University rankings played down


The Department of Education has said that ranking systems and league tables rating educational institutions should be interpreted “with caution”.

Responding to the publication of the Times Higher Education World Reputation Rankings today, in which Ireland was not represented in the top 100 universities in the world, the spokesman said differences in criteria between ranking systems can affect the outcomes of such league tables.

“Notwithstanding these reservations, it is recognised that league tables are referenced by international investors, employers and students as a marker of quality across systems and as such they cannot be ignored,” the spokesman said.

Five years ago, Trinity College Dublin was ranked among the top 50 universities in the world, while University College Dublin was comfortably inside the top 100. Both are now outside the top 100.

The latest list reflects the views of 17,000 academics worldwide but only 19 countries are represented in the final list.

The spokesman said Ireland's economic situation presents challenges “right across the public sector, including higher education.”

While other countries have invested heavily in elite institutions and adopted a policy of differentiated support for different tiers of institutions, the spokesman said Ireland’s focus is on advancing performance “across the system.”

The spokesman said Irish universities continue to figure prominently in world rankings. Ireland is ranked first in the EU and fourth in Oecd for higher education attainment rates of 25 to 34 year-olds, the spokesman said, and within the top 20 nations in the world across all research fields.

“Ireland moved up from 36th in the world in 2003 in terms of the impact of its research to its current position at 20th in the world.Under the 2011 QS rankings, Ireland has five universities in the world’s top 300. In 2011 QS subject rankings, TCD features in the top world’s top 50 for eight subjects and is at number 15 in Mathematics."