Trinity College dons ‘incensed’ by provost’s reform plan

The provost of Ireland’s oldest university has been accused of trying to turn Trinity College Dublin into a “second-rate polytechnic” by introducing full semesterisation.

Paddy Prendergast is also under fire over a plan to offer jobs to the spouses of “world-class researchers” in order to attract top-tier talent to the college.

The plan, being driven by John Boland, Trinity dean of research, has left fellows “agog and aghast”, with crunch meetings taking place last week in order to calm the unrest.

It is believed Prof Boland has sought a “blank cheque” in order to attract international candidates, but that move would see the college fall foul of set public-sector pay grades.

The Irish Examiner has learnt that fellows at the college, or senior academics, are outraged at what they see as a radical change to the workings of the college, which under its rules, can only have exams in the summer time.

They have been called on to vote on the controversial proposal, spearheaded by Dr Prendergast, amid the college’s falling rankings in international league tables.

According to sources at the institution, the semesterisation plan has drawn the ire of academics who feel extra exams would significantly add to their workloads and interfere with their research duties.

“This is awful, the provost is seeking turn Trinity into a second-rate polytechnic,” said one cource. “This is a very radical plan and the fellows are incensed.”

However, those in the college who believe reform is needed have put the opposition down to low morale caused by an absence of pay increases since the financial crash in 2008.

“They are against it because Oxford and Cambridge don’t have it, which is true,” said another source. “Academics don’t like correcting two sets of exams, it is more work.

“For people who don’t like change and what you can put it down to is that nobody has had a pay rise in eight years. Morale is low all around and people are angry.”

Ballot papers went out to fellows last week and they have another two weeks to return them, but there is a growing sense the provost will be defeated as some fellows will use it as a means to protest against wider reform plans, known as the Trinity Education Project.

Responding to queries, a spokesman for Trinity College Dublin confirmed the process of radical change is under way.

“Trinity is looking at introducing exams at Christmas time to enable semesterisation,” said the spokesman. “The provost is hopeful this is won as are the students, 90% of whom in a ballot have called for this change. This is perfectly normal practice in many leading universities across the world.”

On Prof Boland’s spouse plan, the spokesman said the idea has been “mooted” and is in the context of trying to attract talent to Ireland in a post-Brexit world.

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