Rankings slip as funding cuts bite

By Conor Dempsey

Trinity has dropped in two sets of world rankings published this month, though it remains the highest ranked Irish university. The first set of rankings were published by Quacquarelli Symonds Limited on September 8.

Up until last year QS produced rankings in partnership with Times Higher Education. In the QS rankings Trinity was ranked 52, down nine places from last year. UCD went outside the top 100; it is now ranked number 114, down from 89 last year.

On the positive front, UCC has risen in the rankings to number 184; this is the first time since rankings began that UCC has been ranked within the top 200 world universities. NUI Galway is ranked at 232, DCU at 330, DIT at 395 and UL in the 451-500 range.

The second set of rankings were published by THE – traditionally these are the most anticipated. This year’s rankings were compiled in partnership with information specialist Thomson Reuters according to new criteria. THE claims that this new system represents “the gold standard in international university performance comparisons”.

Here Trinity has been ranked 76th while UCD has been ranked 94th. This is the closest UCD has been to Trinity since rankings began in 2004. UCC, NUIG, DCU and DIT were ranked at 243, 299, 313 and 347 respectively.

Dr. John Hegarty, Provost, said that “it is great to see another international ranking of universities confirm Trinity’s position in the top tier”. He added “I am very happy to see our Innovation Alliance partner, UCD, also ranked in this elite grouping of world universities”.

Gary Redmond, President of the USI, said that the general drop of Irish universities in international rankings was not surprising considering the cutbacks that the higher education sector has faced. Dr. Hegarty said that “it is apparent that Ireland must urgently move to a more holistic investment in education,” pointing out that “the creation and sustaining of a world-class university system requires resourcing at internationally competitive levels and the re-instating of institutional autonomy around the appointment of the very best academic staff in support of our students”.

An OECD report published on the seventh of this month, Education at a Glance 2010, shows that Ireland invests less than only three other OECD countries in higher education. We currently spend 1.2 percent of GDP compared with an OECD average of 1.5 percent. The United States, whose universities dominated the rankings once again, spends 3.1 percent of GDP.