Temporary removal of Trinity from rankings due to accidentally underreporting income by €350 million

The reasons behind the rankings were released in an FoI request to the Sunday Times

Trinity’s temporary removal from the Times Higher Education (THE) world university rankings was due to a series of errors in which College’s income was underreported. In records released following a Freedom of Information request by the Sunday Times, Trinity declared its annual income to be €355, instead of €355 million.

College also declared its research income to be €111, and research income from industry and commerce to be €5. The correct figures should have been €111 million and €5 million respectively. Speaking to the Sunday Times, a THE official said: “As the same unusually low figures were reported last year, our year-on-year validation checks did not pick up on this possible discrepancy. For clarity, the units are euros, as opposed to thousands or millions of euros.”

The errors meant that, before its temporary removal, Trinity was awarded 160th place in 2015/16 and in the 200-250 bracket in 2016/17.  

In a press release before the College’s removal on September 18, THE said that the fall had sent “shockwaves around the world”.

In emails reported on by the Sunday Times, Fiona Killard, Head of Strategic Research Development sent an email marked “urgent” on September 19, saying: “We are very confused regarding some of the figures provided to us.” The next day, THE released a revised press release regarding Trinity’s exclusion from the rankings.

In February, it was declared that Trinity placed in joint 131st in the 2016/17 rankings, while College placed joint 101st in 2015/16.

Speaking to Irish Times in February, Dean of Research, Professor John Boland, refused to say what the exact error consisted of, but acknowledged that it was a “ridiculous mistake to make”.

A College spokesperson would not comment on the issue.
THE world rankings apply rigorous standards, using global benchmarks across all of a global research university’s key missions – teaching, research, knowledge transfer, and international outlook.

Niamh Lynch

Niamh was Editor of the 65th volume of Trinity News. She is a History and Politics graduate.