The latest Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) World Universities Rankings for 2012/2013, show that University College Dublin was one of only two Irish universities to go up in rankings this year.
UCD has risen three spots from 134th place last year, putting it at 131st, the second highest ranked Irish university. The ranking represents a drop of 45 places from three years ago, when UCD broke into the top 100 list at 89th. Trinity College fell two places to 67th this year, while Dublin City University (DCU) rose two places to 324th.
The President of UCD, Dr Hugh Brady, praises the academic staff for the rise. “Great credit is due to the staff, who not only deliver a quality education experience to students, to also rank among the world’s elite researchers, despite budgetary pressures”.
“The trend in UCD mirrors the trend nationally, so the rankings have been slipping for all the universities,” says UCD Students’ Union President Rachel Breslin, also emphasising that the tightened budget for Irish universities has played a major factor in the overall drop from 2009. “The colleges are receiving less and less of the core grant, while students are paying more and more. These cuts, and the cuts on staff as well, through the Croke Park Agreement, have re-impacted upon the quality of teaching and learning in college”.
With more budget cuts expected, the SU President feels that there are some areas, such as the library and capital expenditure, which need to be prioritised: “That’s one of the things that I will be pushing this year, not just for the ranking sakes but for the student experience and student learning and outcomes.”
The QS World University Rankings rate universities based on faculty-to-student ratio, academic peer review, international attractiveness, citations per faculty, and reputation among employers. It surveys more than 28,000 University employers, 46,000 academics in more than 700 universities worldwide.
The student-to-staff ratio accounts for 20% of the university’s possible score in the QS rankings: “The staff are doing the best that they can with such limited resources, and from a student perspective, they are succeeding in minimising the effect on students,” said Breslin.
“The points are getting higher, so as a knock-on-effect, we should be getting better quality students, and I think that students are indeed more motivated to learn during this economic climate, because you need to be really at the top to have a chance of getting a job as a graduate. So I think the quality of students hasn’t decreased.”