Both the QS World University Rankings report and the Times Higher Education/Reuters report relegated Trinity College Dublin, causing it to lose its top-50 position in both. UCC joined UCD and Trinity in the top 200 for the first time in the QS ratings, by moving from 207th to 184th globally.
QS and Times Higher Education compiled university rankings together up until this year. Last year was the first year that UCD featured in the top 100, having steadily increased its position from 2007 onwards.
On a departmental level, some parts of UCD fared better than others. QS ranked UCD Arts and Humanities 89th in the world, a small drop from last year’s position. However, Natural Sciences (including Physics, Chemistry, Biology and Maths) dropped from 203rd to 261st.
The remaining recorded departments – Engineering and IT, Biomedical, Health and Life Sciences and Social Sciences – ranked in the top 150 of their respective fields.
The methodology used to devise the rankings has been subject to criticism. It has been argued that the QS ratings are not as thorough as the THE report, and thus produce less accurate results.
UCD Students’ Union President Paul Lynam pointed out that the surveys failed to take into account important aspects of university life: “They don’t include sports facilities, societies, graduate employment rate.”
Lynam was keen to emphasise that there is a “huge difference between being 99th and 101st,” and said he presumed this would have an effect on international students’ choice of academic institution.
Lynam blames government spending cuts for UCD’s decline: “You cannot maintain yourself as a top-100 university when your budget gets cut dramatically.” He pointed to the example of University of Nottingham, which was ranked similarly to UCD last year but this year improved further, to 71st. The difference, he explained, was that Nottingham spends €1,400 more per student than UCD.
Lynam believes that increasing third-level tuition fees here to follow the British model would be inappropriate, as it would reduce the percentage of the population attending third-level institutions. “The UK has less than 45% uptake at third-level education, from when you do your a-levels to third-level. In Ireland, we are at 60%, aiming to be at 72%. Our uptake is the envy of the world.”
A spokesperson for the university stated that “the university retains its position within the top 5% of world universities. Retaining a top 100 position (94th) within the more prestigious THE ranking was a particularly strong achievement for UCD”.