Academic Speculation

Patrick Honohan has now officially taken over as Governor of the Central Bank. The Sunday Business Post had this snippet yesterday:

* Much speculation about who will fill the chair of international financial economics and development at Trinity College, Dublin, shortly to be vacated by Professor Patrick Honohan when he takes up his appointment at the Central Bank.

Particularly, one wonders will the selection board be watching, the excellent forum for economic debate and general nerdy competition. Are any of the likely competitors for the prestigious Trinity gig – which is, according to those familiar with such arcana, a ‘‘proper professorship’’ posting their thoughts and learned analysis on the site? Should they steer clear and concentrate on more serious work? Should they promote their media profile? Have they been too strident in their criticisms of the government?

[at the end of this compendium article]

While I have not encountered this speculation myself,   it may be worthwhile to point out that Irish universities operate under an extensive recruitment embargo,  such that no immediate vacancy has been created by Patrick’s departure!

24 replies on “Academic Speculation”

Wait a minute, what’s this proper professorship business? Does this mean I got stiffed with an improper professorship? I’m going to have to check into this one.

And what about this ridiculous claim that this site is for nerds? Outrageous!


I’m not sure how extensively the recruitment embargo has been applied across HEIs. A number of posts, far more lowly than Prof Honohan’s esteemed chair, continue to be filled under the radar and in [apparent] defiance of the moratorium.

Are HEIs right to self-select out of the moratorium in the interests of academic autonomy or fulfilling their teaching/research obligations? Probably.

Would other employers of professionals in critical public services be equally justified in ignoring DoF’s circular? Probably.

So how did we end up with a putatively indiscriminate embargo being so blatantly discriminatory against sectors with an unfortunate predominance of fixed-term contracts?!

@ Brian
An exemption from the embargo can be sought from the DOF for the delivery of essential services. Within higher education, lecturing is considered an essential service, as opposed to the back ground administration that would occur dealing with the students which would not be considered ‘position’ essential.
Exemptions must be sought prior to a position being filled.
If I remember rightly, such positions must be self financing!!!

@ Karl
Should you be successful, I offer my office to my eventual self financing successor so that I can take your chair. But I must be self financing!!!
Think of each lecture like a ryanair flight: premium seats 10 euros, express entry and exit of lecture hall 5 euros, Powerpoint upgrades 10 euros, lottery tickets 2 euros,
“Does anyone need a pen?” 5 euros

2 euros charge for reading this

This is disturbing in three ways.

Firstly, the journalist seems to think that blogging will get you an academic promotion.

Secondly, the journalist is so ill-informed that he does not know that the powers that be at Trinity economics are heavily involved in this blog.

Thirdly, shrinking the number on the payroll by natural attrition is perchance not the fastest route to a smart economy.

The msm are very poor at anything requiring knowledge, they rely upon pr handouts, hence the glee club effect for “the economy” they parrot whatever they have “learned”.

Blogs can be independent and knowledgeable and often are written by hunky men and glamorous ladies!

But I do detest that a Uni can be “run” by government even only in the imagination of a petty scribbler. H E Mencken was a true journalist as was the bloke behind Mark Twain. They always applied their cynicism before writing so as to inform the reader.

Well. We (universties) dont have to operate under an embargo. In fact, we dont. And we have power entire to hire and fire as we deem fit within the law. And the HEA cannot (legally) do JS about same. The HEA are, on face value, in direct and flagrant breach of the UA 1997 in trying to apply such an embargo.

Universities Act 1997
“50.—(1) An tÚdarás may, following consultation with all or any of the chief officers, issue guidelines on—
( a ) the numbers or grades of employees of the university, or
( b ) the proportion of the budget of the university to be applied to the different activities of the university.
(2) Guidelines issued under subsection (1) shall not be binding on a, university, and if a university departs from those guidelines An tÚdarás shall not, as a result of such departure, impose restrictions or conditions on the use of moneys paid to the university by An tÚdarás or otherwise limit moneys payable to the university by An tÚdarás.”

So its up to the Board and Council of TCD to appoint or not a successor to PH. Now, having sat on same, there are lots of issues, finance not the least, that will come into play.
One issue relating to professorial appointments relates to what they will do. There is genuine concern that some professors (not, to my knowledge in the social or human sciences) may in fact never see an undergraduate. Thats wrong, and pedagogically flawed. While we are by definition good researchers, and most are at least experienced teachers, we should be deployed across the teaching spectrum, imho. Teaching is multifaceted and incorporates postgraduate supervision as well as “chalk and talk”.

The Universities are at present subject to an Employment Control Framework (ECF) which allows very little in the way of staff replacement. According to some sources there may also be an embargo on any permanent hires: i.e. fixed-term contracts only are allowed. I can see the point in the short term, but longer term this will ensure that we don’t recruit good people. Of course it suits the new managerial classes in the University system: they don’t like the criticism they get from those who have some security of tenure.

As Brian Lucey says, the whole thing may be ultra vires: I just hope someone gets a judicial review. Anyhow if the HEA managed to exercise some meaningful budgetary control, they would not need the extra belt-and-braces of the ECF.

The whole thing is a boon to the control-freaks and the micro-managers at every level of administration.

It’s not just that you cannot attract good people. Good people are more likely to leave as they have attractive offers from elsewhere. As they are not replaced, average quality falls.

Hamburg U was subject to a similar regimes for years on end. At first, it is an irritant. After a decade, all coherence in teaching and research was gone.

@Brian Lucey
Whilst your interpretation of the Universities Act 1997 is widely shared, the fact that the government, with a parliamentary majority, can change the legislation, means that the university presidents must pick their battles carefully. Politics (and financing) appears to be shaping events more than law here, and this is not surprising. Given that the universities are addressing financial difficulties and cutbacks the cost in aligning themselves to the Employment Control Framework, are perhaps not so great, however unpalatable it might be.
@John Sheehan
I would have thought the set of tenured academics in a university include both critics of the administration and those pioneering leaders in their fields (and often in the same person) who underpin the achievements of a unversity in teaching and research. On one analysis it has been an excessive enthusiasm for new tenured appointments amongst the leadership of the universities that has created some of the financial difficulties now being faced.

Very ill-informed journalist….looking for his “big-break”

…make no mistake about it though….this site is “nerd infested” I can see people flustering through their dictionary already gathering the largest words for show…

We all know this happens!


I may be a bit too “inside the box” for some. Nevertheless, I am sure any issues can be overcome subject to CCP approval.

“Regardless of the legality of the hiring ban, I’m sure TCD has a policy to hire live people only”
…you would think wouldnt you…?

While it’s hard to distinguish some of the current faculty from propped-up corpses, I don’t think they’re a majority, so they would not have the power to hire more of their own kind.

Several ways to tell an academic corpse from an academic live un – easiest is to see if they are active across all three areas (teaching, research, admin) or are excelling in two of same.
To be fair as you say most hiring boards are reasonably free of the undead. There is always an inherent tension between appointing a good teacher who can slot in asap and a good researcher who will grow and bring luster (and lucre) to the academy. Ideally, you want both.
Part of the problem overall is the lack of a tenure system where people have to prove themselves, and also (in social sciences mostly) the lack of clearly defined and understood adjunct/clinical faculty.

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