Trinity falls to 104th place in the QS rankings

The result marks a fall of 16 places from last year

Trinity has fallen 16 places to 104th in the 2019 QS world university rankings. This is a return to recent trends, which saw the college fall in the rankings over three years from 2015 to 2017, despite a rise of ten places recorded in 2018. The result has seen Ireland lose its only top 100 ranked university.

Trinity remains Ireland’s highest ranked university, with University College Dublin (UCD) in second place at 193rd, a decrease of 25 places from last year. The third placed Irish university is National University of Ireland, Galway (NUIG), falling from 243rd to 260th.

Ireland’s other Dublin based universities, Dublin City University (DCU) and Dublin Institute of Technology (DIT), have seen drops to 442nd and the 751-800 bracket respectively. This is the second consecutive drop in the rankings suffered by DCU, falling 11 places last year.

Maynooth University and University of Limerick (UL) are the only two Irish universities to avoid a drop in the rankings this year. UL has seen its position maintained in the 501-550 category, with NUIM also remaining in the 701-750 category.  

University College Cork (UCC) has also dropped in the rankings by 55 places, from 283rd to 338th. This follows two years spent at 283rd position.

The top position in the QS rankings went to Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), with Stanford University and Harvard University taking second and third place respectively. The rankings also saw the US universities take 11 of the top 20 places.

In a statement made today, Dean of Research, Professor Linda Doyle recognised the difficulties associated with decreased funding, stating: “The fact that Trinity College for successive years remains in the top 150 global universities despite intense international competition is significant. While Trinity continues to do world-class research, attract international staff and students, partner with industry, and deliver a strong education, this is no longer enough when far better funded universities internationally are storming ahead. Irish universities are sliding because we can’t compete on funding.”

Speaking to Trinity News today, Joan Donegan, General Secretary of the Irish Federation of University Teachers (IFUT) was reluctant in viewing the rankings saying: “IFUT is not merely sceptical about the value of such ‘rankings’, we also believe that there is considerable evidence worldwide that the prominence given to such dubious exercises actually has a negative effect on universities.”  

She went on to note its misleading effect: “Most ‘rankings’ undervalue the role of teaching in higher education at the expense of other considerations such as citations, fundraising prowess, numbers of non-national staff and students etc.”

The rankings are based on six criteria; the university’s academic reputation, employer reputation, student-to-faculty ratio, international faculty ratio, citations per faculty and international student ratio. Academic and employer reputations are based on global surveys sent out to both employers and academics.

All Irish universities have also seen a decrease in citations per faculty rankings. Irish universities currently average 60 citations per faculty, which in previous years was above the international average. However, this year has seen widespread increases in this category, causing Ireland’s ranking to decrease.  

Irish universities also received lower rankings for international faculty ratios, with a further five universities seeing decreases for their international student rankings. 

20% of the overall ranking consists of the university’s student to faculty ratio, and this measures the number of academic staff relative to the number of students. The number of times research published by the university is cited by other research papers also accounts for 20% of the final score. International faculty and international student ratios account for 5% each.

For Trinity, these results will come as no surprise, as Provost Patrick Prendergast noted the lack of higher education state funding as a major contributing factor to a 2017 drop in rankings. Prendergast also believes that this lack of funding has contributed to the decline in the Times Higher Education Rankings, where Trinity has fallen to 131st position.   

The 2017/2018 academic year marked a year of controversy relating to higher education funding for Trinity. In October, the Union of Students’ in Ireland (USI) marched with over 5,000 students to oppose a student loans scheme in Ireland and call for increased higher education funding.

Following this, in January, the Irish Federation of University Teachers called on the government to construct an inclusive plan for the improvement of higher education funding. This was met with a pledging of €2.2 billion in capital expenditure to the higher education sector within the next decade, as part of Project 2040.  

These are also the first rankings to be released since the emergence of the Take Back Trinity campaign in college. The campaign made national headlines in its opposition to the introduction of €450 supplemental exam fees. It was ultimately successful in its opposition of these fees, however it has meant that the University must find new ways to combat its financial shortcomings.

Despite Trinity dropping in these most recent rankings, it is in the construction phase of a new business building, which has cost the university €70 million. It has also announced a new €60 million E3 Institute for Engineering, Energy and the Environment. 

Peter Kelly

Peter Kelly is the current Assistant Editor of Trinity News. He is a Junior Sophister Law student, and a former Deputy News Editor.