THE Department of Education has ordered Trinity College Dublin (TCD) to cut the salary for its new provost by almost €11,000 a year, the Irish Independent has learned.
The university will receive a letter on Monday informing it that the new rate will be €191,417, compared with €202,118 at present.
Winning the election for the post would mean a massive drop in salary for one of the six candidates, Professor Des Fitzgerald, vice president of UCD. He is one of the best paid academics in Ireland, earning €263,000 a year, and he has indicated his willingness to take the cut if given the opportunity to lead Trinity.
However, the decision to impose reduced pay has annoyed many academics in TCD, who see the decision as interference with the university's independence.
But official sources said the move was to bring the salaries into line with the reduced pay offered to new secretary generals of government departments.
The department has also ordered the National University of Ireland Maynooth to reduce the salary for its new president, Dr Philip Nolan, from €184,150 to €180,000 a year.
The pay cuts will not affect existing presidents, who will remain on their current salaries. However, the cut for new presidents is likely to be an exception across the public sector.
This is because they are not new entrants. Existing public servants are not subject to the budget pay cut when they apply for more senior posts.
However, the fact that they can apply for the jobs means new entrants who also put themselves forward as candidates will escape the pay cut.
The Department of Finance said it had made a decision to keep the old salary scales in place in these cases because it could not penalise serving staff.
"We cannot offer different salaries to candidates for the same job," a spokeswoman for the Department of Finance said.
However, she said each job would be assessed by the minister on a "case-by-case" basis.