” As Provost, I will ensure academic values are the heart of all that we do in Trinity and nurture conditions whereby all staff feel a deep connection and contribution to this mission.
Trinity’s Talent: Putting People First
1. Empowering Our Staff
AS PROVOST, I WILL:
- Defend academic freedom and intellectual autonomy.
- Recruit and retain the best talent.
- Secure named lectureships and professorships as part of the next philanthropic campaign.
- Review internal practices around temporary and part-time contracts and, where necessary, lobby government.
- Review work-life balance, approaches to flexible working, and disparity of workloads.
- Review working practices, exploring technological solutions to streamline and simplify routine and repetitive admin processes.
- Promote dignity and respect in the workplace and a culture that is values driven and transparent.
- Prioritise promotions.
- Implement fully in Trinity national and international policies around gender, equality, diversity, inclusion, racism, harassment and bullying.
Now is not a time for continuing as we are: we need to change. Our future will require new ideas and thinking grounded in broad experience. Our passion and drive will determine our collective success. We, the staff, are the key to unlocking Trinity’s real potential. We are committed, hardworking, highly motivated, and passionate. Academic freedom and intellectual autonomy are central to our research and scholarship. These principles are enshrined in Trinity’s Statutes and safeguarded by Trinity’s Fellows. We should not be guided primarily by financial imperatives. Over-emphasis on short-term sustainability and profit is fundamentally destructive.
I will defend academic freedom and intellectual autonomy. I will invest in knowledge, ideas, and practices that guide future generations.
The protections afforded by academic tenure allow us to investigate unfashionable and controversial topics, to ask awkward questions, to dissent from received wisdom, and to teach and publish our honest conclusions without fear of internal censure or external pressures.
As Provost, I will prioritise promotions, celebrate achievements, and support personal development. Promotions should be more routine, not constrained by any sort of quota, and have clear and transparent criteria. Special excellence in teaching, research, interdisciplinarity, collegiality, and leadership will be celebrated and rewarded. Mentorship across career stages will foster creativity, ambition, and vision, especially as academic responsibilities change and develop.
Recruiting and retaining the most talented staff, especially younger colleagues, is challenging in a globalised academic world. Our size, our location, and the quality of interaction between our staff and students can be real advantages here. By creating a community that is both stimulating and rewarding – in which people can realise their full potential and where innovation, creativity, and collaboration across disciplines are supported – we will encourage the best talent to relocate to and remain at Trinity.
As Provost, I will work to create an environment of intellectual excitement, and revise processes so that Trinity can serve as a magnet for outstanding enquiring minds.
Of course, recruitment and retention of the best academics will also depend on our ability to raise non-exchequer funds, especially from philanthropy, and to address issues around precarious temporary and casual contracts.
As Provost, I intend to secure an unprecedented number of named lectureships and professorships as part of the next philanthropic campaign. I have been particularly successful in securing funding for new academic and research posts. I will draw on this experience and my extensive network to secure this investment in talent. In collaboration with relevant stakeholders, I will review internal practices and, where necessary, lobby government to implement the recommendations of the 2016 Cush report.
Currently, our staff are stifled by unnecessary bureaucracy and grappling with systems that are often not fit for purpose.Our future will be determined by how well we can work together as a community, leverage data and technology, and devise new ways to train, engage, and handle the implications of ongoing change.
As Provost, I will ensure the basic systems and supports are fully aligned with the mission of the university. I will implement more effective communications and greater transparency around decision-making and finances.I will make it easier for us all to do our jobs and give you more time to think, research, and teach.
Changes in working practices, triggered by the pandemic, have underscored the importance of having a flexible working environment that prioritises well-being and health for everyone. The recent staff survey, ‘Stay together and stronger’, highlights the very real challenges we have faced as we grapple with stress, loneliness, and sheer exhaustion and juggle work and, often, caring responsibilities.
The Athena Swan process has also brought to the surface issues around inequality, discrimination, bullying, and workloads. Discussions around race and racial awareness, disability and gender are very much to the fore. Real action is needed to address these issues. We need to look at how we communicate about them within College while forging new practices to foster diversity and inclusion.
As Chair of the Irish Research Council, I have been at the forefront of putting in place a gender strategy and successfully developing a gender-blind application and assessment process which has increased the number of successful applications by women, especially in STEM areas. The Irish Research Council is currently developing a bullying and harassment policy. I have stood up to bullies throughout my career, both in person and increasingly online. As Provost, I will continue to have zero tolerance for any form of bullying, harassment, or racism.
As Provost, I will review work-life balance and flexible working practices, address workload disparity, and work to achieve equality and diversity in the workplace.I will nurture a culture that is values driven. I will ensure that Trinity is a university that promotes dignity and respect in the workplace and celebrates openness, fairness, diversity, inclusivity, and equality.
” As Provost, I will secure the investment needed to make this happen and strive harder to increase diversity and inclusion from non-traditional backgrounds, not least by bringing our Further Education and Training progression pathways up to the level of other Irish Higher Education Institutions.
2. Enabling Our Students and Early Career Researchers
AS PROVOST, I WILL:
- Be a champion for all of our students.
- Promote access, diversity and inclusion, especially for underrepresented groups.
- Improve staff to student ratios with a target of 1:12 by 2031.
- Further engage alumni and enterprise as mentors.
- Cherish small group activity, trust our academics to be research-led educators, and value the role of students in our academic community.
- Increase the overall level of support for student services.
- Prioritise the development of a campus-wide, comprehensive approach to mental health crisis prevention and intervention.
- Reduce, simplify, and streamline the administrative workload for tutors.
- Work with other stakeholders to lobby government for increased investment in education, student welfare, and improved infrastructure.
- Make early career researchers a priority for philanthropic investment.
- Invest in studentships, where the minimum stipend is nationally agreed.
- Increase lifelong learning and outreach activities.
Trinity graduates have the creative potential to change the world. We prepare leaders in empathy, imagination and understanding, creating responsible and responsive global citizens who embrace complexity and diversity and who are people of courage and conviction.
We are a comprehensive university. Our disciplinary diversity across the Arts, Humanities, Engineering, Sciences, Social Sciences, and Health Sciences is a real strength. It is something to cherish and to build on.
Our students and early career researchers are the lifeblood of our disciplines. Trinity’s prestige, exceptional quality of teaching, and wealth of academic programmes continue to attract outstanding undergraduates and postgraduates.
Over the course of my career, I have had the privilege of teaching History to talented Trinity Access Programmes students and gifted undergraduates. I have been lucky enough to work with and mentor outstanding early career researchers. I have also supported c.200 inspiring early career researchers from across 20 disciplines over a period of 5 years as Director of the Trinity Long Room Hub. I value enormously all of these interactions. As Provost, I will structure my workload to maintain strong connections with our students and early career researchers.
Diversity and Inclusion
In 2019–20 we had 18,941 registered students of which 13,384 were undergraduates and 5,496 postgraduates. By any measure our student body is incredibly academically gifted.It is also geographically, ethnically, and socially diverse. In 2019–20 28% of the student body were from 121 countries outside of Ireland (self-declared country of domicile). Despite Brexit, we will increase the numbers of students coming from Northern Ireland and ensure that Trinity is a university for talented students from across the island and beyond.
We actively recruit students from under-represented groups.In 2018– 19 22% of students to undergraduate programmes were recruited via Alternative Admission Routes (30% of whom are mature students) thanks in no small measure to the Trinity Access Programmes which is now being copied in places like the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge. A lot has been achieved, but we can do more.
Trinity needs to be more welcoming and accessible for different types of student learners and for those with a disability.
The pandemic has highlighted the problems of relying on a single set of exams, the Leaving Certificate, to determine admission to third-level and this has been accepted at the highest levels of Government. As educators, Trinity has a role to play in this debate and to use its influence to advocate for a fair, equal, and transparent system that would reward excellence and potential.
Delivering an Exceptional Educational Experience
The most effective way to value our students is through the promotion of academic excellence in the classroom and the delivery of an exceptional educational experience, both in person and online. We can improve even upon the high standards already achieved by lowering our staff to student ratio, by reducing the administrative burdens on staff, and by enriching the academic programme through an ongoing programme of curriculum renewal.
The overall staff to student ratio in 2018–19 was 1:17. In some areas the ratio was considerably higher (1:21 in the Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences; and in certain areas within the Social Sciences, closer to 1:30). This is too high for the best student experience and a leading research-led university, with ambitions to be a research intensive one. It needs to be reduced to be in line with peer LERU institutions in the EU area: Amsterdam 1:13.5; Lund 1:12.1; Zurich 1:12.3.
As Provost, I will improve staff to student ratios with a target of 1:12 by 2031. This will bring Trinity in line with both LERU and Russell Group universities. I will ensure that our academic staff have both the supports and the time needed to be research-led educators. By increasing our academic staff by hiring and retaining new talent across all faculties, we will enhance the quality of the educational experience and our learning outcomes, improve staff workloads and wellbeing, and grow reputation.
The Trinity four-year degree programmes produce exceptional graduates with creative minds and powerful analytical and communication skills. Employers recognise this. We now need to make much more of this exceptional strength in our system. We also need to continue to find creative ways to engage our alumni as mentors and to build stronger relationships with them as well as potential employers.
The Trinity Education Project proved a massive undertaking that will require time to bed down. It is an example of something that was developed from the top-down, rather than built from the bottom-up in responding to issues raised by staff and students. It is no surprise then that there have been significant problems in its implementation. We now need to make the Trinity Education Project work. It is vital to our diversity and inclusiveness. As Provost, I will listen to the concerns raised by students and staff, change elements that are not working, and introduce more flexibility so that the Trinity Education Project works better for our students and our staff.
We need to remember that structures and technology only take us so far and that teaching is a human activity. It is the substance and quality of education that matters. As Provost, I will privilege small group activity, trust our academics to be research-led educators, and value the particular role that students play in College life. This is what is so special about the Trinity education experience.
The decision to impose a quota on the number of new Scholars in 2021 is problematic. Scholars are an important part of the College community and, even in the most difficult of circumstances, we must always find ways of identifying and rewarding excellence. Our guiding principle should be academic excellence, not saving money, and this should be rooted in trusting in the integrity of our students and our staff.
” As Provost, I will prioritise the development of a campus-wide, comprehensive approach to mental health crisis prevention and intervention and the investment in the necessary programmes and supports for students and staff.
Supporting Our Students
COVID has placed unimaginable strains on students and early career researchers, who have grappled with stresses caused by fear, uncertainty, and isolation. Unfortunately, many of these problems are not new. COVID has exacerbated deeply concerning underlying issues.
We have a duty of care to our students.We must do all that we can to make our campus a safe place to study and live. We need to provide the emotional and academic support required to cope with learning in an online environment during the pandemic. And we must maintain this commitment after the pandemic.
As Director of the Trinity Long Room Hub, supporting our early career researchers was my primary concern after the physical campus closed in March 2020. Collegiality and virtual coffee mornings helped to alleviate the isolation. I now want to do more and to take action to support all of our students now, at this extraordinary moment, and in the post-COVID future.
Student services are extremely important to the welfare of our students and, despite pressures on time and resources, they do an exceptional job. Our tutoring system is a particularly effective way of offering one-to-one academic and pastoral support. At the moment our tutors are overwhelmed by paperwork and our student services are under-resourced with long waiting times for appointments. Immediate investment is essential to increase the overall level of support we can offer and reduce the administrative workload.
Professor Jane Ohlmeyer outside the Trinity Long Room Hub with early career researchers in 2019
I will increase the overall level of support for student services and reduce the administrative workload for tutors. We need to afford a warm welcome and practical supports to all students and early career researchers, especially those who do not live in Dublin or are at risk or vulnerable.
As Provost, acting in partnership with the Students’ Union and Graduate Students’ Union, I will create a staffed ‘front desk’ offering a range of practical supports (visas, accommodation, setting up bank accounts, getting to know College and so on).
In 2016 the Cassells Report suggested a number of options, including a system funded primarily by the State and another involving student loans. My strong preference is that the State fund higher education at an appropriate level.I believe that we should do all that we can to avoid the possibility of debt-burdens for students, an under-capitalised loan system that does not allow us to recover the full economic cost that a Trinity education stands for, and for the bureaucratic dirigisme that will inevitably accompany such a system.
As Provost, I will work closely with the student body and government to identify imaginative and practical solutions to the very real difficulties many of our students face.
Opportunities for Early Career Researchers
The recruitment of outstanding early career researchers continues to be a priority for Trinity, as does the acquisition of funding and provision of appropriate facilities, support structures, and accommodation.
Creating a non-hierarchical, inclusive, interdisciplinary, supportive, and stimulating community was my priority as Director of the Trinity Long Room Hub. I nurtured an environment that was conducive to both informal networking, peer support, and professional development.We now need to offer these sorts of opportunities to every early career researcher in Trinity. As Provost, I will ensure that our support services are fully integrated and aligned to share expertise and knowledge to meet the needs of our early career researchers.
I will establish a centralised research support hub to support new appointments, especially from overseas, but also to coordinate orientation, training, career networking and community building across disciplines and faculties. I will create much-needed common research and meeting spaces. These minimum conditions are essential to nurture the spirit of curiosity and interdisciplinary collaboration required to meet the complex challenges of our times.
As Chair of the Irish Research Council, I lobbied to secure the salary/ stipend increases that took effect in January 2021. This is simply the beginning of a journey that I hope will result in better financial support and improved career prospects for some of the most vulnerable, yet amongst the most talented, members of the College community.
As Provost, I will make early career researchers a priority for philanthropic investment. I will continue to lobby government for additional investment, with higher stipends/salaries, more funding for consumables and, in the case of funded postgraduates, payment of the full fee (and, until that is forthcoming, Trinity should cover the difference).
Very successful extramural and outreach programmes are already offered by several of our Schools and Departments as well as Science Gallery Dublin, Tangent, and the Trinity Long Room Hub, among others. Such activities improve Trinity’s local profile and help members of Irish society appreciate more fully what our university has to offer.
In response to COVID, many of these activities have moved online. We now reach audiences around the globe. This has proved to be one of the silver linings in the pandemic cloud, undoubtedly helping to raise our profile and reputation. As we embrace the opportunities that technological innovation affords, we also need greater flexibility in the design and delivery of credit-bearing modules or part modules to non-traditional learners and ‘micro-crediting’. The current barriers, some of which are bureaucratic and systems-based, need to be removed so we can enable this activity and incentivise it. We also need to collaborate more proactively with other Irish stakeholders (academic, civic, governmental and enterprise), with our trusted partners around the globe and through established networks like LERU and COIMBRA.
As Provost, I will build on what we have learned during the pandemic to increase lifelong learning and outreach activities while ensuring greater flexibility and encouraging meaningful collaboration.
3. Reinvigorating Our Governance
AS PROVOST, I WILL:
- Trust our colleagues to do their job and promote collegiality and community.
- Ensure that Schools are the key drivers of academic activity and part of decision-making processes.
- Ensure decision-making and financial allocation processes are transparent.
- Foster meaningful engagement with all stakeholders on major issues.
We have sound governance and solid academic structures in Trinity, but they are not as effective (reflective or responsive) as they could and should be. I know that many colleagues, academic and professional, are frustrated about how we conduct our daily business, especially the lack of transparency around how we make and implement decisions, allocate funding, and incentivise activity. There are concerns about how the ‘centre of College’ engages, connects, and communicates with all colleagues. We need to address the rhetoric of ‘us’ and ‘them’ and blame cultures that have become too pervasive in Trinity and move away from the managerial and overly controlling models of governance.
As Provost, I will work to restore trust while promoting collegiality and building community. I will introduce modes of governance that are more open, professional, transparent, and collegial and deliver academic excellence.
The Schools are the drivers of academic activity, with the Faculties facilitating the core activities of the Schools. The current over-concentration on centrally-set performance criteria leaves little room for Schools to drive interesting and creative initiatives with energy and confidence. I believe that there is no appetite to change further the basic structures in place in Trinity, but the balance of responsibility of some key roles requires immediate attention and may require new supports. The challenge is to ensure that the academic structures that are in place work for us.
We need to be careful to encourage and provide oxygen to innovative sparks that will help College renew itself. Members of Board and Council and Executive Officers are key to decision making, the implementation of policies, and the smooth running of the University. It is easy to get disconnected from what is going on in Departments and Schools. We need to act in a manner that is equitable and reflective of the diversity of Schools.
As Provost, I will revise our governance structures to include the Heads of School in the running of the College and formal decision-making structures. I will ensure there are regular informal occasions as well as formal meetings, such as attending Head of School Forum meetings once a term, to discuss issues and opportunities.
Currently, high-level decisions are often taken without adequate consultation and collaboration. This can result in actions occurring which are detrimental to the wider interests of the College. As Provost, I will address this as a matter of urgency and ensure that meaningful engagement on policy changes takes place at School and Faculty levels. In addition, I will personally consult with staff and students and hold regular and calendared meetings with staff representatives from the unions.
I will serve everyone who works in Trinity. I will lead the College and promote collegiality. To do this effectively, I will make it a priority to get to know each and every member of the College community and appreciate what you do.
4. Renewing Our Community and Relationships
AS PROVOST, I WILL:
- Build the social infrastructure needed to enable multi-way communication and empower those who feel disaffected.
- Make face-to-face interactions a hallmark of my Provostship.
- Be ambitious in how we respond to societal challenges.
- Renew our Global Relations Strategy with an emphasis on sustainability, quality, the student experience, and the environment.
- Communicate tirelessly the value of education and research, its value, and its impact.
- Ensure that cutting-edge research informs public policy.
- Utilise national and international networks to set wider research agendas.
- Build our international reputation and improve our position in the global rankings.
- Develop closer contacts with our alumni network.
If there was ever a time for a community to come together, it is now. Relationship and bridge-building will be central to my Provostship. Together we will create the networks required to strengthen our voice, influence, and reputation. We need to do this within College as well as nationally and internationally to renew our community and deliver academic excellence.
The social infrastructure that binds us as a community does not yet meet the needs of the great university that Trinity is. As Provost, my goal is to put in place a social infrastructure that facilitates effective internal communications and empowers individuals, especially those who feel disaffected, to help make Trinity a better University and a better place to work. I will also tap into the wealth of knowledge, expertise, ideas, and creativity across College.
Collegiality, community and buzzing campuses are an integral part of life at Trinity. We need to identify clear forums where everyone can contribute to discussions around major issues; express concerns and be listened to; make representations, and suggest agendas rather than simply reacting to them, as is often the case at the moment. Online or electronic exchange is no substitute for face-to-face communication in our libraries, laboratories, and classrooms.
As Provost, I will lead by example.I will hold regular coffee mornings and ‘office hours’ for anyone who wishes to meet with me.I pledge to visit every School and administrative area as often as I can. I will use the Provost’s house to host events and informal gatherings to maintain close contact. I will actively welcome direct feedback about what is happening on the ground in Trinity. I want to strengthen the bonds between the Provost, the Fellows, and the College community at large.
Regard for face-to-face communication will be a hallmark of my Provostship, but this does not mean disregard of media communication when appropriate. Emails, informative websites, blogs, and Twitter are useful ways to communicate across the University and beyond.
Trinity is uniquely positioned to help shape a renewed Ireland at home and abroad at this moment of crisis. Our staff and students are our first and most powerful ambassadors. Our alumni, many of whom are policymakers, business leaders, and influencers, are ideally placed to communicate the importance and value of an exceptional educational experience at Trinity. We all need to articulate our stories, the meaning and diversity of our research and teaching in order to achieve meaningful understanding of the multifaceted work of our University in the context of society.
I am particularly committed to finding collaborative, inter- and trans-disciplinary solutions to global challenges – from climate and biodiversity to ageing, security, inequality, and the crisis of democracy – and ensuring that research informs public policy.
Effective communication about our role as educators and researchers must be combined with advocacy at the highest level. We need to ensure that politicians, civil servants, policymakers, and influencers fully understand what Trinity is all about, why it is so essential to invest in education and research, and how research can inform public policy.
As Provost, building upon the work I have been doing throughout the past decade, I will help to set these wider agendas. As Chair of the Irish Research Council, I have developed a close and effective working relationship with key politicians and civil servants across government. The creation in 2020 of the Department of Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science is proving to be a game-changer.
I will build on these relationships and work with other key agencies and Higher Education Institutions to ensure that education and research are central to Ireland’s post-pandemic recovery, to minimise the risks associated with Brexit and the on-going Peace Process in Northern Ireland, and to ensure that research informs public policy. I will support the review of research, impact, and civic engagement functions to consider how best to raise awareness and understanding of the pathways to influence and inform local, national, and international policy; how best to identify Trinity expertise and broker connections with government and related organisations; and how best to provide support to translate research into a user friendly evidence base for policy and capture its impact.
Professor Jane Ohlmeyer at student demonstrations in India in 2019 with Professor Sucheta Mahajan and students of JNU, New Delhi
Being a university of national consequence underpins Trinity’s capacity to be a university of international significance. With Brexit, we are now the oldest English-speaking university in the European Union. During my time as the founding Vice President for Global Relations I developed high-level international collaborations and forged an international network of contacts.
Over the decade ahead, I will draw on these and develop further our global relations strategy, focussing on long-term and sustainable relationships, emphasising quality over quantity, and putting first the student experience and environmental considerations. Of particular importance are established global educational and research partnerships, such as Columbia University in the USA and the European LERU, COIMBRA, CHARM-EU, and TORCH networks. We also need to leverage, with much greater imagination and to better effect, the many global contacts and relationships colleagues hold, along with established programmes like ERASMUS.
While we want to lead on the European and global stages, we also need to do all we can to support, sustain, and grow our numerous and close collaborations with educators and researchers in the UK and to make much more of our existing campus in Belfast. As Chair of the Irish Research Council and as Member of the Royal Irish Academy, I have worked to put in place structures and policies that nurture mobility and collaboration across all disciplines on an East-West and North-South basis. We have a particular responsibility to uphold the Good Friday Agreement and to create a shared and peaceful future for all people living on our island.
Reputation is foremost among Trinity’s most valuable assets. We need to think carefully about how we should nurture it, especially as we continue to slip in the global rankings. As Provost, I will work to improve our position in the global rankings and to change the narrative around them.Ireland needs at least one of its universities to be in the top 100, ideally top 50; it should be Trinity.
There are over 140,000 Trinity alumni in 140 countries around the world. We form part of a truly international community. As Provost, I will build a global Trinity network that enhances existing links with our alumni and peer institutions worldwide.Technology has transformed our ability to stay connected with this exceptional network, something that we need to build on as never before.