Irish universities slide down global rankings again, lack of funding blamed

6 Sep 2016

Another year, another fall in the QS Global University rankings for Irish universities, with now only Trinity College Dublin (TCD) making in to the top 100, with lack of funding for the sector being blamed.

Over the past three years at least, Irish universities have been coming to terms with the fact that, based on the annual QS Global University rankings, they have all fallen in stature considerably when compared to other universities elsewhere in the world.

According to the newly released rankings for 2016, TCD is now the only Irish university ranked in the top 100 in the world – and just barely – finding itself in 98th place.

Future Human

NUI Galway bucks the trend

With a fall of 20 places in just one year, this marks a considerable fall for the university, but it shares this fate with many other Irish institutions.

For example, University College Dublin (UCD) has fallen 22 places to 176th in the world, while Dublin City University (DCU) fell 27 places to 380th.

The biggest drop was seen with University College Cork (UCC), which fell 50 places to 283rd place.

It wasn’t all negative for Irish universities, however, with NUI Galway the only Irish university to increase its ranking from 2015, rising 22 places to 249th in the world.

Universities respond

These results are being seen as a grave situation for the Irish education system, with the Irish Universities Association (IUA) issuing a statement saying the 2016 rankings should be “greeted with alarm”.

IUA chief executive Ned Costello said: “We can no longer hide from the corrosive effect which years of cutbacks are having on our higher education system. At a time when we are more dependent than ever on the talent of our people for our economic future, we simply must invest in our universities.

“An immediate injection of funding is required in the upcoming Budget and estimates to fund more lecturers, deliver smaller group teaching and restore quality in our system.”


Rankings 1

Screenshot via QS University Rankings

On a similar note, the Irish Federation of University Teachers (IFUT) blamed the slide in the stature of Ireland’s universities on “persistent Government neglect”.

IFUT’s general secretary, Mike Jennings, said: “It is shocking to realise that student-to-academic staff ratios were worse in 2011 than those described in the report of the Commission on Higher Education (1967) and  increased from 19.4: 1 in 2007 to 23: 1 in 2011.

“In addition, casualisation in university employment is further eroding confidence. In 2011, the number of university staff on research-only contracts was 4,172, not far short of the number of core academic staff (4,701).”

MIT on top of the world

Speaking after the release of the rankings, Ben Sowter, head of research at the QS Intelligence Unit that puts together the rankings, said the rankings “laid bare” to seven years of Government spending cuts.

As for the rest of the world, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) remains the No 1 university in the world with a perfect score of 100.

Stanford University has now risen to second place in the rankings, pipping its rival Harvard by just 0.4.

TCD bookshelf image via Aitormmfoto/Shutterstock

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic