Saturday 17 August 2019

Irish universities stay outside top 100 in world rankings

University College Dublin
University College Dublin
Katherine Donnelly

Katherine Donnelly

Irish universities continue to struggle in world rankings as governments elsewhere pump more money into higher education.

Trinity College Dublin is the best performer for Ireland in the latest global table, but it has continued its descent, falling to 108th, down four places on last year, in the annual QS World University Rankings. It is 37th in Europe.

State funding for Irish universities has not recovered since the austerity era and the issue is the subject of an ongoing campaign by the sector.

According to QS, Ireland's overall performance in the rankings is hampered by bigger class sizes - owing to the student-academic staff ratios - less research impact and the reputation among employers for graduate employability, three of six measures used as a basis for the table.

Ben Sowter, of QS, noted a report from international think-tank the OECD last year showing that Ireland was one of a small group of countries to have student-academic staff ratios of more than 20:1.

Despite declines in three indicators, global academics continue to express positive sentiment about standards in Irish universities, with six of the eight institutions improving their rating. Irish universities also tend to score well in terms of their ability to attract international academic staff and students.

Improving the ratio of staff to students: UCD president Andrew Deeks
Improving the ratio of staff to students: UCD president Andrew Deeks

Noting the popularity of Irish universities among foreign students, Mr Sowter said to ensure that they continued to provide positive student experiences, commitments to corresponding increases in teaching capacity were necessary.

While Trinity has dropped in the latest rankings, University College Dublin (UCD) rose eight places to 185th - and 80th in Europe - as did NUI Galway, up to 259th place. Three others fell and two remained stable.

Trinity's dean of research, Professor Linda Doyle, said all Irish universities perform well, "especially when the continued under-investment in the sector is taken into account".

She said there would "always be fluctuation in international university rankings but significant improvements would be achieved only with a sustained increase in investment".

One of the measures where UCD improved its performance is staff-student ratio, currently a focus of activity at the university. UCD recently advertised for the first 65 of 500 new staff to be paid for through non-Exchequer funding.

UCD president Prof Andrew Deeks said it was aiming to improve the staff-student ratio from 20.9:1 to the OECD average of 16:1.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology is named the world number one in the table for a record eighth consecutive year. The leadership in Europe is retained by the University of Oxford, which is fourth globally, up one place.

Irish Independent

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