Rankings a lesson in reality
Five of our universities rank in the world's top 400, all eight of them in the top 700. Among the leading Irish institutions, Trinity College Dublin has lost a little ground in the latest survey, whereas University College Dublin has improved its ranking slightly.
The good news stops there. Ireland fares relatively badly in the QS World University Rankings, largely for two reasons. People worldwide are accustomed to reading dismal Irish economic news. And the system of rankings devotes a very high weighting, 20pc, to the criterion of staff-student ratio.
One may well wonder about the 20pc, regardless of its impact on Ireland. But some system of measurement must prevail, and no doubt any of them can be questioned.
More than the possible effects on graduates, we can suffer from another effect of the reliance placed by many of the rich and highly educated in such countries as India and China. It is estimated that each foreign student is worth €20,000 a year to the domestic economy. Unfavourable ratings can reduce the number of students.
But while €20,000 is a measurable figure, some things cannot be measured with certainty.
What is the quality of teaching and research? And the quality of the teachers and administrators? Does it bear any relation to their pay? Some Irish academics do not realise how well paid they are. They should resume contact with the ground.