The month of league tables

In the course of this month (September) two league tables will be published that, whatever we may think of them, will determine some people’s views of Irish higher education. They are the Times Higher Education world rankings (now compiled with Thomson Reuters), which will be issued on September 16, and the Sunday Times University Guide, which is typically published around September 20. Just to complicate the picture, Quacquarelli Symonds Limited  (QS), who until 2009 were the Times Higher partners for the world rankings, will continue to publish their own league table, expected to be out in October.

What can we expect to see this year? The Sunday Times rankings are extremely unpredictable; the only university to have maintained the same position, as Ireland’s number 1, in every year is Trinity College. All other universities have jumped round the numbers; DCU for example has over the years occupied every position except top and bottom. But if you look at the precise points used, you will see that the Irish universities are not far apart, which may explain the erratic positioning.

The Times Higher rankings may look completely different this year. For a start, they will only publish the list up to number 200. On present performance, that would mean that only three universities (TCD, UCD and UCC) will appear. But in fact they have also completely changed the performance indicators used and their weightings, with more emphasis on teaching than before and less on stakeholder and peer opinions; over 60 per cent of the score will however derive in one way or another from research. In the light of the tricky funding issues facing Irish higher education and the quality impact this has, we must in any case expect Ireland’s universities to begin slipping in these rankings, though it is possible that this will not become fully visible until 2011.

The QS rankings may be the ones that work best for Irish universities, though at this stage it is difficult to know what standing they will have globally in the light of the parting of ways between QS and Times Higher.

One way or another, we will hear a lot more about league tables over the weeks ahead.

Explore posts in the same categories: higher education, university

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4 Comments on “The month of league tables”

  1. Ernie Ball Says:

    Only morons take such rankings seriously. That some of them are in government and in the universities themselves is lamentable but not surprising.

    They are about as valid as a “best person” ranking would be.

  2. Phil Baty Says:

    There must be an awful lot of morons out there, Ernie! for information on THE’s World Universtiy Rankings, go to:

  3. […] whatever we think of them they are significant in the eyes of key stakeholders. A few days ago I pointed out that September was going to be a month in which these tables would feature prominently, and in fact […]

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