TCD and UCD drop lower in world university rankings

UCC and DIT also fall, but NUIG, DCU, UL and Maynooth University go up a few places

The latest international university rankings show another dip in standings for Irish third-level institutions.

Trinity College Dublin is down from 71st to 78th, and UCD from 139th to 154th, in the QS World University Rankings 2015/16.

University College Cork is down three places to 233rd, but there were small gains for other universities. NUI Galway rose from 280 to 271, Dublin City University from 366 to 353, University of Limerick from the 501-550 bracket to 471-480 and Maynooth University from 601-650 to 551-600.

Queen’s University, Belfast dropped from 170 to 182 in the rankings, while Ulster University remained unchanged in the 551-600 bracket. Both Northern Ireland universities have been badly hit by cuts in the past 12 months linked to the Stormont funding crisis.

Dublin Institute of Technology fell down a bracket, from 551-600 to 601-650.

The latest drop in rankings for Ireland’s top universities continues a five-year trend that is linked to cuts in funding domestically, and stronger competition from overseas.

In 2009, TCD was ranked 43rd in the world in a joint survey by QS and Times Higher Education (THE).


UCC president Dr Michael Murphy said his institution had performed creditably in the latest rankings, given the constraints it was operating under.

“Following eight years of budget cuts, UCC is not only holding its own in trying economic times, it continues to do more with less to exemplary standards.

“While experiencing a marginal drop, we’ve seen improvements across certain key metrics, including academic and employer reputation. QS is but one ranking with a particular methodology favouring the very old, the very rich and capital city brand institutions.

Dr Murphy, who at the recent launch of the UCC Beaufort maritime research facility called for higher education and research to be prioritised in Budget 2016, added: “The performance of UCC and indeed other Irish institutions should be viewed in the round, set as it is in a challenging wider context [such as] considerable funding cuts, continued student-staff ratio decline and increased global competition.”

QS head of research Ben Sowter noted the Government had in the wake of the economic collapse targeted 14 key research areas in a bid to improve the impact of Ireland's higher education research. QS said: "It was a move that caused considerable controversy among many researchers studying in more theoretical, less obviously commercial areas, described by one as 'scientific apartheid'."


However, Mr Sowter added: “Considering the strong representation of Irish universities per capita, one ranked university per 130,000 people, Irish universities are akin to the Irish rugby team – remarkably competitive given their population, funding and resources, and consistently so.”

Massachusetts Institute of Technology retained its top spot in the global league table, with Harvard up from 4th to 2nd. University of Cambridge and Stanford were joint third.

An encouraging feature was that five of Ireland’s eight representatives saw increases in the citation per faculty indicator, a proxy for research impact. While part of this was due to a new methodology, “the two leading Irish universities rank just over the top 200 globally in this key indicator”, with UCD at 201 and TCD 203.

A separate ranking was provided for engineering and technology faculties, with TCD at 100, UCD 157, UCC 202, NUIG 264, DCU 317, DIT 334 and UL 364.

QS is regarded as one of the top three international university rankings, along with THE and the Academic Ranking of World Universities, better known as the Shanghai rankings.

Joe Humphreys

Joe Humphreys

Joe Humphreys is an Assistant News Editor at The Irish Times and writer of the Unthinkable philosophy column