Shane Scott

This year UCD has continued to fall in the Quacquarelli Symonds World University Rankings. UCD is ranked as 134 in the league tables; a fall from last year’s ranking of 114. In 2009 UCD was rated 89.

The trend has been followed by the majority of Irish Universities, discount with Trinity College falling from 52 last year, health to 65 this year. NUI Galway has also dropped from 232 to 298. University of Limerick is stagnant at between 451-500, viagra and NUI Maynooth has fallen hugely from 401 to between 501-550.

Both UCC and DCU are up slightly, improving from 184 to 180, and 330 to 326, respectively.

The QS World University Rankings receive significant coverage in many national and international newspapers and media channels, and is published annually between September and October. It is a world renowned university rankings system, and the implications of sliding down the table are serious.

So how are the QS rankings decided?

Our academic reputation counts for 40% of our grade. Our “reputation” is ascertained from a global survey of 33,744 academics, who give their opinion on other universities.

20% is based on citations per faculty, as in how many papers our professors have published. A further 20% is awarded on the basis of faculty-student ratio, which is supposed to be an indication of teaching quality.

Only 10% comes from our employer reputation. This takes into account the employability of graduates, using data obtained from a global survey of 16,785 employers.

The proportion of international students and the international faculty within the university are considered just as important as the employability of our graduates, and therefore also make up 10% of our grade. The more international students we have, the better our university is considered to be.

With regards to the academic community’s opinion, we were ranked at 159, well behind Trinity at 81, but ahead of UCC at 217. The fact that UCD is low in this category indicates that UCD’s reputation among the academic community is falling. This may have an impact on the calibre of academic staff that UCD will be able to attract to the university in the future, and also our ability to retain top academics already in our employ.

UCD performed particularly poorly in the faculty-student ratio category, coming in last of all ranked Irish universities, at 232. DIT (163), Trinity (193), and NUI Galway (219) all placed ahead of UCD in this section. This can, in part, be explained by the 6% staff cut from December 2008 to December 2010. All Irish universities were subject to this measure, and there is to be another cut of 2% in staff imposed until 2014, under the Employment Control Framework of the HEA. UCD’s standing in the academic world is therefore suffering from a government policy of an increase in students, alongside a decrease in both staff and budget.

QS accepts that the faculty-student ratio is not an entirely satisfying way to measure teacher quality, but states that, “it speaks to the notion of commitment to teaching”, which they claim, “ought to correlate strongly, if not entirely, with the level of teaching quality”.

UCD, alongside every other Irish university, has also performed poorly in the citations per faculty section. Trinity, at 220, is the only ranked Irish university. This indicates a lack of substantial research being undertaken by the academics of UCD and the rest of the Irish universities in comparison to other universities around the world.

In terms of the employability of graduates, UCD performed well, being placed at 51 alongside Trinity.

UCD performed the best of all the Irish universities in the international students category, which is related to the amount of international students within the university. We have a ranking of 57, ahead of Trinity at 94. However this category has come under the most criticism, due to some academics arguing that the rate of international students does not indicate anything as to the quality of the institution they attend.

UCD also excelled in the international faculty section, which is based on the proportion of faculty members that are internationally based. We are placed at 54, although behind Trinity at 29. Most Irish universities performed well in this section, with six (TCD, UCD, NUIG, UCC, DCU, and University of Limerick) being placed in the top 100. The international faculty category serves as a strong measure of institutions with advanced international communications, and demonstrates a university’s international prestige.

Dropping in the QS rankings for two years straight, UCD’s competitive position is on thin ice. If UCD continue to slip down the rankings they will struggle to attract, and even retain, high calibre academic staff with international research reputations, which may, in itself, propel further descent in the University rankings.