Irish universities continue to fall in global rankings

Damaging effects of higher education cutbacks now obvious, say TCD and UCD heads

Trinity College Dublin:  the only Irish university ranked in the top 100 international universities.  Photograph: Bryan O’Brien

Trinity College Dublin: the only Irish university ranked in the top 100 international universities. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien

 

A decade of higher educational cutbacks means nearly all of Ireland’s universities are continuing to fall in international rankings and the decline will have damaging long-term effects, the heads of Trinity College Dublin and UCD have warned.

Trinity is the only Irish university ranked in the top 100 international universities but it and all other universities here, except NUI Galway, are rated lower than last year in the just published QS World University Rankings 2016/17.

Trinity is ranked number 98, a fall of 20 places from its position last year while UCD, the second-highest ranking Irish university, fell 22 places to 176. NUIG was the only Irish university not to drop in the overall rankings, rising to 249 from 271.

UCC fell 50 places to 283 and DCU went from 353 to 380. UL fell out of the top 500 and is now ranked in the 501-550 band. DIT and NUI Maynooth also fell, with both now ranked between 651-700.

Queen's University Belfast was ranked 195, down from 182 last year, while University of Ulster fell into the 601-650 band.




In a joint statement, Trinity provost Patrick Prendergast and UCD president Andrew Deeks said, while rankings have their “limitations”, the fact Irish universities have fallen so far in recent years showed successive governments have “not sufficiently invested in Irish education”.

Expenditure

The damaging effects of the cuts are now obvious and the declines of the universities here will be noted by investors, employers, potential international students, academics and researchers, they said.

Ireland is 29th out of 32 OECD countries in expenditure on third-level institutions per student relative to GDP, they noted.

The Cassells report on funding for third level correctly stated universities had done all they could to mitigate the collapse in funding and the higher education system’s continued contribution to social and economic development was severely threatened, they added.

The Irish Federation of University Teachers said the continuing fall in performance shows the status and viability of Irish universities “is being brought to breaking point” following a decade of “government enforced” financial cutbacks and staffing cuts, combined with increased student numbers.

The Irish Universities Association urged an immediate injection of public funding and said the continued slide of Irish universities in the global rankings should be “greeted with alarm”.

Strong performances

While strenuous efforts by the universities had resulted in strong performances on some of the rankings, including relating to research citations, this good work was being undermined by underfunding on key indicators such as the student/faculty ratio, it said.

The rankings, compiled by global higher education think tank QS Quacquarelli Symonds, confirm MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) as the world’s best university for the fifth year in a row. A number of UK universities, including Cambridge and Oxford, are also in the top 10.

Ben Sowter, head of research at the QS Intelligence Unit, said higher education spending is heavily correlated with rankings performance and the effects of seven years of higher education cuts in Ireland were “laid bare” by the latest rankings. Western European nations making or proposing cuts to public research spending are losing ground to their US and Asian counterparts.

Mr Sowter also said QS has no outstanding concerns arising from “awareness” emails sent by Trinity earlier this year to academics in relation to the rankings. QS was satisfied Trinity had acted openly and honestly and QS had taken steps to ensure there would be no ambiguity concerning the Trinity rankings, he said.