Rankings and state of third-level sector


Sir, – Ellen Hazelkorn suggests that discussions about the future funding of higher education should be “based on real evidence and not on rankings” (Opinion & Analysis, September 22nd).

But in this, she creates a false dichotomy. While there are subjective elements in the various rankings, they also contain many hard quantitative metrics in relation to, for example, student to staff ratios and research output and impact. When looking at the case for investment in higher education, such metrics are entirely relevant.

However, rankings are simply one perspective on a highly complex endeavour and undoubtedly need to be supplemented by other analyses.

For example, we can look at the OECD comparative data. Out of the 28 countries surveyed, in the period since 2008, Ireland shows the largest fall in expenditure per student; this was caused by reduced State spending amid rising student numbers. We can also look to the work of the Cassells’ group on future funding of higher education, which comprehensively analysed the challenges we face and potential solutions.

When it comes to evidence of the parlous state of our higher education system, one swallow may not make a summer. But when all the birds are heading south, surely it is time to take notice. – Yours, etc,


Chief Executive,

Irish Universities


Merrion Square East,

Dublin 2.