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UCD appoints first female president in 169 years

University College Dublin has announced the historic appointment of the university’s first woman president in its 169-year history.
March 10 2023
2 Min Read

At University College Dublin, International Women’s Day was even more significant this year with the historic appointment of the university’s first woman president in its 169-year history.

UCD is Ireland’s largest university with over 38,000 students and is ranked within the top 1% of higher education institutions worldwide.

On February 21, Marie O’Connor, chair of the UCD governing authority, announced the appointment of Orla Feely as president of UCD for a 10-year term. Feely is currently serving as the vice-president for research, innovation, and impact at UCD.

“I consider myself very fortunate to have been able to attend university”

In welcoming her to the role, O’Connor praised Feely’s leadership, teaching, and research credentials.

“Professor Orla Feely is an exceptional person who has the drive and ambition to lead UCD as a public university that values its community, sets standards, and embraces wider participation in order to make a real impact on society,” O’Connor said.

Feely earned her bachelor’s degree at UCD, and her master’s and doctoral degrees in electrical engineering from the University of California, Berkeley. She has been part of UCD’s management team since 2014 and, with her guidance, the university dramatically increased its number of research grants, exceeding €155 million in grant funding last year alone.

“UCD has had an extraordinary influence on the development of modern Ireland,” Feely told The PIE News.

“Our role in Ireland is still very important to us, but it is now complemented by a very strong global presence. I want to grow the many ways in which we make a clear positive difference to the lives of our students and to the broader world at this time of enormous disruptive change.”

Indeed, UCD is Ireland’s most globally engaged university with 29% of its students coming from over 150 countries, which includes 5,000 students studying at one of the university’s five global centres outside of Ireland. A third of faculty members are also international.

A champion for the advancement of women, Feely has led the development of two gender equality action plans for UCD.

She is also a strong believer in the power of university education and in the importance of wide access to its transformative opportunities. A first-generation student herself, Feely strives to increase access for all learners.

“I consider myself very fortunate to have been able to attend university, a privilege not available to my parents or any previous generations in my family, and to do so at a time when women were starting to enter the engineering profession in reasonable numbers,” she told The PIE.

Feely will assume the presidency this May, replacing Mark Rogers, who has served as the acting president for the past year

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