Third level funding to be linked to gender equality improvements

The announcement was made at a gender equality conference in Trinity yesterday

Photo by Joe McCallion for Trinity News

Minister for Higher Education Mary Mitchell O’Connor has announced that future funding for higher education institutions will be tied to gender equality improvements. The details of this plan are included in a gender equality report which will be released in mid-September.

According to Minister Mitchell O’Connor, “funding will be directly linked to how successfully institutions implement gender equality measures”. The comment was made at a European Conference on Gender Equality in Higher Education, which is being held in Trinity today.

Minister Mitchell O’Connor noted that “higher education institutions will be mandated to take steps to improve their systems in a specific time scale”. She believes the new funding methods will send “a blunt message” to the third level sector.

The report will outline how segments of state funding will be linked to specific improvements within the sector. It will influence the policy of the 14 institutes of technology and is the first policy of its kind to be adopted by higher education institutions.

Third level institutions will now be judged on the metrics of “transparency”. The policy aims to allow women to reach higher paid positions in the sector, which will give them access to better career opportunities.

Minister Mitchell O’Connor noted that the central goal of the policy is to ensure equal opportunities for all people, regardless of gender, ethnicity, or secual orientation.

Objectives of the initiative include the creation of structures to allow all staff members to advance their careers, with initiatives such as supporting staff members who have care responsibilities. It will also be required that statutory decision making committees within the sector have no less than 40% membership of either gender.

Speaking yesterday, Minister Mitchell O’Connor noted that she will not accept “slow progress”. She pointed out that “on paper, gender equality has been enshrined in our legislation for the third level sector for many years, higher education institutions must promote gender balance. This legislation is not working for our female academics”.

She recognised that this policy would be vital in STEM subjects, where women were “disproportionately missing” from courses and the related fields of work. She pointed out that four out of five students on some manufacturing and engineering courses were male.

Minister Mitchell O’Connor established a Gender Equality Taskforce last year. The taskforce has developed a three year action plan, to review the national systems of recruitment, promotion, and general practices currently taking place in higher education institutions.

Trinity is hosting the European Conference on Gender Equality in Higher Education this week. Over 400 academics are attending the conference to discuss methods of improving gender equality in the higher education sector. This is the first time the conference has been held in Ireland.

Peter Kelly

Peter Kelly is the current Assistant Editor of Trinity News. He is a Junior Sophister Law student, and a former Deputy News Editor.