Academic Induction Programme

Regent House

04 September 2018

Good morning,

It’s a pleasure to welcome you to Trinity at this, the start of your induction week.

I look forward to meeting you all personally, and to engaging with you over the coming months and years. There are 29 of you here today, hailing from many disciplines, and at different stages in your careers. What you have in common is that this is your first introduction to Trinity – at least as staff members.

Today is the start of a three-day induction programme, which has been carefully devised for you. I hope it answers any questions you might have and provides a good introduction to college life and the way you can get things done here. 

This morning is a chance for me to meet you. And in our time together I’d like to give you a brief overview of Trinity, our strategic goals, and how we achieve success in academic leadership.

The university you have joined is founded on a cohesive mission as laid out in our strategic plan. I can bring it up here(1):

You should all have been given a copy of the Strategic Plan.

The Plan is strongly cohesive: from each mission flow three goals, and from each goal flow four actions. The 36 actions cross all our commitments – including in interdisciplinarity, global relations, access and inclusion, creative arts, online education, sustainability, and innovation and entrepreneurship.  

The Plan represents a very comprehensive vision for the university, and it sets targets and parameters. With a year of the Plan to run, we are meeting, and indeed exceeding, most of our targets.

We will shortly, in the Board, be getting down to work on developing the next Strategic Plan, which will run 2019-2024. We will be consulting widely with staff, and students, on what new areas should be prioritized. I hope you will get involved in this consultative process, which is your chance to help influence the future direction of the University.

I note that your schedule for this induction week includes sessions on global relations, research and innovation, media and social media, equality and diversity, and more. I congratulate and thank the Learning and Development team in HR for putting together a great programme, and of course I thank all staff who will be delivering the talks over the week - I think there are 26 in all. I know you will enjoy meeting such a cross-section of our academic and professional staff.

The different sessions will give an idea of the college’s range of commitments. These commitments are about delivering the best possible university for our staff and students - and for Dublin and Ireland, this region that we serve.

Trinity is Ireland’s leading university and it’s one of Europe’s principal research universities; last year we became the 23rd member of the exclusive League of European Research Universities, or LERU.

Trinity was invited to join LERU because of our exceptional record in research. To take the example of Europe’s largest and most prestigious awarding body, the European Research Council:

Trinity has won half of all Irish ERC grants since the inception of the programme – even though we only have 16% of academic faculty nationally. And Trinity is 28th out of 900 higher education institutions in Europe in terms of numbers of ERC grants secured. That’s a remarkable figure - particularly because we are nowhere near the 28th best-funded institution among the 900!

The reason why Trinity performs so well in ERC and other grants is because of the quality of our faculty, our researchers, and our support staff. When it comes to number of ERC grants won per academic staff, Trinity is fourth in Europe – just behind Cambridge, Oxford and Imperial College London.

A word on investment and funding:

All round the world, not just in Ireland, state funding to universities is falling. In Europe, we’re moving from the 20th century system of very high state support for universities to one based on non-exchequer, private funding. This is even happening in countries like Sweden with strong traditions of state support.

Regardless of whether we academics welcome this or not, it’s happening. It’s the new reality that countries and universities have to confront.

In Ireland there is consensus – but as yet, there is no action - that something needs to be done to get funding for higher education on a sustainable level. In Trinity, we are continuously putting pressure on government to find a solution that works, whether it’s an increased state grant, raising student fees, a larger contribution from industry and employers, or a combination of all three.

But, at the same time, we are not sitting around waiting for government to solve this. We can’t afford to let standards slide while the issue is debated politically. Instead, we are actively developing new revenue streams through, for instance, licensing and spin-outs, international student fees, commercial revenue activities, philanthropy and alumni-giving.

Sixty percent of our revenue now comes from non-State sources. And in a few months, for the first time in the College’s 425-year history, we are launching a comprehensive fundraising campaign to garner support for our capital programme, and endowed posts and scholarships.  Overall, the Campaign is about triggering investment in people and infrastructure.

At the heart of the Philanthropic Campaign is our confidence that people will support Trinity because our staff and students make a remarkable contribution across many fronts: they lead international research teams and direct institutes, they pioneer new educational methods, launch spin-out companies, advise policy-makers, and manage global relations. They are entrepreneurs, managers and leaders as well as thinkers and teachers.

This is the university you have chosen to join. We’re delighted and honoured that you are joining our team. It’s wonderful for the university to be benefitting from your expertise and commitment. You will contribute hugely to growing our research and refreshing our educational approach.

Trinity Education Project(2)

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We want you to get the most out of your time here. There is no better work to be doing than involved in education of the upcoming generations. This is a challenging but also a hugely exciting time to be in academia. The changes in higher education in the past two decades are revolutionary in terms of

  • technological advances impacting both research and teaching,
  • extending educational opportunities as broadly as possible in society,
  • forging international collaborations, and
  • applying and commercialising research,

We are in the midst of re-making and re-thinking the way that universities are funded and organised, the way that we teach and research. Together we have to decide what’s best for the university and how best to achieve it. Some of the way is clearly signposted. Other paths will emerge as we surmount challenges and discover opportunities.

I thank you again for strengthening our community here. I wish you the very best and I look forward to meeting you all personally and hearing about your research.

Thank you. 

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