will launch a new international recruitment campaign next month, which will see it recruit 40 new academic posts across a range of subject areas from children’s literature to pharmaceutical chemistry as part of the College’s current strategic plan.
A total of €16 million, from non-exchequer sources, has been allocated for the recruitment of the new Ussher assistant professors, who will be appointed in the spring and take up their positions in September 2016.
According to a statement from the College, this is the second time that Trinity has “created a distinct set of professorships with the Ussher name to foster young academics” and the new posts reflect “the success of the first programme.”
Chair of the recruitment process, vice-provost and chief academic officer, Professor Linda Hogan, said: “The recruitment of these new posts across the university will build academic capacity to develop new educational programmes. We have identified the posts most crucial to executing our mission, and attracting talented people from around the world who will foster global engagement in education and research… and further Trinity College Dublin’s position of excellence.”
Mike Jennings, general secretary of the Irish Federation of University Teachers (IFUT), has criticised the new recruitment campaign.
Speaking to the Irish Times, he said that IFUT has “very serious concerns” about the fact that these assistant professors will be appointed under a tenure-track programme, which will result in the appointees becoming “mainstreamed after a five-year period, subject to performance.”
While in the past, employment practices have varied across departments in Trinity, the introduction of a tenure-track system will mean that all entry-level academic staff undertake a five-year probationary work period. Appointees will undergo annual reviews by the college and, depending on how they perform in these assessments, overseen by increasingly senior academics as the years progress, they may be awarded tenure, or a permanent position, after the five years.
Jennings commented: “This is all track and no tenure. It’s Orwellian – because it means the opposite of what it says. You are less likely to be tenured under this arrangement than under the current regime.”
He claimed the announcement of these plans has come as a surprise to staff and that the process was being commenced “without having any meaningful negotiations.”
As is the case with many universities, he said: “TCD has been looking for ways to make appointments outside the employment control framework, and I might have some sympathy for that on the basis of the chronic underfunding of higher education, but it seems to me that the dangers far outweigh the benefits of getting additional staff. I doubt they will have the same academic freedom.”