The recent Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) World University Rankings revealed that only two Irish institutions climbed the world universities league table. Trinity College Dublin (TCD) were placed 61st spot, which represented a rise of six places from 67th, a spot it has occupied since 2009.
NUI Galway (NUIG) secured 284th, rising three places from last year; while University College Dublin (UCD) dropped nine ranks to 139th. University College Cork (UCC) fell 20 places to 210th; as Dublin City University has moved 20 to joint 349th.
In response to the latest survey, QS Head of Research, Ben Sowter, noted that “the past four years have clearly been challenging for the Irish economy, and austerity measures have undoubtedly been a major factor contributing to the slide in its universities’ international standing.”
QS serves as an international academic services platform. The survey itself rates universities globally under various headings including academic reputation which accounts for 40%, with 20% assigned to staff-student ratio and college citation prevalence.
Trinity College represented the only Irish Institution in the top 100 of the QS Rankings, sustained by an increase in its research reputation. This was stressed by Patrick Prendergast, Provost of Trinity College Dublin, who indicated that this year’s score for their “research is our highest ever” and that “campus companies and technology transfers emerge from the research we conduct. Trinity now accounts for one-fifth of all spin-out companies from Irish higher education institutions.”
Controversy also emerged over campaigning for votes by management of University College Cork, who encouraged various academics to put forward positive reviews for the survey of international peers earlier this year.
However, Mr. Sowter reassured that “in any case, the number of potential respondents involved was far too small to have had any statistical significance.” This incident prompted QS to scrutinize their methodology, forcing them to safeguard themselves from such practice in the future.
UCD Students’ Union Vice-President for Undergraduate Education, Adam Carroll, said, “UCD has in [his] experience the best student experience and that, I think should be weighed just as heavily as the world rankings.”
He doesn’t think that this is an issue that “weighs too heavily on prospective student’s minds” within Ireland and that the QS results has scant or no influence over the average students college preferences. A spokeperson for UCD noted, “There are several university ranking systems, each with different methodologies. UCD remains in the top 1% of institutions worldwide.”
Carroll asserts that UCD is focused on developing the facilities available to students. “Everything UCD does with regard to quality insurance, improvement of services is all towards raising its ranking.”