A Job for Life? Academic Tenure

Security of tenure gives third level faculty members a proprietary right to their position and prevents their removal except in extreme circumstances. Tenure does not guarantee a post for life. What it essentially means is that an academic "owns" his/her position and the right to return to it year after year.

The Debate - Croke Park and Hunt

The impact of the Croke Park Agreement and the Hunt Report on academic freedom and tenure has been the subject of much debate in this year.

Some academics argued that the implementation of the Croke Park Agreement will hasten the demise of academic freedom and that third level education will be irretrievably damaged as a consequence.

The Irish Universities Association and the University Presidents stated that the Croke Park deal was about accountability and not control. They added that it was reasonable for the deal to set down minimum attendance hours for academics and that the universities were committed to academic freedom of thought and inquiry but that a more dynamic and flexible educational environment was needed. The Presidents warned that the idea of "unsackable" academics does no service to the sector and undermines confidence in the quality of Ireland's higher education system. This last statement is particularly relevant due to recent concerns raised by US multinationals about the quality of graduates and the allegation of grade inflation in universities.

The Hunt Report recommended new contractual arrangements with strong internal accountability (such as minimum teaching hours) and scope for performance-linked pay with some bands; more flexible teaching term and teaching day arrangements to meet students' needs and outreach activities, and the use of 'teaching only' academic contracts.

The Law

Sub-section 25(6) of the Universities Act 1997 (the "Act") entitles a university to dismiss (or suspend) any employee. However, such a dismissal (or suspension) can only be done in compliance with procedures and conditions specified in the statute of the university concerned. Therefore, any dismissal (or suspension) of an academic which is not in accordance with procedures and conditions specified in such a statute will be invalid.

The relevant university statute must be made following consultation through normal industrial relations structures and permits such procedures to allow for the delegation of dismissal (and suspension) powers to the universities chief officer.

Finally, the subsection states...

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