Ferdinand von Prondzynski
Professor Ferdinand von Prondzynski (born 30 June 1954) is the Principal and Vice-Chancellor of The Robert Gordon University in Aberdeen, Scotland. He is known as a lawyer, a legal academic, a high profile public commentator and a university leader in Ireland and Scotland. A German-born Irish citizen, he is a former lecturer and Fellow at Trinity College, Dublin, and was later both a Professor and a Dean at the University of Hull, before serving as the high profile second President of Dublin City University (DCU), Dublin, Ireland from 2000 to 2010. He has been Principal of the Robert Gordon University since late March 2011.
He is an authority on employment and commercial law and on certain EU and competition policy matters, and an active commentator on academic affairs and public policy.
Von Prondzynski's family were originally of Pomeranian-Kashubian origin, with first records going back to 1366, but lineage can be traced back with some certainty to 1550. He is a direct descendant of Ferdinand von Prondzynski, a 19th-century Prussian General from Groschowitz near Oppeln in Silesia (now Groszowice, near Opole, Poland). Konrad, his great-grandfather, started a Silesian cement business in the late 19th century; the town square in Groszowice is named after him. Ferdinand von Prondzynski's grandfather, Alfred, was a lieutenant in the First World War, in which he was seriously wounded; he died later from these wounds, in 1932. His grandmother later re-married in the 1930s to a retired admiral, Karl Feldmann (who worked for the Ministry of Labour) when Ferdinand's father, Hans, was still a young man. Hans von Prondzynski was a captain in the German army during World War II, was wounded several times in battle and was inter alia awarded the Iron Cross Class 1 (EK1). After the War he studied law in Göttingen, and then joined the cement-producing company, Dyckerhoff AG, eventually becoming a director. He married Irene Countess Grote in the Grote family residence at Breese im Bruche, in Lower Saxony (Hanover) in 1950.
The residence had to be partially demolished in 1958 (because of structural damage during the war and post-war years) before he, Irene and their son Ferdinand (and two sisters) moved to Ireland in 1961. According to von Prondzynski, his father's poor health, lack of funds to maintain Breese im Bruche and a desire for a less stressful lifestyle, meant that Hans and Irene von Prondzynski left Germany and moved to the Knockdrin Castle and estate, near Mullingar, County Westmeath in Ireland. After a few years, Hans grew weary of farming and moved back to Germany and to Dyckerhoff AG, but the family kept the lands and estate in Ireland, and Hans retired there in 1982. Hans von Prondzynski died in Ireland 1998 after a long illness. Irene von Prondzynski still lives in Knockdrin.
Early life and education
After von Prondzynski's family moved to Ireland in 1961, he was educated at Headfort School, Kells, County Meath. In 1968 the family returned to Germany, and after a short time in a boarding school (Schule Schloss Salem), von Prondzynski attended the Thomas-Morus Gymnasium in Oelde, passing his Abitur examination in 1972.
Having worked for Dresdner Bank AG in Germany from 1972 to 1974, von Prondzynski returned to Ireland, and became an Irish citizen in 1976. He graduated from Trinity College, Dublin, in 1978, with a B.A. and an LL.B. He received a PhD in Law from the University of Cambridge in 1983.
In 1980 von Prondzynski was appointed Lecturer in the School of Business Studies, Trinity College, Dublin, and became a Fellow of the College in 1987. During this time he became known for his views on industrial relations and labour law matters, often taking an approach sympathetic to the trade union movement and gaining the name "the Red Baron."
Von Prondzynski's published academic output has been influential in particular in the field of industrial relations and employment law '. In his early work he argued for a disengagement of the law from industrial relations, taking the position that problems and disputes were better resolved through bargaining than through litigation. The most elaborate expression of his views during this period is contained in his book Freedom of Association and Industrial Relations (1984). He also co-authored the first academic textbook on Irish employment law. However, from the later 1980s onwards his views began to change, and he argued for a framework of employment regulation that took account of economic pressures and the need to maintain competitive conditions. This culminated in his contribution to a major international book in 2000 in which he argued that the law should protect employees' rights, but also promote business success and economic growth. He has also published a number of books and articles on social policy and in particular on the importance of legal protection against discrimination.
From 1991 to 2000 von Prondzynski was Professor of Law in the University of Hull; for much of that time he was also a Dean – first of the School of Law, and latterly of the Faculty of Social Sciences. Professor von Prondzynski was also a Director of the British-American Business Council. He has achieved national status as an authority on employment and commercial law in Ireland '. He is also an expert on European Union matters and on competition (antitrust) policy.
Dublin City University
Von Prondzynski became president of Dublin City University (DCU) in July 2000, for a ten-year term. He developed a high public profile and became known for his comments on higher education and other public policy issues.
In his role as president of DCU, he oversaw improvements in the campus facilities, for both students and staff. Though seen by some as one of the new breed of so-called 'reforming' university presidents, on the whole he avoided the large-scale structural reforms that have characterised the leadership in other third-level institutions ', instead focusing on interdisciplinary 'Academic Themes', introduced in the University's initial strategic plan during his term, Leading Change (2001). These were designed to reinforce and develop DCU's reputation for cross-disciplinary teaching and research and influence the university's research mission; they had a significant effect on the university's research strategy in particular, and found a place in DCU's organisational structure – but the appointment of 'Theme Leaders' proved to be difficult.
During his tenure, von Prondzynski oversaw several important advances for DCU. The university's performance in attracting research funding was particularly notable. DCU secured several high profile research grants (particularly under the Programme for Research in Third Level Institutions, and under the Science Foundation Ireland programme for Centres for Science, Technology and Innovation). The two largest SFI grants have both gone to projects led by DCU.
There was also a continuing drive to develop innovation in teaching and learning. At von Prondzynski's proposal, a new post of Vice-President for Learning Innovation was established in 2004, and in 2007 the university adopted a new "Academic Framework for Innovation". DCU tended to be successful in recruiting students, often increasing its share of the total pool of applicants, and this pattern continued under von Prondzynski's presidency, even when student applications nationally decreased.
The university's achievements were recognised internationally when, in 2007, DCU entered the Times Higher Education World Rankings at number 300. By 2009 the university had risen in the rankings to 279.
Von Prondzynski was highly accessible to students, including a presence on social networking sites, regular letters and emails to all students, and an "open door" policy. He presided over a new phase of work by the university's fundraising trust, pioneering an annual telethon, a scheme for regular donors and the boosting of "access scholarships" for those who could not otherwise afford to go to university.
According to one newspaper profile, von Prondzynski was liked by colleagues at DCU, even when there were disagreements. Several other commentaries on his presidency highlight controversy. During his tenure as President of DCU there were three high profile employment law cases involving senior members of academic staff at the university that received much media attention and which the university lost on appeal on each occasion (including one appeal to the Supreme Court)
There was also controversy over new contracts of employment and negotiations on a new disciplinary procedure, which had begun before von Prondzynski's term of office but continued throughout his tenure without any resolution As part of this controversy a vote of no confidence in the senior management of the university was narrowly passed by staff who voted while several Dáil questions were raised on this matter by the Green Party in parliament. There was further controversy when von Prondzynski was criticised by colleagues and union officials for postponing Executive elections at the university when a senior academic (who was also one of the litigants) was nominated as a candidate.
Robert Gordon University
Von Prondzynski became Principal and Vice-Chancellor of The Robert Gordon University (RGU) in Aberdeen, Scotland at the end of March 2011, and immediately developed a high profile in Scottish higher education. In June 2011 the Scottish Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning, Michael Russell MSP, appointed von Prondzynski to chair a national review of university governance (see below).
In a number of interviews and public statements, von Prondzynski declared that he wanted Robert Gordon University to be a leader in the development of Scottish economic and cultural growth. In 2012 he also became associated with the proposal, prompted by the university's Chancellor Sir Ian Wood, to redevelop the area around Aberdeen's Union Terrace Gardens. He was a prominent signatory of a letter addressed to the City Council urging it to adopt the proposal for a new 'City Garden'.
Von Prondzynski has also made several public statements questioning British public policy designed to focus research funding on a small number of older universities, arguing that all excellent research should have the potential to be funded regardless of the university that hosted it, and arguing also that some of this funding should be directed more closely to match national economic priorities.
Locally in Aberdeen, von Prondzynski took a leading role in early 2013 in a high profile campaign by the university to prompt the regeneration of the city centre.
Review of governance of Scottish universities
In 2011 von Prondzynski was commissioned by Scottish Ministers to chair a review of higher education governance. The review was welcomed by student and staff representatives across the university sector. Initially the University and College Union (UCU) raised concerns about the appointment of von Prondzynski to chair the review, because of a then ongoing dispute about recognition of the union by RGU which predated von Prondzynski's appointment as Principal. This dispute was subsequently resolved, and in the event the UCU strongly endorsed the published report.
Von Prondzynski's committee reported in January 2012, and the report was published by the Scottish government in February 2012. The report was generally well received, but some of the recommendations - and in particular the recommendation that the chairs of governing bodies should be elected - were seen as controversial and radical. Overall the report suggested that Scotland's universities are part of the wider idea of the 'democratic intellect' and should behave in a transparent and accountable manner. The report also recommended that universities should enjoy institutional autonomy, and that they should maintain and defend academic freedom.
The Scottish government welcomed the recommendations of the review, and the Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning announced to the Scottish Parliament that the government would implement its findings. In November 2014 the Sottish Government published a consultation document in which it declared its intention to introduce a statute implementing key aspects of the von Prondzynski governance review.
Von Prondzynski is the author of a widely read and quoted blog and has a presence on Twitter. He also has a weekly column in the Irish Times newspaper. In his blog and elsewhere he has made statements about various issues, including the benefits of immigration, the risks to universities caused by the failure of the Irish Department of Education and Science to prioritise higher education, and the need to recover civility and courtesy in society. He has also been one of the advocates for a re-think on the 'free fees' scheme in Ireland, under which Irish and EU students pay only "registration" fees – he has argued that too much of the money spent on this goes to wealthier people who do not need it, while poorer students are neglected. He has also criticised the so-called 'points system' in Ireland which determines student entry into university courses. He has argued for a 're-think' on the numbers of lawyers educated and trained at Irish universities contending that there are too many, although during his time DCU approved the establishment of a new BCL law degree. He made similar comments about the number of law graduates in Scotland when giving evidence in March 2012 before the Scottish Parliament's Education and Culture Committee. More recently he has argued for higher levels of entrepreneurship and interaction between universities and industry in Scotland.
Von Prondzynski was a member of the Irish National Competitiveness Council between 2002 and 2011, and is a non-executive Director of the formerly NASDAQ-listed e-learning company, Skillsoft plc.
In April 2011 he was appointed to the Board of Directors of Educate Together
Ferdinand von Prondzynski is married to Heather Ingman, Professor of English Literature at Trinity College Dublin and an academic author and novelist; she has also been an occasional writer in the Irish Times; they have two sons, Sebastian and Theo. Von Prondzynski is a member of the Church of Ireland and a keen follower of Newcastle United football club. He is also a keen amateur photographer, and DCU published several calendars of his photographs. The Prondzynski family home is Knockdrin Castle and estate, near Mullingar, County Westmeath, Ireland. In September 2010 Prof. Prondzynski was invested by H.E. Don Carlos de Gereda y de Borbón as a Knight of Justice in the Military and Hospitaller Order of St. Lazarus of Jerusalem.
- Biography on webpage of The Robert Gordon University
- Blog by Ferdinand von Prondzynski
- Ferdinand von Prondzynski speaking at Ignite Dublin #1
- "A University Blog: The Diary of a University President". Universitydiary.wordpress.com. 5 September 2008. Retrieved 18 October 2011.
- See e.g. ‘The Reform of Strike Law May Jeopardise Social Progress’, Irish Times, 9 December 1985 (Ferdinand von Prondzynski and Kader Asmal)
- "Tue, Sep 23, 2008 – Unconventional wisdom". The Irish Times. 9 September 2008. Retrieved 18 October 2011.
- See ‘The Reform of Industrial Relations’, Administration, 1982, Vol. 29, No. 3, p. 220 (Charles McCarthy and Ferdinand von Prondzynski)
- Freedom of Association and Industrial Relations: A Comparative Study, Mansell Publishing Ltd., London and New York, 1987
- Employment Law in Ireland, Ferdinand von Prondzynski and Charles McCarthy, Sweet & Maxwell, 1984 and (2nd ed.) 1989
- See ‘The Changing Functions of Labour Law’, in Industrial Relations and the Law in the 1980s, ed. Patricia Fosh and Craig R. Littler, Gower Publishing Co. Ltd., Aldershot, 1985, p. 176
- ‘Labour Law as a Business Facilitator’, in Hugh Collins, Paul Davies and Roger Rideout, Legal Regulation of the Employment Relation, p.99, Kluwer, 2001.
- See e.g. Ferdinand von Prondzynski and Ada Kewley, ‘The Development of Social Law in the United Kingdom and the European Union’, Columbia Journal of European Law, New York, 1997.
- "Emerald | Employee Relations | Ten years of European works councils in Ireland: testing the regulatory capacity of soft-style EU directives" (PDF). Emeraldinsight.com. 28 April 2011. doi:10.1108/01425450510605714. Retrieved 18 October 2011.
- "A meeting place for university colleagues « University Blog". Universitydiary.wordpress.com. 14 July 2009. Retrieved 18 October 2011.
- "Theme Leaders' Office". Dcu.ie. Retrieved 18 October 2011.
- "QS World University Rankings® 2011/2012". Top Universities. Retrieved 18 October 2011.
- [dead link]
- "Fury at DCU’s ‘excessive’ staff row legal fees", The Sunday Times, July 12th, 2009; http://www.thesundaytimes.co.uk/sto/news/world_news/article177701.ece
- "Quite and Education" by Philip Nolan, The Daily Mail (London), Dec 12th, 2009: http://www.questia.com/library/1G1-214239206/quite-an-education-nazi-taunts-an-attractive-rte
- "DCU Chief quitting as insults fly in academic battle" by John Walshe, The Irish Hearld, Dec 16th, 2009: http://www.herald.ie/opinion/dcu-chief-quitting-as-insults-fly-in-academic-battle-1977079.html
- "Ferdinand Von Prondzynski" by Roisin Burke – Irish Independent, Oct 2nd, 2011; http://www.independent.ie/business/irish/ferdinand-von-prondzynski-26777665.html
- "Affairs of the Nation – DCU’s President" Phoenix Magazine, December, 2009
- "Fri, Jul 31, 2009 – Tribunal told of DCU lecturer's blog". The Irish Times. 7 July 2009. Retrieved 18 October 2011.
- Africa (11 December 2009). "€1.2m bill for taxpayers as DCU loses dismissal case – Courts, National News". The Irish Independent. Retrieved 18 October 2011.
- Africa (15 October 2007). "Woman lecturer triumphs in sex bias court fight – National News". The Irish Independent. Retrieved 18 October 2011.
- "DCU stand-off worsens as legal experts join row". Irish Independent. 25 November 2012.
- "University governance review". Holyrood.com. 27 June 2011. Retrieved 18 October 2011.
- The Herald, 13 August 2012 and 24 October 2012
- The Scotsman, http://www.scotsman.com/news/scottish-news/top-stories/aberdeen-failing-to-develop-as-a-world-class-city-1-2822534
- "University and College Union – Protests at Robert Gordon University Court in union recognition row". UCU. 20 June 2011. Retrieved 18 October 2011.
- "Blog by Ferdinand von Prondzynski". Universitydiary.wordpress.com. Retrieved 18 October 2011.
- vonprond. "Ferdinand (@vonprond) op Twitter". Twitter. Retrieved 18 October 2011.
- "Fri, Jan 16, 2009 – TCD provost says return of third-level fees inevitable". The Irish Times. 1 January 2009. Retrieved 18 October 2011.
- Prissy Blouses: (6 November 2007). "Replace points race with a lottery, says university chief – National News". The Irish Independent. Retrieved 18 October 2011.
- Independent Woman (27 September 2006). "There are too many lawyers, argues professor – National News". The Irish Independent. Retrieved 18 October 2011.
- "Bachelor of Civil Law (Law and Society) – DCU Prospectus". Dcu.ie. Retrieved 18 October 2011.
- "National Chamber Choir of Ireland | About". Nationalchamberchoir.com. Retrieved 18 October 2011.
- Irish Times, 23 September 2008, Education Today, Profile by Louise Holden
- Diary of a university president Tuesday, 19 May 2009 The Irish Times
- "Single Photos: Photo Images by Ferdinand von Prondzynski Photography". photo.net. Retrieved 18 October 2011.