Sunday 25 March 2018

UCC President describes allegation of 'shambolic selection process for posts' as 'an outrage', High Court hears

University College Cork
University College Cork

Saurya Cherfi & Aodhan O’Faolain

The President of University College Cork has described an allegation the selection process for the appointment of senior posts at UCC’s school of business is “shambolic,” as "an outrage", the High Court heard today.

The remark was made in proceedings brought by Dr Joan Buckley, who is a senior lecturer in Marketing and the Current Head of Department of Management and Marketing at UCC, arising out of the college's decision not to shortlist her for 10 professorial positions it advertised last year.

Dr Buckley, represented by Frank Callanan SC, claims the process engaged in by UCC to appoint professors at Cork University Business School is "tainted" and "flawed," and should be set aside. A new process should be put in its place, she claims

She has asked the High Court for an injunction preventing the interview process from proceeding pending the outcome of the full hearing of her action against UCC.

UCC, which rejects Dr Buckley's claims, has opposed the application. The first round of interviews of the candidates shortlisted are due to start early next week.

In a sworn statement UCC President, Dr Michael Murphy, said it was an outrage to suggest without evidence the process to appoint some 10 professors at Cork University Business School was “shambolic.” 

He says the selection committee that complied the shortlist did so in full compliance with UCC's regulations and suggestions it had been done otherwise are “wholly without merit.”

The court heard the criteria considered by the selection committee before shortlisting candidates included evidence of significant achievement, research led teaching, and an international standing as a leading researcher.

Dr Murphy says that the evaluation of Dr Buckley’s application was led by external members of the selection board.  He says that although Dr Buckley had made an important contribution to the business school, her research record had not reached the international standards required to achieve a professorial position.

He says that the decision to recruit 10 senior posts at the business school was made as part of UCC's intention to strengthen the school.  It would send strong signals to stakeholders and show a strong commitment by UCC to support business education.

At the High Court on Friday Ms Justice Miriam O’Regan was told UCC wished to appoint the best talents available on the market so students would have the best teachers.

UCC had advertised the professorial appointments internationally and had attracted candidates from the UK, the Middle East and various European countries.

Dr Murphy said halting the selection process would damage the university and its students and the financial effect would be immeasurable.

Dr Buckley claims her exclusion from the shortlist, given her academic record and years working at various senior posts at UCC, is regarded as "inexplicable" by many at the university.  She fears the failure to make the shortlist will cause incalculable damage to her career and if allowed stand she "will never be a professor."

The court heard she has fulfilled a number of senior roles at the University's business faculty since 1990, and played a key role in the establishment of Cork University Business School.

Mr Callanan said his client, a highly respected academic, was unhappy about UCC’s decision to fill the 10 posts from the start.  A similar process was attempted and was not successful at other universities, counsel said, but she decided to apply for the post.

She was one of more than 260 candidates who applied for the positions.  Earlier this month his client was informed she was not on the shortlist of some 30 plus candidates.

When she got feedback why she had been turned down she was told the required research output to warrant inclusion on the shortlist had not been demonstrated.

This, counsel said, is incorrect given the extensive research she has undertaken.  Her research was at least on a par with several candidates who were shortlisted.

Dr Buckley had been involved in the establishment of Cork University Business School, which at times was acrimonious, and lead to disagreements with an academic who sat on the selection committee which decided who was to be shortlisted.

Dr Buckley seeks various orders including an injunction preventing the interview of candidates short listed for the posts from proceeding.  Counsel said the interviews are due to take place next week.

Mark Connaughton SC, for UCC, said the interviews due to start next week are not related to the position Dr Buckley had applied to.

He said the interview of candidates shortlisted for professorial positions in marketing and management will not take place until next month.

Judge O’Regan in adjourning the matter said the interview process due to take place next week should proceed on the condition that no appointment be made while the hearing of Dr Buckley’s application continues. 

The case resumes on Monday.

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