— Report shows UCD ranks 24th out of 27 Irish third-level institutions in terms of student to staff ratio
— Students to staff ratio accounts for 4.5% of Times Higher Education university ranking index
Figures released in the latest Higher Education Authority (HEA) report has highlighted a national trend that the ratio of students to staff in Irish universities is higher than those in the United Kingdom, and is significantly affecting Irish university rankings on a global basis.
The report that profiles Irish third-level institutions ahead of the implementation of a National Strategy for Higher Education to 2030 shows that UCD has a student to staff ratio of around 23:1, ranking UCD fifth among Irish universities in numbers of staff to complement students and 24th when including all national third-level institutions.
Of the seven Irish universities, Dublin City University (DCU) has the lowest student to staff ratio (20:1), while NUI Galway (21:1) and University of Limerick (21:1) are joint second respectively. UCD’s ratio, meanwhile, is on par with that of Trinity College Dublin.
This trend in Irish universities is in contrast to those in the United Kingdom, where the ratios are much lower. If UCD were in the UK, it would rank 113th among universities for student to staff ratios, not including the four Irish universities with a better ratio.
Commenting on the significance of these ratios, UCD Students’ Union (UCDSU) President, Mícheál Gallager said, “Student-staff ratios are important in two regards, [they] improve the quality of learning for the student, especially in complex subjects. Secondly, it is a key indicator in THE (Times Higher Education) World University Rankings in the teaching ranking section.”
Under their World University Rankings 2013-2014 methodology section of their website, The Times Higher Education website outlines that “the results of the survey with regard to teaching make up 15 per cent of the overall rankings score.”
The teaching and learning category is further broken down into different parameters, using student to staff ratio as a method for assaying teaching quality. This measure is worth 4.5% of the university’s overall ranking score.
Gallagher also remarked that this is a contentious issue that will be brought up at the next Students’ Union council, saying that this is an example of reduced government spending on education impacting negatively on students.
“As well as having an adverse effect on teaching and learning, the current government policy is putting students through financial hardship. A specific problem is the high cost at the point of access to third level education.”
Gallagher continued and reiterated how this ratio is unacceptable and is an issue that may require a UCDSU policy referendum in the near future. “I don’t think these figures are acceptable for Ireland’s largest university.
“Currently [since the 2011 funding preferendum] UCDSU adopts an approach supporting student contribution charge, but I am of the belief that this policy must be changed. UCDSU should hold a funding policy referendum in October, following the IUA’s (Irish Universities Association) symposium on the issue this coming September.”
Within the report released by the HEA, it is stated that this represents their “efforts to promote greater transparency in higher education policy and practice, this report is intended to highlight the scope of the existing evidence-base, and to open up discussion about how this can be developed and refined into a performance evaluation framework for Irish higher education that is cognisant of the experiences of other countries in this area.”