Irish universities lost some more ground to Asian competitors in the latest university rankings published today.
The QS rankings, one of the big three international league tables, showed Trinity College Dublin remained Ireland's top university although it dropped from joint 61st place to joint 71st.
The 500-year-old institution, which is planning a rebranding later this year aimed at making it easier for international students to identify it as a university rather than a lesser “college”, ironically found itself sharing 71st place with a “school”.
London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) was given the same ranking as Trinity, along with Fudan University in China, and Japan's Tohoku University.
University College Dublin remained unchanged in this year's survey at 139th; while NUI Galway rose four places to joint 280th.
For other Irish institutions, the trajectory was either down or unchanged: UCC dropped 20 places to joint 230th, and DCU slipped 15 places to 366th. University of Limerick remained unchanged in the 501-550 bracket but Dublin Institute of Technology dropped from the 501-550 bracket to the 551-600 band. NUI Maynooth also went down a band from 551-600 to 601-650.
Summarising their findings, QS said “2014/15 saw an overarching decline in Irish universities.” Strangely, the research company cited a positive movement in staff-student ratios here - contradicting official data - and a number of educational experts have questioned the value of surveys such as QS in measuring quality of education.
“The indicator for international faculty declined for all Irish institutions, while the highest indicators across the board for Irish institutions are those of student faculty ratio and international students, indicating potential improvement in the future at the student level,” said QS, a British education company.
Commenting on the report, TCD's dean of research Professor Vinny Cahill said: "The fact that Trinity College for successive years remains in the QS top 100 universities in the world and in the top 25 in Europe despite intense international completion is significant.
“This is set against a backdrop of a general upward trend in the rankings by universities across Asia-Pacific countries due to much greater investment, but with some falls for leading institutions in the West.”
He said Trinity now accounted for one-fifth of all spin-out companies from Irish higher education institutions, and such activity was translating into job creation which was critical for the economic development of Ireland.
UCD President Professor Andrew Deeks said: "UCD is holding its own in a tough economic environment where funding levels and staff numbers remain outside our control.
“Despite these pressures, we are rated number one in Ireland among employers, and this is a clear affirmation of the quality of education we give our students and their reputation when they graduate and begin their careers.
“However, the deterioration of student-faculty ratios at Irish universities relative to our international peers should be cause for great concern in this country, and confirms the need for the mechanism and level of funding of the Irish universities to be reviewed, and the constraints placed by the employment control framework on universities to be lifted.”