UCC's Tyndall Institute seeks new €180,000 top executive

University College Cork is to re-advertise the top job at a leading research institute after an international recruitment exercise failed to fill the €180,000-a-year role.

A lab in the Tyndall National Institute

Tyndall National Institute has an annual turnover of €32m and almost 500 research and other staff working in electronics and photonics.

The chief executive’s job has been vacant since March 3 and a US-based applicant was offered the post after interviews held in June. But following what Tyndall said were extended discussions with “the appointable candidate”, the offer was declined in late August.

UCC told the Irish Examiner the offer was declined for family or personal reasons. It said the two other people who were interviewed by a selection committee, chaired by UCC president Patrick O’Shea, were “deemed not to meet the requirements to be considered for appointment”.

The university has re-tendered for an international recruitment firm to try again to fill the post, stating that the salary is in the range of €180,000 to €200,000 a year.

The vacancy arose after the resignation of Kieran Drain, almost a year before the end of his five-year contract. His €188,234 salary required approval by two government ministers under a framework managed by the Higher Education Authority for cases where third-level colleges argue that posts can only be filled by going outside of agreed public service salary scales.

Asked by the Irish Examiner if the intended €180,000 to €200,000 salary for his replacement required similar approval, UCC said it “can confirm that any salary offer is in full compliance with public pay policy”. With the position not likely to be filled until mid-2018, the board of Tyndall National Institute decided on October 24 to appoint a member of the senior management team as interim chief executive. This has been agreed by Prof O’Shea and an announcement is expected very shortly.

The board chairman Eoin O’Driscoll has been acting as chief executive for over six months, without receiving any salary for the average four days a month involved.

The chief executive’s job was advertised in March by the London office of international recruitment firm Harvey Nash. This followed a formal tender process to identify a recruitment firm to undertake an international search for suitable candidates.

In a new tender issued in mid-October by UCC, it is stated that Tyndall National Institute wants to make a permanent appointment.

When it sought approval under the departures framework for Mr Drain’s salary, UCC said a salary of €52,000 above the appropriate professorial scale at the time of €136,277 was necessary as he would not otherwise have been prepared to accept the five-year fixed term contract on offer.

The recruitment consultants selected to find his replacement will be expected to carry out a comprehensive international search of comparable institutes, universities and relevant industrial organisations.

Tyndall is a global leader in its core research areas that include smart sensors, optical communication systems, nano-materials and device processing, and micro-electronic and photonic integration.

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