Jan 21, 2021

Council Members Slam Provost Over Refusal to Hold Vote on Schols Quota

University Council yesterday passed a quota system for the number of Foundation Scholarships awarded this year.

Cormac WatsonEditor
Ivan Rakhmanin for The University Times

Members of University Council have slammed the Provost’s decision to refuse to hold a vote on a contentious Schols quota system at yesterday’s Council meeting.

The quota system – which limits the number of Scholars elected this year to 60 – was approved by Council yesterday.

After a discussion on the system during yesterday’s meeting, Prendergast decided that there was a consensus on the proposal among Council members, denying a request that a vote be held and thus approving the proposal.


However, speaking on the condition of anonymity due to the confidential nature of Council meetings, three members of Council criticised Provost Patrick Prendergast’s decision to approve the proposal without holding a vote first, saying that six members of Council expressed dissent regarding the quota system.

One said that they felt it was “evident from all exchanges on the matter that this was a decision taken by the executive officer group and no number of dissents was going to impact that decision”.

Another added that “when the crux of the problem is respect for the Scholarship exams, it was not a good way of handling it”.

The statutes state that matters at a Council are determined by consensus, but that if the chairperson – in this case Prendergast – is of the opinion that consensus is not possible, the question is put to a vote.

One member who was present at the meeting said that the “rationale of it not being put to a vote was not demonstrated” by Prendergast.

Trinity declined to comment on the dispute.

The quota system has been a source of controversy since it was conditionally passed by College Board, Trinity’s most senior decision-making body, on November 18th.

Board sent the proposal to the Visitors – who decide on appeals against Board decisions – to determine whether or not it breached the College statutes.

The Visitors – Chancellor Mary McAleese and Judicial Visitor George Bermingham – decided that it did not breach the statutes, and that Trinity could implement the quota.

The proposal has stirred up controversy among the Scholars community, many of whom consider it to be an attack on the academic integrity of the Foundation Scholarship.

The quota system was introduced in the wake of fears that online exams would cause grade inflation and by extension a spike in the number of scholarships awarded.

Schols exams begin next week, and have switched to an online format due to the coronavirus pandemic.

At present, students going for Schols do three to four exam papers. Some 25 per cent of the overall mark must be general questions.

To win a scholarship, candidates must achieve an overall first-class result, 70 per cent in two out of three papers and no lower than 65 per cent in the remaining papers.

University Council consists of at most 35 members, and is the highest academic committee in Trinity.

Correction: 16:43, January 25th, 2021
In an earlier version of this article, George Bermingham was incorrectly referred to as Judiciary Chancellor. He is, in fact, the Judicial Visitor.

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