Irish universities have failed to rank in the top-200 for the first time in the latest set of influential global rankings.
Trinity College Dublin (TCD), traditionally Ireland's top-ranking college, has been omitted from the Time Higher Education rankings at short notice, after it emerged it supplied incorrect data.
The error is understood to have been spotted when the college – which ranked in 160th place last year – fell even further in this year’s rankings.
The data error – which sources insist was an innocent mistake – is likely to have adversely affected its ranking position both this year and last.
The college is likely to feature in a revised league table later this year.
University College Dublin
(UCD) has slipped down from 176 place into the 201-250 band. It now appears alongside the
Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland
(RCSI) and National University of
(NUI) Galway, both of which gained ground from their rankings in the 250-300 band last year.
The slippage among some of Ireland’s top-ranking universities is likely to focus fresh attention on the funding of higher education which has fallen significantly over recent years.
Phil Baty, editor of the Times Higher Education world university rankings, said the fact that Ireland's best universities were struggling was bad news for the country.
"While the root of the problem is the increased competition among the world's elite universities, particularly those in Asia, it seems clear that the major funding cuts endured by Ireland's universities are causing problems."
There were no changes for other Irish universities, with University College Cork (UCC) and NUI Maynooth remaining in the 351-400 band. Dublin City University (DCU) and University of Limerick ranked in the 401-500 and 501-600 bands respectively, while Dublin Institute of Technology (DIT) ranked in the 601-800 band.
On the issue of TCD’s data error, a spokesman for the college declined to comment except to say it was looking forward to receiving its correct rankings. Sources say the error – understood to relate to the college’s funding – was spotted in recent days.
Trevor Barratt, Times Higher Education's managing editor, said the submission error is likely to have given them a lower ranking than would otherwise be the case. "We have decided to take Trinity out of the rankings, while we conduct a review of their data and, should it be necessary, recalculate their position for the past two years," he said.
Irish university presidents have given a mixed reaction to the rankings. UCD president
said the college has consistently performed in areas under its control. “These rankings show that we have maintained strong output against a backdrop of falling State investment,” he said.
said its rise was linked to working “the best we can with limited funding to support activities that are having a real impact globally”, while Professor
, chief executive of the
, welcomed its elevated position as a sign of its strategic investment .
However, president of NUI Maynooth Professor Philip Nolan said that, despite its “outstanding performance”, the wider university sector was in crisis and accused the Government of being too slow to act.
“This inaction threatens the very future of our university system. The Irish university system is, right now, world class, but it won’t be for long,” he said. The overall rankings, which feature a total of almost 1,000 universities from 79 different countries, indicate that the University of Oxford is the world’s top university.
California Institute of Technology featured in second place, while Stanford University was in third. In Europe, apart from Germany and the Netherlands, most countries have been losing ground while Asian countries, such as China, Hong Kong and South Korea, are climbing up the rankings.