NCADTwo of UCD’s senior staff members will be involved in the search for a new director of the National College of Art and Design (NCAD), after the college’s board met to discuss the appointment of a replacement for Professor Declan McGonagle.

McGonagle had announced his intention to quit his post at the end of 2015. Although the announcement was first made on Friday, 11th September, the matter of choosing his successor was only discussed at a board meeting last Friday, 9th October. The board said that “transitional arrangements will be also be put in place to ensure there is no disruption to the College’s work” as they seek to appoint a new director.

In June, Minister for Education and Skills, Jan O’Sullivan, appointed six new individuals to NCAD’s board in an attempt to bring stability to the college. Two of these are staff members in UCD. Niamh Brennan is the Academic Director of the UCD Centre for Corporate Governance. Professor Mark Rodgers is acting registrar and Deputy President of UCD, and is well known among students. At the time of his appointment, it was said that Rodgers would be there to help strengthen the ties between UCD and NCAD.

The announcement of McGonagle’s resignation, along with the board appointments, comes following months of controversy surrounding the college. McGonagle has been facing questions over the college’s finance since the beginning of the year. He also had to contend with hundreds of students protesting against NCAD’s management in March.

As part of the general protest in March, dozens of angry students entered McGonagle’s office and presented open letters of demand on his desk. A video of the incident later appeared online. A wide range of grievances against the college’s senior management were outlined. The majority of issues relate to the financial management of the college, including recent levies it introduced on students.

In an appearance before the Dáil’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC) last month, Tom Boland, the chief executive of the Higher Education Authority (HEA), said that NCAD, along with four other institutions, were in “vulnerable” financial positions. The financial issue came to media attention in January, when both McGonagle and Boland struggled at an appearance before PAC. John McGuiness, Chairman of PAC, criticised Boland for not interfering after the HEA was informed of the financial issues and delays in reporting accounts at NCAD, only to be told by Boland that the HEA could do very little about the situation.

NCAD received around €104 million in public funding in an eight year period up to 2008. It filed its 2008/2009 accounts 39 months late. The Board has been overseeing the preparation of accounts for the past few years, some of which are overdue. It said that all accounts up to 2012 had been filed and audited by the Comptroller and Auditor General (C&AG) in June, while the accounts for 2014 are currently being prepared.

UCD and NCAD entered a strategic alliance in 2011. Since then, all degrees awarded by NCAD are recognised and validated by UCD. The two institutions have collaborated on several projects over the past four years. Discussions over a possible merger between the two most recently occurred in 2012. However, no progress was ever made at implementing a full-scale merger.

 Author: Cian Carton