Trinity drops again in latest university rankings

Dean of Research John Boland attributes fall to the “continued reduction in government investment”

The release of the latest QS World University Rankings has seen Trinity drop seven places since last year, from 71st to 78th. However, it maintains its position as the highest ranked Irish third-level institution and the only one to feature in the top 100.

The rankings are based on six indicators: academic reputation (40%), employer reputation (10%), and faculty student ratio (20%), citations per faculty (20%), international students (5%) and international faculty (5%).

The latest figures mark a continuance of the decline in rankings experienced by the college since placing 53rd in 2010. Trinity reached its highest point in the 2009 rankings, coming in joint 43rd, having broken into the top fifty for the first time with 49th place in 2008.

This year, Trinity’s reputation among international academics has risen, while it has also been ranked number one university in Ireland by employers, based on the findings of an employers’ survey carried out both nationally and internationally of Trinity graduates in the jobs market.

The college has also increased in the area of international student numbers. English language and literature, Trinity’s highest ranked subject, has dropped this year, from 25th to 32nd place, while its highest ranked faculty, arts and humanities, has risen from 63rd to 61st position.

The natural sciences and engineering and technology are other areas of improvement for Trinity, reflecting targeted government funding in recent times.

In a statement released by the college, Trinity’s Dean of Research, Professor John Boland, attributed the fall to “the continued reduction in government investment in Irish universities” compared to increased funding in higher education made by our global competition, particularly among Asian universities and some European countries.

According to Boland, however, “Trinity’s top 100 position globally and top 30 in Europe is remarkable in the context of its reduced income. Trinity’s annual budget per academic is 45% lower than that of the average university in the world top 200.”

Eight Irish third-level institutions are included in the rankings. University College Dublin is Ireland’s second highest university at 154th, a fall of fifteen of places on last year, and is the only other Irish university in the top 200.

The other Irish institutions listed are University College Cork (233), NUI Galway (271), Dublin City University (353), University of Limerick (located in the 471-480 range), Maynooth University (551-600) and Dublin Institute of Technology (601-650).

Ben Sowter, head of research at QS, commented that “considering the strong representation of Irish universities per-capita, one ranked university per 130,000 people, Irish universities are akin to the Irish Rugby Team; remarkably competitive given their population, funding and resources; and consistently so.”

The list of institutions claiming the top twenty spots contains some notable changes, with Sowter remarking that this year’s rankings “reveal more diversity than ever in the distribution of world-class universities at the highest levels.” Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) scored first place for the fourth consecutive year, followed by Harvard in second place, while the University of Cambridge and Stanford University hold joint third.

However, ETH Zurich has broken into the top ten and two Singaporean universities, the National University of Singapore and Nanyang Technological University, have risen sharply in ranking to make it into the top 15 for the first time. Australian National University has returned to the top 20. Chinese universities also performed extremely well.

This year has witnessed changes in the decision process for the rankings, with data from the past five years now being used in conjunction with the most recent data. A further change applies to the measure of citations per academic faculty member, as a new system has been introduced to compensate for the large number of citations generated by researchers in life sciences compared to those in the arts and humanities sector.