By Niall Murray, Education Correspondent
Free accommodation is to be provided, along with a €186,000-plus salary, for the president of Ireland’s first technological university — but the location will only be decided after the person is selected.
The position was advertised last week ahead of the formal establishment of Technological University Dublin in January through the merger of Dublin Institute of Technology (DIT) and institutes of technology at Blanchardstown and Tallaght.
The use of a two-storey house owned by DIT, next to its Grangegorman campus being developed in the north inner city, was being considered as recently as six weeks ago.
The Irish Examiner understands Kirwan House was flagged as a likely residence for TU Dublin’s first president when Professor Tom Collins, chair of the three colleges’ joint governing body, met academic and services staff representatives on August 30.
It was bought as part of last year’s €9.25m deal in which DIT acquired the adjoining six-floor Park House office development on North Circular Rd.
The 180 sq m Kirwan House in the shadow of Park House is currently let out for office use to commercial tenants and its use as a residence could require a vote of Dublin City Council members because of its current zoning status.
“Kirwan House was one option that has been looked at but has not been progressed. It is zoned for commercial use and no application has been made, or approved at any level within DIT, for change of use,” said Prof Collins.
He said TU Dublin is committed to an open, competitive process to appoint its first president through the national and international recruitment effort.
“The strong advice we have received is that, in terms of attracting a candidate who may be based abroad, accommodation in the Dublin context is a necessary element,” he said.
“Any revenue or tax requirements arising from this will be borne by the successful candidate. No decision has been made as to where accommodation will be provided as that will be subject to negotiation with the successful candidate.”
The Oireachtas public accounts committee was told in May that University College Cork pays €3,000 a month on leased accommodation for its president, Prof Patrick O’Shea, who started the job on a €185,000 salary last year.
Prof O’Shea pays tax in respect of the cost as it is treated as a benefit in kind.
Several other universities also provide a residence or cover accommodation costs for their presidents.
DIT told the Higher Education Authority that the purchase of Park House and Kirwan House by DIT was funded by the proceeds from a banking concession.
Around 130 DIT staff were transferred to the office block earlier this year from Rathmines. Parts of the building will be used as interim facilities during the transfer of more than 9,000 students and staff from other citywide campuses to Grangegorman in the next four years.
The formal creation of the new university on January 1 requires the approval of the Dáil and Seanad.
They have referred the question for discussion to the Oireachtas education committee, which will discuss the plan with Minister of State for Higher Education Mary Mitchell O’Connor this afternoon.
Applications for TU Dublin’s first president close on October 19, with a view to the role being taken up by the successful applicant by next April.