Trinity College Dublin. Image: Aitormmfoto/Shutterstock

Stark warning issued for Ireland after latest THE global university rankings

5 Sep 2017

The latest Times Higher Education rankings are out, accompanied by a strong warning that Irish education could face even further decline if we follow the same path.

It’s that time of year again as the Times Higher Education (THE) group releases its annual rankings of the best universities in the world based on a certain set of criteria, ranging from the quality of research to its international outlook.

While hundreds are included in the rankings, the ones considered the highest achievers are scored individually within the top 200 places. Below that, they are grouped into rankings of 50.

It came as welcome news to Trinity College Dublin (TCD) that it showed a noteworthy increase on the previous year, from 131st place to 117th. However, it is also worth noting that two years ago, it was in 101st place.

This makes TCD the only Irish university to make the top 200 places, with NUI Galway, the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland and University College Dublin (UCD) coming in between 201st and 250th place.

The next highest-ranked university behind UCD was University College Cork, which fell in the 351 to 400 bracket, with the lowest-ranked university being Dublin Institute of Technology, falling between 601st and 800th place.

Going in TCD’s favour, based on the data, was the university’s number of citations in academic papers and its international ranking.

THE rankings

Image: Times Higher Education

Likely decline with no funding

Commenting on the increase, TCD’s dean of research, Prof John Boland, said: “This has been a good year for TCD in the rankings.

“We have achieved this result today despite so many challenging factors, including the rise of Asia-Pacific countries due to much greater investment, intense global competition, but also the continued chronic underfunding of higher education in Ireland.”

According to The Irish Times, THE’s editorial director of the rankings, Phil Baty, shared a similar sentiment, warning that Ireland’s global standing “is likely to decline if funding does not increase and institutions are not given greater autonomy”.

This echoes his comments that followed the publishing of last year’s rankings, which mistakenly omitted TCD due to a clerical error.

“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,” he said at the time.

Baty did say this year, however, that the Brexit outcome could be a golden opportunity for Ireland. “The UK’s exit from the EU provides great opportunities for Ireland. The country could be well placed to attract researchers from the UK and elsewhere that want to retain access to EU research funding and remain in the EU.”

Meanwhile, the best universities in the world, according to THE, are both based in the UK, with Oxford University and Cambridge University coming in first and second place, respectively.

Trinity College Dublin. Image: Aitormmfoto/Shutterstock

Colm Gorey
By Colm Gorey

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic. He joined in January 2014 and covered AI, IoT, science and anything that will get us to Mars quicker. When not trying to get his hands on the latest gaming release, he can be found lost in a sea of Wikipedia articles on obscure historic battles and countries that don't exist any more, or watching classic Simpsons episodes far too many times to count.

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