Angry students have launched protests at the National University of Ireland (NUI) in Maynooth over the appointment of former Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern as a visiting professor in mediation and conflict studies.

Over 1,200 students have signed petitions opposing his appointment. Lecturers have also signed the petition and are taking part in the protests.

A spokesperson for the college issued a statement defending Ahern's appointment.

"It is entirely appropriate for NUI Maynooth to acknowledge the former Taoiseach's (prime minister's) mediation skills and benefit from his unique experience in the context of the work he did, in particular on the Nice Treaty and in bringing peace to Northern Ireland," said the spokesperson.

Donal Fallon, a spokesperson for an anti-fees student group Free Education for Everyone (FEE) said, "Students and staff have made it perfectly clear they do not want Bertie Ahern awarded an Honorary Adjunct Professorship on our campus."

There is a growing feeling amongst students that the decisions made during Ahern's time in office have directly deepened Ireland's recession. His name is also blackened in young political circles because of numerous allegations of corruption made against him by the media and developers.

"Our campus is not a place for Fianna Fail photo shoots, it is an academic institution. Bertie Ahern being awarded an Honorary Adjunct Professorship would be an insult to all those who have been awarded such positions in the past from third level institutions." said Fallon.