Third-level funding to be linked to female promotions
Future funding for third-level colleges will be linked to having a minimum number of women in senior positions.
The radical move arises from the recommendations of an expert group headed by former EU Commissioner Dr Máire Geogheghan-Quinn, which reported on behalf of the Higher Education Authority (HEA).
Gender inequality in Irish higher education has been under the microscope for some time, most notably arising from a case involving Dr Micheline Sheehy Skeffington in NUI Galway.
The HEA has taken on board the recommendations of the expert group, which cover both colleges and decision-making bodies in the higher-education sector.
A key recommendation is mandatory quotas for academic promotion, based on the proportion of each gender in the grade below. State funding will be withheld if colleges do not meet agreed targets.
Decision-making bodies will be required to hold at least 40pc of positions for women and 40pc for men.
There will be a review of recruitment and promotion procedures in all colleges, while incoming college presidents will have to show a track record of advancing the equality agenda.
Colleges will be required to achieve a gender equality award known as Athena and within seven years they will have to have an Athena 'silver' to be eligible for research funding.
In September 2015, five out of seven universities had 40pc or more women on their governing bodies and only eight out of 14 institutes of technology met that standard. There has never been a female university president in Ireland.
Ms Geoghegan-Quinn said the lack of women in senior positions was not due to lack of talent but was because they faced barriers to progression.
HEA chief executive Tom Boland said: "Same old, same old will not work. We need to fix and radically change the system that perpetuates gender discrimination."