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Saturday 30 September 2023 Dublin: 8°C
# Ageism
UCD ordered to pay academic €30,000 after commission finds it denied her a job because of her age
The Workplace Relations Commission also ordered the university to promote Dr Anne Cleary (64) to the role of senior lecturer, having passed her over for the job in 2015.

3 Dr Anne Cleary

THE COUNTRY’S LARGEST university has been ordered to pay €30,000 to an academic after it was found to have discriminated against her when passing her over for promotion.

In the case before the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC), UCD has been ordered to pay sociologist, Dr Anne Cleary €30,000 and promote her retrospectively to senior lecturer from 15 February 2015 after the finding that the college discriminated against the Cleary on the grounds of age.

WRC Adjudication Officer Stephen Bonnlander has also ordered that Cleary be paid in full the necessary adjustment in salary and any other benefits applying to the post accruing with effect from 15 February 2015 and that her pension entitlements and payments be upgraded accordingly.

Having assumed the post of Lecturer in 1996, Cleary was aged 61 when passed over for promotion while the successful candidate for one of the senior lecturer posts she cited in her discrimination case was 20 years younger than her.

Cleary argued that she was discriminated against on the grounds of age, since older lecturers were significantly less successful in the promotion round.


UCD denied that the promotion of the successful candidate in the College of Human Sciences was in any way tainted by discrimination and that the lecturer cited by Cleary secured better marks in the application process.

As part of her case, Cleary supplied a data table showing that by age, a steadily falling percentage of applicants were promoted to senior lecturer: 69.7% of applicants in the 30-39 age group, 51.7% in the 40-49 group and 48% in the 50-59 group.

Bonnlander reported: “Most notably, not a single of the four candidates in the 60-65 age group, to whom the complainant belongs, was promoted.”

In response, UCD replied that the fact that none of these over 60 achieved promotion is not statistically significant, as their number is too small to allow any such conclusions.

In his findings Bonnlander found that while “no applicant over 60 achieved promotion may not be a statistically significant fact due to small numbers, it remains a fact nevertheless and thus acceptable as evidence”.

On her academic credentials, Cleary reported that she had the highest research funding in her school, had been able to employ Postdoctoral staff, had supervised three PhD theses and one masters thesis by research.

Irish balcony deaths Niall Carson / PA Images UCD Student Centre Niall Carson / PA Images / PA Images

She also stated that she had been awarded a Fulbright scholarship to Berkeley and Harvard Universities in 2009.

She pointed out that all other Irish academics who received this scholarship were either full professors or senior lecturers and that the application process was “extremely competitive”.


Cleary stated that she “loved teaching” and was “absolutely committed to it”. She felt that she was able to construct good courses, that her courses were very oversubscribed by students and that she was known informally within her school as a good teacher.

Cleary stated that the person she cited who got one of the senior lecturer jobs “is a gifted academic who is still developing her career”.

She also provided evidence to the WRC from within her professional environment, which shows that younger colleagues promoted over her were by no means significantly better qualified.

On behalf of Cleary, an expert witness “expressed astonishment” to the WRC that her 20 years’ worth of contributions to UCD and the greater community were still not good enough to earn her a promotion to senior lecturer.

Cleary joined UCD’s School of Sociology in 1992 from a health research background and received academic tenure in 1997.


She obtained her PhD in 2006.

The WRC report records that at the time of the competition, the successful candidate for one of the senior lecturer roles cited by Dr Cleary had no Fulbright, had only secured research funding of about €5,000, had not employed any postdocs, and had significantly fewer publications than Cleary herself.

Bonnlander said that despite this differential in achievements, the successful candidate had retained her mark of “excellent” in teaching and learning which made it possible for her to obtain promotion to senior lecturer.

In contrast, UCD’s University Committee on Academic Appointments, Tenure and Promotion (UCAAPT) reduced Dr Cleary’s mark for excellence in teaching below the required standard, which made her ineligible for promotion.

In his ruling, Mr Bonnlander also found that UCD did not discriminate against Cleary on the grounds of gender.