The Union of Students in Ireland (USI) has welcomed a new report to address gender inequality in high education, by introducing gender quotas. USI said gender quotas will improve the third level education sector in terms of equal representation, diversity and rights. One of the outcomes of the report is funding being withheld from higher education institutions if they fail to address gender inequality in the coming years.

“The lack of women in senior positions in higher education institutions is not because they do not have the talent, ability or drive to fulfil these roles.” Kevin Donoghue, USI President, said. “It’s because multiple factors within third level institutions mean women face obstacles that men don’t. This report shows that talent, ability or drive is not enough to secure professional promotion or advancement. USI welcomes the recommendations of the report which recognise that productivity can’t be maximised without full development of the workforce, including gender balance.”

Based on the recommendations of the report, each higher education institution will introduce mandatory gender quotas for academic promotion or risk funding cuts. As far as possible, the final pool of candidates at the final interview stages in the appointment process for new presidents of higher education institutions will be comprised equally of women and men.  All candidates for presidential appointments at higher education institutions will also have demonstrable experience of leadership in advancing gender equality, and this will be included in the recruitment criteria.

The gender equality review, commissioned by the Higher Education Authority (HEA), began in September 2015, and the report published today includes objectives, recommendations, proposed timings and key performance indicators for all relevant stakeholders in the higher education sector.  It also contains an in-depth analysis of the gender balance of higher education staff across all grades of employment, as well as management teams, academic councils and governing boards.


The report is available on the HEA’s website,


Key Statistics / Findings from the Review

Presidents of Higher Education Institutions:

  • Since the establishment of the first Irish university 424 years ago, there has never been a female president.
  • Currently, 4 of the 14 (29%) Institutes of Technology have a female President.  Of the 54 IoT Presidents to date, only 8 have been women (15%).
  • Only 1 out of 5 Presidents in the Colleges (St. Angela’s, St. Patrick’s, NCAD, Mater Dei, Mary Immaculate College) is female.


Gender Balance on Governing Authority / Body of Higher Education Institutions

  • As of September 2015, 5 out of 7 seven universities had 40% or more women on their governing authority / body.
  • Only 8 of the 14 Institutes of Technology had 40% or more women on their governing authority / body.
  • 4 of the 5 colleges had 40% or more women on their governing authority / body.


Executive Management Teams

  • In December 2015, only 2 of the 7 universities – and 2 of the 5 Colleges – had 40% or more women on their executive management team.
  • Only 3 out of 14 Institutes of Technology had 40% or more women on their executive management team.
  • Two Institutes of Technology had no women at all on their executive management team.

Career Progression

  • The gap between female and male representation increases at each stage of the academic career ladder.  In 2013-2015, 50% of the lecturer staff in Irish universities were women, but only 19% of professors were women.


Perceptions of Gender Inequality in Higher Education Institutions

  • 4,835 respondents completed the national online survey conducted for the purposes of the review.  89.7% of these (4,337) indicated that they were, or had been, affiliated to a higher education institutions.  The majority of respondents thought that there was gender inequality in Irish higher education (56%).  There was a difference between women and men in the perception of gender inequality in Irish higher education: 64% of women indicated gender inequality was present, compared to 38% of men.