Most Irish universities fall further in world ranking


TCD AND UCD have continued to slide down the world university rankings in a trend which will concern Government, business and heads of colleges.

The latest QS rankings – published this morning – show a substantial drop in ranking for most Irish universities.

TCD drops down 13 places to 65; UCD is down 20 places from 114 to 134. NUI Galway suffers the most dramatic fall, down 66 places to 298. UCC bucked the trend, up marginally from 184 to 181.

The new international league table is a serious blow to the Irish university sector. Two years ago TCD was in the elite top 50 colleges, while UCD was in the top 100. Over the past two years both of Ireland’s leading colleges have lost significant ground.

The fall in Irish rankings was widely expected as the university sector has struggled to cope with a 6 per cent decline in employment and a funding crisis.

Last night John O’Leary, editor of the Times Good University Guide, said: “This has resulted in lower scores for student/faculty ratio. Academics have also ranked Irish universities lower this year; there is a decline in Ireland’s academic reputation.’’

QS only gives detailed scores for its top 300 ranked universities. Among other leading Irish colleges Dublin City University is ranked at 326; Dublin Institute of Technology 401-450; University of Limerick 451-500 and NUI Maynooth 501-550.

The downward movement in rankings for Ireland’s universities is certain to reopen the debate about a sustainable funding base for higher education. It will also fuel speculation about the possible return of third-level fees.

Last week Prof Paddy Prendergast, the new TCD provost, said the college’s budget was only 66 per cent of that available to its counterparts in the UK. The quality of Irish higher education faced a “speedy and inexorable decline unless the funding crisis is addressed by introducing fees for those who can afford to pay’’.

The new rankings are the latest blow to Ireland’s international reputation in education. The most recent OECD/Pisa study in December charted a dramatic fall in literacy standards among Irish teenagers. Irish 15-year-olds are also ranked as average or below in maths and science.

In all, over 33,000 global academics and 16,000 graduate employers were surveyed by QS in the largest survey of its kind. Cambridge is ranked as the leading university in the world for the second consecutive year ahead of Harvard, MIT and Yale .

The QS (Quacquarelli Symonds) rankings are one of the most widely referenced indexes of global university performance. The rankings are based on four pillars: research, teaching, employability and internationalisation.

A striking trend in this year’s league table is the improved performance of Asian colleges; of the 25 Asian universities in the top 300, 21 are moving upward.

DCU president, Prof Brian MacCraith, said: “DCU is delighted to have bucked the downward trend and, in fact, to have exhibited the largest increase in ranking of all the Irish universities. This is all the more significant when viewed against the backdrop of rapidly decreasing exchequer funding which directly and negatively impacts on some of the key indicators used in the QS ranking methodology. As a young and dynamic university, I am confident that we can continue our upward movement by continuing to aspire to excellence in research and teaching but the rate of improvement will, of course, be dependent on appropriate levels of Government support.”


Figures for 2011 with 2010 and 2009 in brackets

TCD 65 (52, 43)

UCD 134 (114, 89)

NUI Galway 298 (232, 243)

UCC 181 (184, 207)

DCU 326 (330, 279)

DIT 401-450 (395, 326)

UL 451-500 (451-500, 401-450)

NUI Maynooth 501-550, (401, 437)

*Source QS World University Rankings