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A clear message on resource cuts

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University league tables need to be treated with caution

University league tables need to be treated with caution

University league tables need to be treated with caution

University league tables need to be treated with a certain caution. No two tell exactly the same story because they use different measures to rank the colleges.

However, they do provide a general snapshot of where colleges stand in the overall scheme and, importantly, are used by employers, research sponsors and international students to judge where best to invest.

Allowing for inconsistencies between them in the measures they use, there is a consistency in the message to Ireland from these rankings - a decline in the standing of leading universities in recent years in the face of intense global competition.

For a small country, relying on international investment and, increasingly, on international students, reputation is crucial.

Irish universities are operating in a global market and need to be able to provide the facilities and resources to attract high-calibre staff, students and research opportunities and, in turn, produce a quality output.

The scale of the funding difficulties was made clear at a symposium this week, organised by the Irish Universities Association (IUA).

Simply put, student numbers in Ireland are growing rapidly and State funding to third-level has been cut by one-third since 2008. Colleges have tried to bridge the gap through private funding, but the net result is a 22pc drop in overall income per student.

Education Minister Jan O'Sullivan accepts that the funding issue needs to be tackled, although she is awaiting the findings of an expert group.

The question is how much and then, who will pay the extra and to what extent the State will seek to share the burden with industry, and, perhaps, the student.


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