Sunday 25 February 2018

Another worrying fall for Ireland's universities in global league table - and Trinity sent 'incorrect information'

Trinity College Dublin
Trinity College Dublin
Katherine Donnelly

Katherine Donnelly

Ireland’s has suffered another worrying fall in a universities’ global league table.

The country’s largest university, UCD, has dropped out of the top 200 in the prestigious UK-based Times Higher Education (THE) World University Rankings.

Meanwhile, the position of Trinity College Dublin (TCD)  is unknown after red-faced college officials admitted that the college had sent incorrect information to the ratings experts.

Trinity is traditionally ranked as Ireland’s leading university, but speculation in recent days suggested that a catastrophic fall was putting it outside the top 200, and below UCD.

But as a review of TCD data got underway, THE yesterday released a revised table with no ranking for Trinity, pending a recalculation.

Rankings editor, Phil Baty noted that they had been obliged to exclude Trinity from this year’s ranking “due to a unintentional submission error on their part, which is likely to have given them a lower ranking than would otherwise be the case.”

The publication of  the rankings and the UCD slide from 176th last year to somewhere between 201-250th this year  -  a second blow for Ireland in as many weeks after a poor showing  in the QS World University Rankings -   has sparked a new round of warnings about under-funding of third-level.

After eight years of cuts, the seven universities are receiving  €1,838 less per student than they did in 2007/08, as a result of a 50pc cut in State grants, and rising student numbers.

Mr Baty described the 2016 rankings as “bad news for Ireland; the country’s best universities are struggling.”

He said while the root of the problem was the increased competition among the world’s elite universities, particularly those in Asia, “it seems clear that the major funding cuts endured by Ireland’s universities are causing problems.

On the positive side, he noted that both NUI Galway and The Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland - both of which join UCD in the 201-205 band -  have made gains in the table.

But, Mr Baty warned that “most global attention will be focussed on Ireland’s two flagship institutions - the global magnets for talent — and a strong message should go out that these institutions should be protected as national assets.

“Ireland is one of the lowest investors in higher education among all OECD countries and you simply cannot sustain world-class universities on the cheap.”

UCD president Prof Andrew Deeks said the university has consistently performed in areas under its control, “and these rankings show that we have maintained strong output against a backdrop of falling State investment”.

Maynooth University president  Professor Philip Nolan said Irish universities were “in general, falling rapidly in world rankings as the impact of a decade of austerity and under-funding shows in our worsening staff:student ratio and a greatly reduced capacity to conduct world-class research

He said it was generally accepted that the Irish university system was in crisis, but “despite the excellent analysis and proposals presented in the recent Cassells report, we are too slow to act.

“This inaction threatens the very future of our university system.  The Irish university system is, right now, world class, but it won’t be for long”.

Meanwhile, Dublin City University (DCU) , whish is ranked between 401-450th in the THE table. has risen two places , to 44th position, in  a separate QS ranking of the world’s top 50  young universities.

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