UCC welcomed a new university president in February 2017, Professor Patrick O’Shea, who replaced Dr Michael Murphy following a ten-year stint in the prestigious role. Professor O’Shea, the fifteenth President of UCC, graduated with a degree in physics from the university, and went on to become Vice President and Chief Research Officer at the University of Maryland before returning to Cork. He is a Fellow of the American Physical Society, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers, and a University of Maryland Distinguished Scholar-Teacher. The Cork native praised his predecessor and pledged that, during his term, UCC would “continue its rise among the great universities of the world.”
Professor O’Shea is married to fellow UCC graduate Dr Miriam Smyth, with whom he has one son, Ronan, currently attending UCC as an undergraduate. Professor O’Shea attended Coláiste Chríost Rí in Cork for his secondary education, and following his physics undergraduate degree at UCC went on to obtain an M.S. and Ph.D. in physics from the University of Maryland. O’Shea is the first external President appointed by UCC in 50 years.
Regarding his appointment to the prestigious position, Professor O’Shea said: “My physics degree from UCC laid the foundation stone for a successful academic career in the US culminating in my current leadership role at the University of Maryland. I am delighted to return to lead my alma mater. UCC’s students and staff have impressed me with their enthusiasm and their commitment to excellence in education, scholarship, research and service. Through their dedication, passion, and achievement, UCC will continue its rise among the great universities of the world.”
Many current presidents of Irish universities are in favour of establishing a new system of fees where undergraduate students would have to pay higher annual fees, with loans offered to cover the cost having to be paid back only when graduates began earning certain level of annual wage. Professor O’Shea, however, is strongly against such a system, saying: “You do not want young people from disadvantaged communities starting off and being in debt. That’s the worst possible situation. So you have to create an environment where you’re not mortgaging your future in that way.”
Patrick O’Shea is also aware of the developing necessity of reducing Ireland’s dependency on foreign investment. He would like to remedy this by encouraging Irish innovation at university level, in particular home-grown intellectual property. “Foreign companies are wonderful, but we need to make sure the people and the IP that comes out of our third-level institutions are pumped into companies that [start] here,” O’Shea said, “that creates a much more robust situation and gets us away from being victims, which could happen.”