The Royal Irish Academy/Acadamh Ríoga na hÉireann champions research. We identify and recognise Ireland’s world class researchers. We support scholarship and promote awareness of how science and the humanities enrich our lives and benefit society. We believe that good research needs to be promoted, sustained and communicated. The Academy is run by a Council of its members. Membership is by election and considered the highest academic honour in Ireland.

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Presidential Discourse: The Critical University


Tuesday, February 28, 2023, 18:00 - 19:30




Members: contact for booking / Public - online only Free tickets

President of the RIA, Dr Mary Canning in conversation with Professor Brian MacCraith

Universities in most western functioning democracies continue to enjoy public support and are prized as bastions of freedom and of independent critical thinking as a resource for society. However, in many countries freedom of speech and freedom from government interference in teaching and research are under threat. And within the university, funding models increasingly discriminate against blue skies research and the humanities.

In conversation with Professor Brian MacCraith, the President, Dr Mary Canning will explore the role of universities at a time when major global, societal and technological challenges require those institutions to provide an autonomous and trusted public voice and an internal culture that encourages students and academics to engage respectfully with those challenges.

Mary Canning

Dr Mary Canning was elected President of the Royal Irish Academy in March 2020 and was appointed Chair of the Governing Authority of Maynooth University in December 2019. She holds a PhD in Literature from University College, Dublin. As a former World Bank Lead Education Specialist based in Washington DC, she worked on education policy in a wide range of countries in Europe and Central Asia from 1992-2007. She has served on numerous OECD Higher Education Examiner teams in Europe and Latin America. Dr Canning was a board member of the Higher Education Authority from 2007 to 2017 and, in 2009, she was appointed to the National Strategic Review of Higher Education in Ireland. In 2014 was awarded a D.Litt (honoris causa) by the NUI.

Brian MacCraith

Professor Brian MacCraith held the position of President of Dublin City University (DCU) from July 2010 to July 2020, during which time DCU grew significantly in terms of scale, footprint, and reputation. During that period, DCU was Ireland’s fastest growing university and added 3 new campuses (DCU St. Patrick’s Campus, DCU All Hallows Campus, and DCU Alpha, the University’s Innovation Campus) to its original base in Glasnevin. During his Presidency, DCU developed a significant international profile, with major academic and research partnerships across the globe and a strong reputation for innovation. The university is ranked consistently as one of the world’s top young universities and is in the top 20 globally for its graduate employment rate.

Prof. MacCraith is a member of the Royal Irish Academy (RIA), an Honorary Fellow of the Institute of Physics, an Honorary Fellow of the Institute of Engineers Ireland, and a Fellow of the Irish Academy of Engineers.

Since April 2022, Prof. MacCraith has been a Senior Advisor to the President of Arizona State University (ASU), with specific responsibility for European initiatives. At ASU, he is a Global Fellow at the University Design Institute and a Professor of Practice in the College of Global Futures.

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