University of Limerick appoints first female president of an Irish university

Professor Kersten Mey has recently been named as the new president of the University of Limerick (UL), becoming the first woman in Irish history to hold such a position.

The Chancellor of UL’s Governing Authority, Mary Harney, confirmed the appointment of Prof Mey as Interim President at a special meeting on the 9th of July, following an open competition for the role.

Prof Mey will officially begin the presidency on the first of September, replacing the outgoing president Dr Des Fitzgerald, until a new ten-year term president is found through an international recruitment process, which is expected to take 18 months.

Despite the relatively short time she will spend in the historic position, Mey said that she was “proud and really humbled to lead the University of Limerick over the next period.”

DCU Vice President for Welfare and Equality, Dean O’Reilly, welcomes Mey’s appointment but says that universities, particularly in Ireland have “a long way to go” in terms of gender equality.

“The idea that there has never been a female President of a University in Ireland is astounding…Perhaps in our life time we’ll get to see a gender minority University President as well; a non-binary President, a genderfluid President. That diversity only adds strength. I think men have long had their spotlight – let’s start sharing it,” O’Reilly told The College View.

Mey, a native of East Berlin, was previously Pro Vice Chancellor and Dean of the Westminster School of Media Arts and Design, and began work at UL only two years ago as Vice President of Academic Affairs and Student Engagement.

The previous UL president, Dr Des Fitzgerald, retired from the role in May due to personal concerns that his ability to run the university would be impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic, as he is in the age-group deemed most vulnerable.

He had high praise for his successor, stating that “UL is very fortunate to have someone of this calibre lead the University.”

“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.”

Since the founding of Ireland’s first university (Trinity College) in 1592, a woman has never held a university’s presidency until now, although some Institutes of Technology have been overseen by women.

Jamie Mc Carron