Harris indicates potential support for increased student representation on Trinity Board

The Minister suggested that a special arrangement could be made for Trinity at a meeting yesterday

Simon Harris yesterday indicated that a specific arrangement could be made to increase student membership of Trinity’s Board as provided for by the Higher Education Authority (HEA) Bill 2022.

Harris, the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Innovation, Research and Science, acknowledged that under proposed changes, student representation in Trinity will be disproportionately lower than that in other higher education institutions (HEIs), and committed to working with Trinity College Dublin Students’ Union (TCDSU) to address this.

Presidents of third-level students’ unions across the country met with Harris yesterday to discuss student issues, including the expansion of student support services and the national accommodation crisis, as well as the Higher Education Authority (HEA) Bill 2022.

At this meeting, president of TCDSU Leah Keogh raised the issue of student representation on Board.

Keogh presented an amendment to the HEA Bill 2022 which was submitted through the Union of Students’ in Ireland (USI) in March. The proposed amendment would increase student membership of governing authorities in HEIs from two, as currently specified in the Bill, to three or four.

Harris refuted this proposal, arguing that the decrease to student representation is proportional to the decrease of the size of governing authorities overall. While this is true in the case of many HEIs, at least four, including Trinity, will have their proportion of student membership of the governing body significantly decreased.

However, according to Keogh, Harris expressed agreement with the argument that Trinity specifically will have its student representation disproportionately decreased due to the provision for additional fellows to be members of the Board.

While in all thirteen other HEIs, students will make up two of the 17 total members of the governing authority, an 11.8% share, in Trinity this will be two of 22 – a 9.1% share, given the addition of five extra members.

In light of this, Harris committed to work with TCDSU in finding a solution to this imbalance, an offer which the union said it will pursue.

The addition of one student member of Board would bring student membership to 13.6%, a proportion which, though higher than the proposed 11.8% in other HEIs, is still lower than the current 14.8% in Trinity.

Such a hypothetical amendment would not necessarily increase Board membership to 23 members. The wording of the Bill as it stands does not specify five additional fellows, but rather, “such further number of members” that external membership of the Board is not less than 40%. Unless this passage was also amended, an additional student member would likely mean one less member who is a fellow of Trinity.

Though College has voiced its support for an increase in student representation on Board, it is unlikely that it would welcome a reduction in the membership of fellows.

David Wolfe

David Wolfe is a Junior Sophister student of History and Political Science. He is News Editor of Trinity News, having previously served as Assistant News Editor and as copyeditor.