Who runs UCD?

Doireann de Courcy Mac Donnell takes a look at the structures and systems which manage the everyday UCD experience for staff and students alike.

Understanding the manner in which University College Dublin is governed is by no means a simple task. A multitude of committees and groups all contribute to the running of the college. But who has the final say? This article aims to unravel the complex structures which determine the decision-making behind everyday experience of the students and staff of UCD.

The UCD Governing Authority (GA) is the body at the top of the UCD food chain. It is a group of forty people which ratifies the final decisions made about the operation of the university. This includes, but is not limited to, controlling the land and property of UCD, and the appointment of the Chief Officer (the president). Most importantly, according to the Manual of the Structure, Code of Practice & Procedures of the Governing Authority of UCD, the primary function of the UCD GA is that “The Governing Authority is the principal decision-making body in the University”. It stresses that all decisions are made “in the best interests of the University” and members should not be “representing any special interest”. It makes the final decisions on all proposals put forward by the University Management Team, and a number of other committees, such as the Finance, Remuneration and Asset Management Committee and the Audit and Risk Management Committee, involved in the running of the college.

The UCD Governing Authority currently has 37 of the forty positions filled. The Governing Authority has been chaired by Marie O’Connor since February 2019. O’Connor’s appointment marked “the first time in its 165-year history that the University has appointed a woman to this role”, and leads on from her work promoting gender diversity in the business sector, the first woman admitted as a partner in Price Waterhouse and a founder of the 30% Club. A combination of politicians, academic staff, administrators and student representatives fill the remainder of the 37 seats. Some nine politicians are part of the Governing Authority, which always includes the Lord Mayor of Dublin, a title currently held by Lord Mayor Paul McAuliffe. The other eight positions devoted to political representatives are occupied by county councillors from across the country, from Cavan to Leitrim to Clare. Of the nine politicians sitting on the Governing Authority, five are active members of Fianna Fáil, three represent Fine Gael and there is one Independent councillor. The seats devoted to the ‘Minister’s Nominees’ are vacant.

From within UCD there are a variety of UCD Graduates, professors, staff and student union representatives. In all, there are fourteen Professors, Non-Professional Staff and Non-Academic Staff. According to the UCD Academic Structure 2019-2020 graph, there are six colleges within the university; UCD College of Arts and Humanities, UCD College of Social Sciences and Law, UCD College of Business, UCD College of Engineering and Architecture, UCD College of Health and Agricultural Sciences and the UCD College of Science. Of the staff, both academic and administrative, sitting on the GA, five were part of the College of Science, four from the College of Social Sciences and Law, three from the College of Arts and Humanities and two from the College of Health and Agricultural Sciences. There were no representatives from the College of Business or the College of Engineering and Architecture. As previously reported in The University Observer, there were no members of the School of Architecture represented at the emergency GA meeting held in August 2019 which led to the controversial decision to sell Richview. Richview Estate sits on an estate of 17.4 acres of land and is reportedly being sold for the shockingly-low sum of between €10 and €15 million. Comparatively, just a stone’s-throw away in Donnybrook, 9 acres of the RTÉ Montrose estate was sold for ‘more than €100 million’ in 2018.

In addition to the UCD staff sitting on the GA, President of the University, Professor Andrew Deeks is the Chief Officer on the board. Deeks is only the second non-Irish citizen to lead the university since its founding. Prof. Mark Rogers, Registrar and Deputy President of UCD, presides as the Senior Officer – Registrar of the Governing Authority. Two UCD graduates sit on the GA and four members of the current UCD Students’ Union; President of the SU Joanna Siewierska, Education Officer Brian Treacy, Graduate Officer Conor Anderson and Welfare Officer Úna Carroll. Siewierska, Treacy and Anderson were all students in the College of Social Sciences and Law, while Carroll was a student in the UCD College of Arts and Humanities. UCDSU President Joanna Siewierska also sits on the Finance, Remuneration and Asset Management Committee. Two further members of the board are nominated by the National University of Ireland. The remaining three seats of the UCD GA are occupied by ‘Nominations from Organisations’. Charles Coase, Trustee Chairman at the Ulster Bank Ireland Pension Scheme, Isabel Foley, Partner at Arthur Cox, and Mary O’ Dea, Chief Executive The Institute of Banking, are the three current nominations sitting on the Governing Authority. 

The GA approves the University Strategic Plan, which is a document outlining the aspirations of the campus, academically, socially and financially. The last Strategic Plan was published in 2015 and was designed to run until 2020. The document lists the ten core objectives of the university which, for example, included “objective 2 – provide an educational experience that defines international best practise” and “objective 8 – further develop world-class facilities to support our vision”. The latest Strategic Plan for UCD was published in December, and outlines the ambitions of the university for the next five years. It was the role of the 40 individuals sitting on the UCD Governing Authority to ratify and consolidate the programme for the years to come. The Governing Authority are due to meet six times over the course of this academic year, with the next meeting scheduled for March 26th.

The University College Dublin Governing Authority does not operate in isolation. Many committees and groups organised throughout the campus feed into the eventual decision making. The four critical groups which contribute to the GA are the University Management Team, the Finance, Remuneration and Asset Management Committee, the Audit and Risk Management Committee and the Academic Council. The FRAMC and ARMC are much smaller committees, with only ten and six members respectively. The chairs of both FRAMC and ARMC must come from the UCD Governing Authority, and be from either the Nominations by the National University of Ireland, a UCD Graduate, a Minister’s Nominee, a County Council Representative or a Nomination from Organisations.


The University Management Team (UMT) is comprised of twelve members of UCD staff. It is chaired by President Andrew Deeks and the Deputy Chair is Prof. Mark Rogers. Apart from the Chief Financial Officer, David Kelly, the remainder of the positions are filled by the principals of the six colleges of UCD, the Vice President of Research, Innovation and Impact, Prof. Orla Feely, the Vice President for Global Engagement, Prof. Dolores O’ Riordan and the UCD Director of Human Resources, Tristan Aitken. The UMT is the group which develops the ‘mission, vision and strategic’ plan which will be ratified by the UCD GA. They also manage financial and human resources in a day-to-day capacity.

Academic Council
The Academic Council (AC) is the overarching committee which manages a number of subgroups, all created to direct the academic concerns of the university. Sub-groups include AC Committee on Examinations, AC Committee for Academic Scholarships and Prizes and the AC Committee on Student Conduct and Capacity. In short, the purpose of the AC is to direct all educational matters, such as curriculum, academic policy and quality assurance. Members of the AC include each of the Heads of Subject for every subject area and discipline listed in the UCD Subject Register, one Associate Professor or Assistant Professor/Lecturer elected by each School and an ‘appropriate’ number of students, nominated by the UCDSU 

The Finance, Remuneration and Asset Management Committee was established to supervise all financial matters in the University. The group is chaired by Charles Coase, Trustee Chairman at the Ulster Bank Ireland Pension Scheme, and also includes Mary O’ Dea, Chief Executive The Institute of Banking, both of whom sit on the UCD GA also.. The FRAMC is responsible for keeping records of all UCD income and expenditure, which is to be approved by the Higher Education Authority. The group annually presents a report on the university’s finances to the GA and provide the financial counsel and management of the UCD Strategic plan. FRAMC prepare all major spending investments, to be approved by the GA..

The Audit and Risk Management Committee (ARMC) works in tandem with the FRAMC. The committee, comprised of six members and chaired by Isabel Foley, is responsible for advising the Governing Authority on the audit carried out on the resources of the university. The board reviews the annual statements put forward by FRAMC and acts as a risk-advisor to the GA. Catherine Ghose and Noreen O’Kelly fill the remaining two positions. Areas that the ARMC focuses on in particular include accounting policies of the university, changes in financial policies and practises, risk management, overseeing both internal and external audits and compliance with legal standards.