Trinity College Dublin (TCD) has been rapped on the knuckles by an international university rankings agency for breaching the guidelines it uses to ensure the accuracy of its annual league tables.
Ireland's oldest university has been described as "misguided and naive" by the QS agency because of letters it sent to academics, alumni and employers, encouraging participation in surveys used to gather data.
A QS spokesperson said the "saddest part of this affair is that a prestigious institution such as TCD felt the need to execute such a campaign, overlooking the potential damage to its otherwise solid reputation as a world top-100 university".
TCD is our highest-ranked university internationally but has dropped down the league tables in recent years.
The college is making a determined effort to improve its standing in two leading rankings, the UK-based Times Higher Education (THES) and QS, through a range of measures, including ensuring that its research gets due attention and by making key players aware of upcoming 2016 surveys.
But the QS spokesperson said it had notified TCD that its 'awareness' campaign was "in breach" of QS guidelines.
She said they would be "reviewing the TCD case and discussing the potential consequences with our advisors over the coming days, before further engaging with the institution directly to discuss the potential outcomes of our inquiry".
A TCD spokesperson said it had sent the letters in good faith and the Times Higher Education agency had no issues with the letters.
"At no time were they intended to influence the response of the recipients. We regret that our communication with our community on this matter has caused any concern," it said.
"At all times, we respect the integrity of the rankings agencies in their collation of data in informing the annual global rankings."
The controversy broke as the latest QS rankings showed that Irish universities have dropped two top 50 places in its World University Rankings by Subject.
Ireland takes six top 50 places across 42 disciplines in more than 4,000 universities - two fewer than last year.
TCD has the most top 50 finishes for Ireland, claiming four of the six: 31st in nursing; 32nd in English language and literature; joint 39th in modern languages; and 43rd in politics and international studies. UCD is 31st in veterinary science and UCC is 34th in nursing.
Subjects that fell out of the rankings this year included development studies in UCD, biological sciences, and history in TCD and pharmacy in UCC.