Equality Review in the Higher Education Sector

In November 2014, the Equality Tribunal found that Micheline Sheehy-Skeffington had been discriminated against for promotion due to her gender. Her employer, NUI Galway, was ordered to pay €70,000 in damages and also to carry out a review of its practices in this area and report to the Commission within a year.

The Equality Tribunal recommended that the NUIG carry out a review of its policies and procedures in particular for compliance with the gender ground. It also stated that a progress report of this review must be made to the Commission within one year of the decision (from November 2014). 

(Link available to Equality Tribunal decision 5.2 (c) here:


In January of 2015, NUI Galway called for a broader review of the higher education sector in relation to gender equality by the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission. The President, Jim Brown, also wrote to the Irish Universities Alliance and the Higher Education Authority (HEA) with this request. In the same month, SIPTU called for an independent equality audit of NUI Galway.

The Commission approached the HEA and requested a meeting with the CEO, Tom Boland. This meeting occurred on April 16th and clarified the Commission’s understanding that statutory responsibility for a sector-wide review of gender equality in third level institutions would fall to the HEA.

This responsibility originates in the 1997 Universities Act, which states that each university is required to prepare and implement an equality policy and that the HEA is expected to review and report on those policies and their implementation. The HEA has publicly announced its intention to undertake a university sector review. This will be the second sector-wide review, following their first in 2008.

The Chief Commissioner Emily Logan also met with the Minister for Education, Jan O’Sullivan, on June 23rd, where she confirmed that a sector-wide review would be undertaken by the HEA.

The Commission acknowledges the work being carried out by other state regulatory agencies, the Equality Tribunal and the HEA, and will continue to monitor the situation. We look forward to the findings of the HEA sector-wide review due for publication in May/June 2016.


For further information please contact Niamh Connolly/Fidelma Joyce on IHREC 01 8589601/ 087 4399022. Twitter: follow us @_ihrec

Notes to Editors

The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (IHREC) was established by the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission Act 2014. The Commission has a statutory remit to protect and promote human rights and equality in the State, to promote a culture of respect for human rights, equality and intercultural understanding and to promote understanding and awareness of the importance of human rights and equality. The IHREC is tasked with reviewing the adequacy and effectiveness of law, policy and practice relating to the protection of human rights and equality and with making recommendations to Government on measures to strengthen, protect and uphold human rights and equality accordingly.