University College Dublin tumbles from top 200 in world rankings

Date Uploaded: 22/09/2016

The fall of University College Dublin from the top 200 in a prestigious world ranking is slightly offset by improvements of NUI Galway and the Royal College of Surgeons which join it in the top 250.


The performance of Irish institutions in the high-profile Times Higher Education (THE) World University Rankings have been complicated by the temporary exclusion of a ranking for Trinity College Dublin (TCD).


The publishers said TCD had supplied incorrect financial data — likely due to human error — and the negative effect on some of the 13 indicators used to calculate scores would have “a material impact”.


A corrected score could take weeks or months to calculate, and is expected to result in an improved position from its 160th in 2015 when, TCD told THE this week, it also provided wrong data.


A pre-publication THE statement issued to media earlier this week showed TCD had fallen into the band between 200 and 250, but it remains to be seen if it will end up staying in the top 200.


UCD was 176th a year ago and is now in the 200-250 band, but so too are NUI Galway and the RCSI, which were both ranked between 250 and 300 in 2015.


Unlike the QS Rankings earlier this month, in which all eight Irish institutions included had fallen apart from NUI Galway, no others have changed in THE’s ranking. University College Cork and Maynooth University remain ranked 351-400, Dublin City University between 400 and 500, University of Limerick 501-600, and Dublin Institute of Technology 601-800.


UCD president Andrew Deeks said it has consistently performed in areas under its control and has again done much better in productivity measures than in the student-academic ratio in which its position deteriorated. “These results demonstrate we are already delivering excellent value for funding provided by the exchequer. It is worth noting that exchequer funding now accounts for less than 50% of our total budget,” he said.


Mr Deeks and TCD’s provost Patrick Prendergast issued a rare joint statement when they both slipped in the QS rankings, calling on politicians to make urgent decisions on how to bridge the huge gap in funding of the sector.


The recent Cassells report on higher education funding offered the Government two realistic options on how to bridge a shortfall expected to reach €600m a year by 2020. They are to significantly increase public funding, or raise fees for students but offer loans to cover them which would only be repaid when graduates earn over a certain salary threshold.


But Education Minister Richard Bruton will not bring proposals to Cabinet until ‘political consensus’ is reached by the Oireachtas education committee.


At NUI Galway, another ranking rise was described by its president Dr Jim Browne as a reflection of ambition, hard work, and creativity of staff and students.


“We have been doing the best we can with limited funding to support activities that are having a real impact globally, by working closely with industry and focusing on collaboration,” he said.


RCSI chief executive Professor Cathal Kelly said the increase in performance for citations of published work demonstrates the highly-influential research being carried out by its scientists and clinicians.


On the TCD situation, THE said improvements are expected for 2015 and on this year’s pre-publication score, subject to verifying corrected data. However, any amended rankings are still likely to show a disimprovement year-on-year.


Although the data which universities supply is said to account for a small proportion of overall scores, a similar issue at a Danish university saw its position improve from 149th to 106th last year.


Journalist: Niall Murray

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