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Ireland, Academic Career Structure




Competitiveness: Two of Ireland’s universities, Trinity College Dublin and University College Dublin, were ranked in the top 200 universities worldwide in 2009 by Times Higher Education. Seven higher education institutions in Ireland were ranked in the top 500 by QS World University Rankings. Ireland has very ambitious plans for the continuing development of higher education. This ambition is reflected in the key national priorities for the higher education sector, which include achieving graduation levels that would place Ireland within the front rank of OECD and doubling the output of PhDs by 2013.

Openness to non-nationals: Ireland is generally open for foreign applicants, especially from other English speaking countries.

Postdoc: The Irish Research Council for the Humanities and Social Sciences (IRCHSS) was established in 2000 by the Minister for Education and Science in response to the need to develop Ireland's research capacity and skills base. Supported by the National Development Plan, the Research Council funds post-doctoral fellowships and research grants. For more information, visit the dedicated part of IRCHSS' website. Additionally, three National University of Ireland Fellowships have been established at post-doctoral level.

Entry positions: In general, the first appointment to an academic position at an Irish university usually is at the level of lecturer. Lecturers need a PhD degree and publications of high quality.

Career requirements/progress: The most important criterion for academic appointment, tenure and promotion is the research record as demonstrated through scholarly publications in refereed international academic journals that have achieved creditable standing in the Citation index.

Temporary/permanent positions: The rising use of temporary staff at universities increases the competition for permanent positions. As in most other EU countries, it is becoming a normal to hold a number of temporary positions to establish academic credentials before being hired on a permanent basis.

Salaries: Irish academic salaries are competitive, however, across-the-board cuts have been applied following the recent financial crisis. See section on salaries.

Gender: Approximately 10% of Professor positions (Associate Professors and Professors) are held by women. 50% of Lecturers are women.

Universities and research institutions: There are seven universities in Ireland, four of which are constituent universities of the National University of Ireland (NUI). There are various research institutions that are privately funded, but many are in connection to the university system.

Job postings: click here for a list of useful websites for job search in Ireland.


Higher Education in Ireland is provided by universities, institutes of technology, colleges of education, and private, independent colleges. All institutions except for the private, independent colleges are autonomous and self governing, but substantially state funded. There are seven universities in Ireland, four of which are constituent universities of the National University of Ireland (NUI), which maintains authority over basic matriculation requirements and reviews the content and teaching of courses. Although all seven are autonomous institutions, the Universities Act of 1997 set forth basic university duties and responsibilities at a national level. All universities in Ireland are monitored by a statutory body, the Higher Education Authority (HEA), which allocates funding coming from the state. The institutions of higher education are private institutions but receive about 90% of their income from state funds.

The HEA maintains a continuous review of higher education needs within Ireland, and is the contact point for EU programmes such as Erasmus and Erasmus-Mundus. Ireland’s National Development Plan for 2007-2013 planned the largest and most ambitious investment programme to date in Ireland, setting aside €25.8 billion for investments in schools, training and higher education. Despite ambitious plans, the recent economic downturn in Ireland has subject the University system to moratoriums on appointments, blocks on promotion and cuts in institutional core grants. Posts in universities remain vacant and many departments are struggling to maintain their courses. For details regarding the current situation, see a press release from the Irish Federation of University Teachers.

Legislative reforms, consistent with the Bologna Process, were made during the late 1990s. A number of significant developments have taken place, including the formal launch of the National Framework of Qualifications (2003) and the OECD Review of Higher Education in Ireland (2004). A national steering group has been established to oversee the implementation of the Bologna Process. A 2005 Bologna Process review reports that Ireland faces the challenge of encouraging further exchanges of staff and students within Europe.


The career structure is generally consistent across Irish universities.

  • PhD Researcher
  • Post-doc
  • Lecturer
  • Senior Lecturer
  • Associate Professor
  • Professor 

Requirements for Positions

PhD researchers are considered students and not staff members. They are not entitled to a stipend and pay course fees of €3,000-6,000 per year. Often PhD researchers are eligible to grants or scholarships.

The first appointment to an academic position at an Irish university usually is at the level of Lecturer. Lecturers need a PhD degree and preferably publications of high quality. Contracts for Lecturer are often temporary and for one, three or five years. Many new temporary jobs of one year have emerged because of government funding of sabbaticals through the Irish Research Council for the Humanities and Social Sciences (IRCHSS): they award sabbatical funding which includes money to pay for replacement Lecturers.

Permanent Lecturer positions with a probationary period of 12 months. At the end of this period, the promotion committee (made up of senior officers of the university together with four elected academic staff representatives) decides on whether to award tenure or extend the probation period. A positive evaluation requires satisfactory performance of lecturing and other duties, evidence of interest in the pursuit of research and scholarship, and contribution and interest in the departmental development. Upon completion of satisfactory probation, the Lecturer is granted tenure.

From the level of Lecturer, one can be promoted to Senior Lecturer. For this a PhD degree is required along with substantial teaching experience, proven research track record documented by publications and administrative experience.

The position of Associate Professor and Professor require a PhD degree, internationally recognised research, a substantive publication record as well as a good amount of academic experience.

The most important criterion for academic appointment, tenure and promotion is the research record as demonstrated through scholarly publications in refereed international academic journals that have achieved creditable standing in various Citation Indexes.


Research Career

Please contact us if you can provide relevant information.



The academic career structure in Ireland has undergone many changes in the past thirty years, and is characterised today by considerably more uncertainty in terms of a traditional career path, a high degree of competitiveness, and less possibility for new hires to obtain permanent contracts. In general, the demand for positions is higher than the offer. Measures designed to make universities more flexible and less financially liable in their staffing have made it harder to achieve permanent full-time appointments. Short-term and fixed-term contracts are common, and often provide little guarantee for future contracts. As the number of students enrolling in Irish universities has increased rapidly in this time period, upward mobility has become more difficult; lecturers have less time to devote to research, and are asked to devote more time to teaching responsibilities.

As shown in the introduction, gender issues are still prominent in Ireland, as only 10% of the Professor positions are occupied by women.



Job security is generally quite high for those that obtain permanent contracts. About 80% of the academic staff in Ireland hold permanent tenured positions. All full time academic staff are civil servants and tenured in the sense that they can not be fired without a serious cause, such as incompetence or outrageous conduct. This is very different from the systems of the UK and the US. For example, in the UK only about 55% hold permanent contracts and there is no tenure. The academic staff who are not protected by tenure are those who are in part time or temporary employment. In recent years, there has been an increase in the numbers of academics who are employed on non-permanent conditions and many new entrants to the academic profession are given temporary contracts..


Contracts and Duties


Staff at the grade of Lecturer must have successfully completed the probation and induction period to be eligible to apply for the award of tenure. The normal period of probation on appointment as Lecturer/Senior Lecturer is one year. An induction period of 3 years normally applies to all permanent Lecturer appointments. The first year of the induction period runs concurrently with the probationary period. Lecturers can expect to be awarded tenure during the final year of their induction period provided that they meet the agreed tenure requirements.

Senior Lecturer

To be eligible, one must be tenured academic staff already at the level of Lecturer. The assessment process for promotion is evidence-based, and based on achievements related to: 1) research scholarship and innovation, 2) teaching and learning, and 3) contribution to school/college/university/society and the wider community.

Associate Professor

Academic staff who have been awarded tenure, and who will not have reached normal retirement prior to the effective date of promotion are eligible for promotion to Associate Professor. The assessment process for promotion is based on providing evidence of achievement under each of the following three criteria: 1) research and scholarship, 2) teaching and learning, and 3) academic leadership and contribution.


Promotion to the Professor level is possible for all academic staff that have achieved tenure and have not reached the normal retirement age. The assessment process for promotion is based on providing evidence of achievement under each of the criteria required to become an Associate Professor.

Each university has its own recruitment and promotion standards. As an example, please visit the dedicated part of the University College Dublin.


There is no official sabbatical system or funding scheme in Ireland, but each university has its own system of rules and funding for permanent full-time academic staff. In general, leave of absence is granted by the dean or director of the institution for clearly defined research or other academic-related purposes. Leave of absence for a term or a full year can normally be granted with full pay but is negotiated individually. Leave of absence for academic purposes is generally possibly every three years.

Some government funding of sabbaticals may be available through the Irish Research Council for the Humanities and Social Sciences (IRCHSS) which includes money to pay for replacement lecturers.


Gross Salaries

Salaries are the result of a collective bargaining process in which all unions and the government are involved. Therefore, differences in salary scales between the various institutions are relatively minor. Individual salary negotiations are thus more a matter of negotiating the rank or position than the actual amount.

The following table contains indicative gross salary data in Euro, per month, for 2010:  





Senior Lecturer



Associate Professor






Source: see the dedicated part of the University College Dublin's website

Staff at universities not belonging to the National University of Ireland are paid somewhat less.

In respect of personal income taxation, there are two tax rates in Ireland, 20% and 41%. Everyone pays 20 percent up to a certain income threshold (this varies for single and married couples). Almost every lecturer will enter the higher rate of tax as soon as they earn 35k+. There is also a universal social charge that equates to about 3k per annum. For more information see here.

Due to the 2008-2009 global financial crisis, most of the academic staff salaries in Ireland have been cut by over 10%.



   All Disciplines

PhD Candidate








Assistant Professor




Associate Professor




Full Professors





Please contact us if you can provide relevant information.


Internal Recruitment

In general, the individual policies of the universities provide that all vacancies (either newly created positions or newly vacant) are advertised externally as well as internally. Most have recruitment policies that mandate that recruitment (of both temporary and permanent positions) adheres to an equal opportunities policy.



Ireland is generally open for foreign applicants, especially from other English speaking countries. Vacancies are posted in the international press. Moreover, the usual practice (especially for Professor positions) is to include international experts in the particular field in the selection board.

There are no precise numbers that document the internationalization of Irish academia, but a straw poll of a random group of academics in a range of disciplines revealed that 15% originated outside the country.


National Universities

The National University of Ireland (NUI) is a federal university system of four constituent universities, which are for all essential purposes independent universities, except that the degrees and diplomas are those of the National University of Ireland. It is the largest element of the Irish university system at present. The four constituent universities are:

Research Institutions

There are many research institutes funded largely through multi-million Euro grants from the Higher Education Authority (HEA) and other State agencies.

There are many which are connected to the major universities:

Academic Unions

Mainly representing academic staff in the five older universities.

All staff, including academic, from Dublin City University are represented by SIPTU.


Info for History

Info for Economics

Info for Law

Info for Social and Political Science


Postdoctoral Information

Offers information on research funding and options for postdoctoral researchers.

Offers support for postdoctoral fellows and other research schemes 


Websites for Job Postings

  • Careerjet is an employment search engine for Ireland
  • is a major job search database in Ireland
  • Monster is one of the leading providers of online careers and recruitment resources committed to connecting organisations with individuals
  • is the website of the Public Appointments Service, which is the centralised provider of recruitment, assessment and selection services for the Civil Service; they also provide recruitment and consultancy services to local authorities, health boards, the Garda Siochana and other public bodies
  • See also the individual universities' webpages for vacancies: Dublin City University


Killeavy, Maureen (2004), 'The Academic Workplace Country Report Ireland', in Enders & Weert The International Attractiveness of the Academic Workplace in Europe, Gewerkschaft Erziehung und Wissenschaft (GEW), Frankfurt/Main.


Special thanks to:

Adian Regan, Max Weber Fellow, 2012-2013

Michelle Melton, Academic Careers Observatory Intern, 2010

Heather Jones, Max Weber Fellow, EUI, 2007-08

Page last updated on 28 August 2018

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