Paddy Henry – Editor
The newly elected Údarás na hOllscoile sat for the first time earlier this month and broke new ground for the University’s governing authority.
Over 5,000 people voted in the three elections in the staff constituency, which included elections to the Academic Staff Panel, the Professional Service Staff Panel, and the Graduate Panel.
Representatives on the Údarás sit for a four-year term and are elected by graduates and staff in the University.
The Professional Service Staff Panel elected Eric Mortimer, Monica Crump, and Sinéad Beacom to the forty-member authority and the Academic Service Staff returned Dr Rachel Hilliard; Dr Anthony Grehan; and Dr Dara Cannon
Prior to the election, three Professors were appointed to the Governing Authority, after the number of nominations matched the number of available positions. This saw the elections of Aisling McCluskey, Professor Michal Molcho, and Jim O’Gara to the body.
Out of the ten positions filled in the election, the majority of those returned were women.
This is perhaps most clearly seen on the graduate panel. During the previous term, all four of the positions on the Graduate Panel were held by men, however the most recent election have returned two women, Nuala Ní Chonghaile, and Edel Browne to the panel.
Former graduate panel member, Eoin Neylon, announced last year that he would not seek re-election to the governing authority to allow for greater diversity on the body stating last year:
“When you look at the graduate panel and look at the four names on it, there is a John a Conor, a Ger, and an Eoin and I think that that is a big problem in itself. There is definitely a representation issue there and I just feel myself that rather than being part of that problem that I’d rather be part of the solution and move aside and to promote some alternative younger female candidates.”
NUI Galway Secretary for Governance & Academic Affairs, Caroline Loughnane, spoke of the unpreceded levels of interest in the recent election stating:
“We have experienced unprecedented levels of interest in this election from staff and graduates. It is really inspiring to see the range and quality of candidates who are willing to invest their time and energy in shaping the future of the University.
She also spoke of the “crucial” role the governing authority will play over the next four years as the university navigates the long-term impact of the Covid-19 pandemic:
“There has never been a more important time for effective and agile governance. As universities navigate the uncertain landscape created by the Covid-19 pandemic and look ahead to impending changes in governance legislation from Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation & Science, Minister Simon Harris, the role of the Governing Authority is crucial in setting the strategic direction for higher education.”
Separate elections to return student members to the panel occurred in late January and saw Postgraduate Research Officer, Sebestiaan Bierema, elected as the governing authority’s postgraduate representative.
Student’s Union Welfare and Equality Officer, Róisín Nic Lochlainn, was also selected to sit on the body for the first time following a campaign by the Students’ Union, making her the first Welfare and Equality Officer to sit on the body.
President of NUI Galway Professor, Ciarán Ó hÓgartaigh, thanked all those who stood for election and welcomed the new members.
“All those who stood for election to the Údarás deserve huge credit for supporting our University’s democracy and raising the profile of the Governing Authority and the important work it does,”
“And congratulations to all those who have been successful. The work of the members of the new Údarás in the coming months and years will be crucial as our University implements our strategic plan Shared Vision, Shaped by Values and assesses and supports all the other initiatives and developments that we are pursuing.
Ó hÓgartaigh also spoke highly of the experience the new members will bring to the body, and reaffirmed NUI Galway’s commitment to being an institution that serves the public good.
“The range of talent, commitment and experience that our graduates, academics and professionals bring to the new Governing Authority will be an enormous asset for our University as we work to ensure the high levels of transparency, accountability and ambition fitting for our university as an institution for the public good.”