Irish universities stay outside top 100 in world rankings
Crowded classrooms and limited research capacity hinder performance of institutions
University College Dublin climbed eight places to 185th in the latest QS World University Rankings. File photograph: Alan Betson
Irish universities show little sign of reversing their decade-long decline in new global rankings.
Of the eight ranked Irish universities, three improved, three declined, while two remained stable.
Crowded classrooms and limited research capacity were some of the key factors which prevented Irish colleges from performing better.
Overall, they show that NUI Galway (259th) moved up one place, while UCC (310th) jumped 28 places.
DCU (429th) slipped seven places, while University of Limerick (524th) also slipped slightly.
While these figures indicate the university sector is stable, they lag far behind where Irish colleges were a decade ago when both Trinity and UCD featured in the top 100.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology is named the world number one for a record eighth consecutive year. The top place in Europe is retained by the University of Oxford (fourth, up one place).
This issue of crowded classrooms was highlighted in an OECD report last year which found that Ireland was one of a small group of developed countries to have student-teacher ratios of more than 20 to one in third level.
Ben Sowter of QS said larger class sizes were now a critical issue facing the Irish university sector.
“If Irish universities want to continue to provide a positive student experience, it should invest in its teaching capacity in ways that reflect the importance placed upon this factor by international students.”
UCD, unlike most Irish colleges, improved its student-faculty ratio last year.
Prof Andrew Deeks, UCD president, said this was the product of a targeted recruitment strategy.
“We have specifically focused on restoring our student faculty ratio, which collapsed as a result of austerity measures,” he said.
“We are currently at 20.9 and our target is to reach the OECD average of 16. We are actively recruiting academics in disciplines of strength.
“The increase in the number of international faculty reflects one of our strategic goals as Ireland’s global university to expose our students to wider influences and help prepare them to become global citizens.”
Trinity put a brave face on the latest rankings and said it remained “one of the world’s leading research universities”.
Trinity’s dean of research, Prof Linda Doyle, said all Irish universities performed well, especially when the continued under-investment in the sector was taken into account.
“Trinity does particularly well in this regard. There will always be fluctuation in international university rankings but significant improvements will only be achieved with a sustained increase in investment,” she said.
The Irish Universities Association has called on the Government to “stop delaying” a decision on a proper funding model for Irish third level.
The Government, however, says it is investing heavily in the third-level sector and has introduced a new employer levy which is generating significant additional revenue for third level.