World rankings

Today sees the publication of the QS/Times Higher Education world university rankings, and Irish universities have done well. Five of the seven are in the top global 300, ranked as follows (last year’s position in brackets): TCD 43 (48); UCD 89 (108); UCC 207 (226); NUI Galway 243 (368); DCU 279 (302). Though some academics are sceptical about any league tables, nevertheless the improvement in the rankings for all the Irish institutions is welcome.

However, the reality is that in the current funding environment it is unlikely that these positions can be sustained, let alone improved further. The cuts currently being applied are likely to have a significant impact on the relevant metrics, so that the international competitiveness of Irish universities will be compromised. It may of course be that this is a price we simply have to accept. But given the known impact that the quality of the universities has on decisions on foreign direct investment, there is something dangerous about the risk we may be taking.

The resourcing and funding of universities in times of recession is a topic that needs to be be discussed more urgently. It is to be hoped that the Minister for Education, Batt O’Keeffe TD, will now move swiftly to disclose and subject to analysis his proposal for tuition fees and related matters.

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6 Comments on “World rankings”

  1. kevin denny Says:

    Eh…remember, we’re not the only ones facing cuts so not obvious that our rankings will fall. I would have thought that there are better arguments for investment in higher ed’

    • Well Kevin, we’re not the only ones – but equally not everyone is being cut. Scottish universities, for example, have just had an increase announced.

      There of course other arguments for investment, but this is not a trivial one. The rankings, whatever we may think of them, define not just our HE sector but even Ireland as a whole in certain contexts, including foreign direct investment.

      • kevin denny Says:

        Hmmm, maybe…personally I am one of those academics that hold these rankings in contempt so I find it hard to believe that a firm would make an investment decision on the basis of these things. I have no evidence one way or the other, just skeptical. While human capital may well be important to FDI decisions I would have thought there are better proxies.
        So a potential investor wants to know are there, say, plenty of good graduates in a country that they can hire. Personally I would think “UCD has just shot up in these rankings, but the place is not so different from last year”. I am not singling out UCD here. So I wouldn’t put too much store by this data.
        While much of what they tell you may be true (best universities are in US, UK. Harvard, Oxford not bad places etc) that’s pretty obvious. For more subtle stuff (is Irish HE better than Belgian HE?) I am less sure.

        • The problem is, Kevin, that those making investment decisions usually have no knowledge of what (say) UCD is like, so that they won’t say the place is ‘not so different’, because they don’t know it anyway. They use the rankings as a basis for their decision-making. I know this happens – we may not like it, but it does. I have spoken to US corporate CEOs who *do* base their investment decisions on such things!

  2. Vincent Says:

    I’m not exactly sure what or even how to congratulate you. Did all of you do something different.

    • Aoife Citizen Says:

      It’s mostly peer review Vincent, at least the labile part is: we hired people people had heard off and thought were good.

      Got to feel back for NUI Maynooth, where is WIT I wonder?

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