Trinity and UCD climb in latest world university rankings

UCD says it may need to ‘reduce number of places to Irish students to preserve quality’

Trinity College Library: TCD welcomed its higher ranking which placed it in the top 1% of universities worldwide. Photograph: The Irish Times

Trinity College Library: TCD welcomed its higher ranking which placed it in the top 1% of universities worldwide. Photograph: The Irish Times

 

Ireland’s top universities are climbing back up international rankings following a decade of cutbacks which meant many of them tumbled down influential league tables, new figures show.

However, the country’s largest university UCD has warned that third level education remains under severe financial strain.

“Unless there is movement on the funding of Irish students soon, the university will have to seriously consider the option of reducing the number of places available to Irish students in order to preserve quality,” UCD president Andrew Deeks said.

He was commenting as latest QS (Quacquarelli Symonds) world university rankings showed Trinity College Dublin had risen 10 places to 88th after almost falling out of the top 100 for the first time last year.

University College Dublin had also improved by eight places to 168th, while NUI Galway is up six to 243rd place.

QS, which describes its rankings as the “definitive guide to the world’s 959 top universities”, is based on a range of performance indicators such as academic and employer reputation, research and staff-student ratios.

Critics, however, say these rankings do not capture the quality of teaching and learning and hold too much influence over the direction of higher education. They remain, however, influential in the competitive market for international students.

Among other universities, UCC holds on to its ranking of 283rd place, while DCU has slipped 11 to 391st place.

UL retains its ranking in the 501- 550 category, as does DIT in the 651-700 category.

Maynooth University, meanwhile, has slipped into the 701-750 category, down from 651-700.

QS says gains for some Irish universities are linked, in particular, to positive sentiment from employers.

All seven Irish universities improved their reputation among employers with signs that firms have an increased imperative to hire from Irish third-level institutions.

However, it found that research impact across Irish universities – based on citations per university faculty – was relatively low.

Higher ranking

Overall, Massachusetts Institute of Technology is named the world’s leading university for a record sixth consecutive year, followed by Stanford, Harvard, California Institute of Technology and Cambridge University.

Trinity College Dublin has welcomed its higher ranking which placed it in the top 1 per cent of universities worldwide.

The university’s dean of research, John Boland, said it was good news for Trinity and good news for Irish education in general.

“Today’s increase shows that Trinity is regaining some lost ground on former years. We have achieved this despite intense global competition and continued reduced government investment,” he said.

UCD said its improved ranking was linked to the impact of increases in both academic and employer reputation surveys, as well as a recovery in the staff student ratio.

The Government’s failure to address the underfunding of the sector meant the only way for the university to increase its staff numbers was through using private income, such as fees from non-EU students, Prof Deeks added.

“This has directly improved UCD’s ranking under the staff student ratio criterion, but the ratio remains unacceptably low compared with our competitor universities overseas.”

At NUI Galway, president Jim Browne said it was heartening that its increased ranking highlighted the college’s student focus , with the highest ratings allocated to the internationality of our faculty students.

DCU said its was pleased to maintain its position in the top-400 and attributed its "small drop" in the rankings to its recent expansion to include three teacher-training colleges.

In the UK, most of its ranked universities dropped positions for the second year in a row.

QS says these drops are linked to worsening research performance and stretched teaching resources at UK universities, the consequence of both sectoral expansion and funding cuts.

QS World University Rankings 2018: Irish universities

TCD: 88th (up 10)

UCD: 168th (up 6)

NUI Galway: 243rd (up 6)

UCC: 283rd (no change)

DCU: 391 (down 11)

UL: 501-550 (no change)

DIT: 651-700 (no change)

Maynooth University: 701-750 (down from 651-700) Source: QS