TCD data error sees college omitted from university rankings

22 Sep 2016

The Campanile in Trinity College Dublin. Image: David Soanes/Shutterstock

The Times Higher Education rankings have shown the shortcomings among Ireland’s universities this year, but a data entry error for Trinity College Dublin (TCD) may have cost this university the most.

Over the past few years, TCD and Ireland’s other higher education centres have been ranked on the Times Higher Education (THE) rankings. This year marks a worrying trend, however, as they all now reside outside of the top 200.

Based on the recently released rankings, the top three universities in Ireland are the University College Dublin (UCD), the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI) and NUI Galway, in that order.

Some of the universities ranked 350th and lower, including University College Cork (UCC), NUI Maynooth and Dublin City University (DCU).

The most notable exclusion from the list is TCD – which was recently ranked as the top university in Ireland by another higher-education ranking group – with a clerical error being blamed on its omission.

According to The Irish Times, there was a misplaced decimal point in the figure for the college’s financial income submitted to THE. This meant that TCD was taken down from the rankings shortly before going live.

Albeit a simple mistake, it is understood to have likely affected not only the 2016 ranking, but last year’s as well.

TCD will now have to wait for a revised version of the list later this year, with a spokesperson for the college saying that it they are looking forward to the release of the updated rankings.

‘You simply cannot sustain world-class universities on the cheap’

While the majority of ranked Irish universities showed no change on last year, both NUI Galway and the RCSI have improved their annual rankings.

NUI Galway’s president, Dr Jim Browne, welcomed the ranking in the face of limited funding made available to the university, while the RCSI’s chief executive, Prof Cathal Kelly, attributed it to strategic investment.

In response to this recent list, the Irish Universities Association has called for an urgent injection of €75m in current and €30m in capital funding from the upcoming Budget.

This echoes the opinion of THE’s editor, Phil Baty, who is quoted as saying: “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.”

Some academics have reacted disapprovingly to these university rankings, with Prof Shane Bergin of UCD describing such systems as “reductive”.

Updated, 2.34pm, 22 September 2016: This article was amended to reflect that the top three Irish universities according to the THE list are UCD (205), RCSI (220) and NUI Galway (243).

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic