The first female university president in Ireland was announced today, some 428 years after higher education was introduced to the country.
The University of Limerick (UL) has appointed the Professor Kerstin Mey to its most senior executive role, for an interim period of 18 months.
Dr Mey will replace Dr Des Fitzgerald (66) who is stepping down early for personal reasons related to the challenges associated with running a university in the context of the Covid-19 threat.
The German native, who was born and raised in east Berlin, is moving into the position only two years after joining UL as Vice President and Professor of Visual Culture.
She will serve as Chief Officer of the University until the appointment of a new President through an international recruitment process, which is expected to take up to 18 months once it starts.
The UL Governing Authority ratified Professor Mey’s appointment following a special meeting this Thursday.
UL Chanceller Mary Harney Prof Mey would be a “great appointee and one in whom we have every faith in to lead the University at a challenging time. She has already demonstrated her capacity for leadership in her role as Vice President.
Ms Harney noted the “significant gender imbalance at the senior leadership level in Irish universities” , adding “it is fitting that UL now has the first female President given our consistent leading position on gender equality in higher education in Ireland.”
While a number of institutes of technology have appointed female presidents, since Trinity College Dublin opened in 1592, no State-funded university has ever been led by a women.
Prof Mey (56) previously held roles as Pro-Vice Chancellor and Dean of the Westminster School of Media, Arts and Design and as Professor of Contemporary Art and Theory at the University of Westminster, London as well as other academic positions in the UK and Germany.
She said she was “proud and really humbled to lead the University of Limerick over the next period”.
Dr Fitzgerald took up the role of UL President in May 2017, and will leave his position on September 1, after announcing that the Covid-19 pandemic would directly impact his ability to serve the University and limit his ability to fully engage in the community upon a return to campus.
Congratulating Prof Mey, he said UL was “very fortunate to have someone of this calibre lead the University.
“Kerstin has tackled the difficult task of the return to UL post-Covid and is well positioned to bring UL through this challenging period.
“She is an outstanding academic with a strong empathy for students and the academic mission of UL. She has a vision for UL that will place it in a leading position nationally and globally.”
The wealth of experience she brings to the role includes Director of Consortium for Research Excellence, Support and Training, GuildHE, UK (CREST); Vice-Chair of the Council for Higher Education in Art and Design, UK (CHEAD), membership of the Austrian Science Board and membership of the Supervisory Board of the European Foundation for Press and Media Freedom.
She currently serves on the board of the National Forum for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning, the Irish Universities Association Campus Engage Steering Group.
Other affiliations include membership of the International Symposium of Electronic Arts International Advisory Committee, the board of the Irish Chamber Orchestra, the board of the Irish Arial Creation Centre. She acts as reviewer for international funding bodies, academic institutions and publishers.
Her own research is concerned with practices of meaning making in contemporary and 20th century art and culture.