Trinity rises up the college ranks despite austerity cuts
TRINITY College Dublin has defied the austerity odds and climbed up an international universities league table.
Trinity (TCD) has gone from 67th to 61st in the annual QS World University Rankings, the first time it has risen since 2009.
TCD, the only Irish university in the top 100, was aided by a boost in its research reputation while it has largely arrested a slide under other ranking measures, such as staff/student ratios and how employers rate it.
However, while TCD has reversed three years of decline, most other Irish universities have continued a downward slide – blamed on the cuts austerity has imposed on higher education.
A year ago, the seven universities and Dublin Institute of Technology (DIT) were all within the top 500 – this year that has been pushed out to the top 600. It puts all eight colleges in the world's top 4pc.
University College Dublin (UCD) has dropped eight places to 131st, followed by University College Cork (UCC), down 20 to joint 210th, while Dublin City University (DCU) has fallen by over 20 places to share 324th spot.
The University of Limerick and DIT have slipped from those ranked between 415-500 to among the 501-550 group, while NUI Maynooth has dropped from the 501-550 bracket to 551-600.
However, NUI Galway is up three places, to joint 284th.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) beat Harvard and Cambridge to retain the top spot and the US takes 11 of the top 20 positions, but its dominance has been eroded since the beginning of the financial crisis.
The QS rankings are one of a number of international league tables comparing the performance of third-level colleges globally under various headings.
In QS, 40pc of the score is for academic reputation, with 20pc each for staff-student ratio and the number of times college research is cited in academic journals. Reputation among employers accounts for 10pc, while the remaining 10pc is for internationalisation.
The results involved responses from 62,094 academics and 27,957 employers internationally, the largest surveys of their kind.
QS head of research Ben Sowter said the past four years had been very challenging for the Irish economy and austerity measures had undoubtedly been a major factor contributing to the slide in its universities' international standing.
"Student-to-faculty ratios have risen substantially, while there has been an across-the-board decline in employer reputation," he said.
Although third-level enrolments are rising, between 2008 and 2012 recurrent grant allocations to third-level fell by 25pc.
TCD Provost Dr Patrick Prendergast said the rankings placed the university among the best in the world – and he urged the Government to co-invest with Trinity to secure Ireland's future as an economy and society.
Despite Trinity's jump, he said the operating environment for higher education institutions in Ireland remained very challenging, with government investment declining when student numbers were rising.
"To secure Ireland's economic recovery, and to build a stronger society, we need to invest in higher education," he added.