Wednesday 17 January 2018

Irish universities move up in world rankings

As first-year students start their courses throughout the country, CAO reported that it had received 2,233 acceptances for its round-two offers, bringing the net acceptance figure at the end of the two rounds so far to 44,729 applicants.

Last year the net acceptance figure at the end of the second round was 44,480 applicants, so this year's figure represents a rise of less than 2pc on the 2009 figures. Between the end of round two and the close of the CAO season last year, a further 1,400 net acceptances were received, bringing the total net acceptances for 2009 to 45,586.

Meanwhile, universities worldwide made headlines last week with the publication of the 2010 QS World University Rankings. QS, or Quacquarelli Symonds, is a company specialising in education and study abroad, and it launched its annual World University Rankings in 2004, ranking 2,000 universities on a number of different criteria.

In compiling the rankings, QS draws on the opinions of about 5,000 employers and more than 15,000 academics and university administrators from around the world.

Universities are judged on factors as academic peer review, their research citations (a way of measuring the density of research activity), their staffing levels (as they relate to student numbers), their international activity, and other factors such as employers' reviews.

The top end of the rankings are usually dominated by US universities, but the 2010 rankings show a growing European challenge to this US domination. The University of Cambridge took over the number one position from Harvard. More than 50 countries have at least one university in the top 500.

Cutbacks make it difficult for Irish universities to compete in such rankings, when their staffing levels, one of the important criteria, are stretched to the utmost, affecting their student-staff ratios, and the possibilities for staff to research and publish in their academic disciplines.

So how did the seven Irish universities fare? The QS rankings include the Dublin Institute of Technology, and all eight Irish institutions make it into the top 25pc.

Last week's headlines highlighted the drop of both Trinity and UCD from the positions they held in 2009. Trinity College Dublin dropped from 43rd place in the 2009 rankings to 52nd in 2010, and UCD dropped from 89th place to 114th.

There was good news for both UCC and NUI Galway, both of whom improved their positions, with UCC climbing from 207th place to 184th, while NUI Galway moved up from 243rd to 232th. Next in the Irish rankings came DCU, DIT, UL and NUI Maynooth.

It is, of course, notoriously difficult to make comparisons between very different institutions. Nevertheless, despite their shortcomings, employers, international academics and many more people set a lot of store by these rankings.

There are separate tables for the subject groupings: arts and humanities, engineering and technology, life sciences and medicine, natural sciences, and social sciences. All rankings are available online at

The big event today is the issuing of results for about 57,000 candidates who sat the Junior Certificate examination last June. The Junior Cert results are not as important as the Leaving Cert in determining a student's future. Nevertheless, it is an important milestone, so good luck to all.

Irish Independent

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