The Maynooth University Governing Authority (GA) met on Tuesday, 22 August 2023, to discuss the best way to construct the next GA taking into account the need to encourage more staff member engagement than in past GA elections, address specific competency-based needs within the GA and actively drive recruitment of a diverse set of candidates that reflect modern Irish society. At the same time, the GA reflected on recent feedback from staff members. Some staff members expressed their desire to maintain the elections process for the five internal GA members and others strongly advocated that selection would deliver a more diverse and competency-based GA.
In order to provide background, the new GA of MU will comprise 19 members, in accordance with the HEA Act of 2022. This is a significant change, as the current GA has 33 members. The new GA is required to comprise the following:
- The Chair (an external member),
- The President of the University (ex officio),
- Nine external members (other than the Chair), three of whom will be nominated by the Minister for FHERIS
- Five internal members (other than the President),
- Three Student Union representatives.
The new law gave GAs the ability to appoint the internal members by either an election or selection process. The debate around selection and election pertains to the five internal members of the GA (out of the 19 total members).
When the GA met in the spring it gave this question significant thought, but ultimately agreed to implement a process by which staff members could apply to become members of the next GA through an open process in which their applications would be assessed by a Nominations Committee of GA against a Skills, Experience and Competency and taking into account the legal requirement of the GA to appoint a new GA reflective of Irish society as a whole. The GA decided that the Nominations Committee would consist of a majority of GA external members chaired by one of those external members. Neither the Chairperson of the GA nor the President is a member of the Nominations Committee. The goal of this decision was to put in place a highly qualified and representative Governing Authority.
While the merits of the previous election process were discussed at length, the decision was based on the desire to encourage more staff engagement than in past GA elections, to meet the full range of competency-based needs within the GA, and to actively drive the recruitment of a diverse set of candidates. The GA determined this was best achieved with a consistent approach, aligned with current best practices for how membership of public sector boards is formed through selection. The decision was taken to put in place a highly qualified and representative next Governing Authority to oversee Maynooth University into and through the next chapter in its history.
The original decision prompted considerable debate. At its meeting Tuesday, the GA considered two amended processes by which internal members would be chosen: 1) a hybrid option (similar to the one adopted by UCC) that would see 3 internal members chosen by election and two by selection and 2) an option that would see all 5 internal members chosen by election.
The GA decided to amend its previous decision and proceed with the second option, a process by which all 5 internal members will be chosen by election.
Dr Mary Canning, Chair of the Maynooth University Governing Authority, stated: “This compromise will allow us to move forward as a university community with the understanding that we all have the best interests of Maynooth staff and students at heart. Universities are environments in which people with equally principled views on a range of subjects debate their perspectives. The Governing Authority acknowledges the challenges this issue has posed for certain staff members and believes this decision enables us to bring closure to this matter as we focus our efforts on the forthcoming academic year.”