Professor Linda Doyle has been elected the first female Provost of Trinity College Dublin, in its 429-year history.
She beat two other shortlisted candidates, also female, to take on the privilege of leading Ireland’s oldest university, founded in 1592, over the next decade.
Prof Doyle moves into the Provost’s residence, at 1 Grafton Street, on August 1, at the start of a 10-year-term, succeeding Professor Patrick Prendergast.
The Professor of Engineering and The Arts took the coveted prize ahead of historian Professor Jane Ohlmeyer, former Vice President Global Relations, and Linda Hogan, Professor of Ecumenics and former Vice-Provost.
Further and Higher Education Minister Simon Harris sent his congratulations, stating: “Another glass ceiling has been shattered”.
He said there had been improvements in addressing the gender imbalance in higher education but there remained a significant level of under-representation of female staff at the highest decision-making levels in Irish universities
“Today is a historic day and a major milestone. I hope it sends a strong message to everyone involved in the higher education sector and beyond – a message of inclusion, equality and opportunity for all.”
On her place in history, Prof Doyle said “when you when you are standing in it you are pinching yourself. It’s just amazing.”
She said Trinity had an “amazing past but is also very forward looking place that there are so many things we can do in looking forward and being the first woman symbolises taking the best from the past and looking forward in a new direction.”
In today’s election for the Provost’s job, Prof Ohlmeyer was eliminated in the first round of voting and Prof Doyle emerged victorious after the second round, with 517 votes, ahead of Hogan’s 270.
There was certain surprise at Prof Ohlmeyer’s early elimination , as , in recent days, some had considered her the front runner.
Prof Doyle is an internationally renowned researcher and previously held the post of Dean of Research at Trinity.
She has an expertise in the interface between wireless communications and creative arts and, of the 26 PhD candidates who have graduated under her supervision, half come from engineering backgrounds and half from the arts.
Professor Doyle has also been Chair of the Douglas Hyde Gallery and is chair of the Ofcom Spectrum Advisory Board in the UK.
Originally from Cork, she initially studied electrical engineering at UCC, before completing a Masters and PhD in Trinity.
The 53-year-old native of Togher is a former pupil of St Angela’s College, St Patrick’s Hill.
Professor Doyle said she was “exhilarated to take on this role and to be part of this historic development in Trinity's history”.
“Trinity is an extraordinary institution filled with exceptionally talented staff and students but I believe we can set our ambitions for it even higher. I want Trinity to be the most open, productive, and creative place to teach, learn and to do research. I want Trinity to be a public university that is fearless in its pursuit of a deep-rooted fairness,” she said.
Current Provost Patrick Prendergast congratulate Prof Doyle and wished her “the very best in leading the college at this crucial time in its history."
The Trinity Provost is appointed after an election, similar to that used for electing the Pope, with 876 people mainly Trinity academics, allowed to vote,
It differs from other universities in Ireland where new presidents are appointed after an interview process.
The Provost job was advertised internationally in 2020 although, as usual, the field was narrowed down to Trinity academics.
Today’s voting was open to an electorate of 876 full-time academic staff members (in the post for a minimum of 12 months), College Board members and University Council Members, including six student representatives.
A first round of voting at 9.30am eliminated Prof Ohlmeyer, and it was followed by a second round, which Prof Doyle won by a two to one majority.
Normally the voting takes place in a venue on campus, with all members of the electorate eligible to attend, but Covid forced a change to remote, electronic voting.
Supporters of Prof Doyle include former Dean of Studies Professor Neville Cox, who said he first met her five years ago when he was Dean of Graduate Studies “and, almost immediately, she became one of the handful of people to whom I would repeatedly turn whenever I needed advice or support.”
He wrote: “She has the broadest, most exciting and most well thought through vision for all of the issues that face the university, of anyone to whom I have spoken or with whom I have dealt in my 25 years in college. Secondly, she is as kind, as caring and as respectful as anyone I am lucky enough to know. To rely on her, in other words, (as I unashamedly did) was to have my strategic vision expanded and energised while feeling supported, endorsed and looked after.
Professor Doyle’s election has crowned a remarkable shift in the gender balance at the top of Ireland higher education system in less than a year .
Since last July, three of the seven traditional universities have selected a woman to be president/provost, shattering a ceiling that has been the preserve of men since 1592.
University of Limerick (UL) appointed Professor Kerstin Mey as Interim President, after an open competition, when Dr Des Fitzgerald announced his early retirement, She was born in the former East Germany
Last month, Maynooth University announced Finnish-born Professor Eeva Leinonen to succeed to Professor Philip Nolan, effective from October 2021. She is coming to Ireland form Australia, where she has held the role of Vice Chancellor of Murdoch University, Perth, Australia since 2016.#
Prof Doyle has described research as being a “strong part of my identity” and over her career has raised more than €70m in funding for research projects.
As well as Dean of Research, her leaderships roles in Trinity has included being a member the board and serving on more than 60 other committees.
Inclusivity and access are close to her heart and she says education for her goes beyond the third level-sector.
She has been involved in hundreds of outreach and public engagement initiatives.
“I want my teaching to be as accessible as possible to the widest amount of people,” she said.