UCD has failed to rise out of the 201-250th place category following the release of the Times Higher Education (THE) World University Rankings 2018 earlier this month. UCD dropped 22 places last year, falling out of the top 200 and has remained within the 201-250th zone. Trinity College Dublin (TCD) climbed 14 places to 117th, up from 131st in 2015. It was left out of the 2016 rankings due to a data error.

Robert Sweeney, UCD Students’ Union (UCDSU) Education Officer, told the Tribune that UCD’s “continued stagnation is disappointing, and is due to one reason, the current government’s continued lack of commitment to funding higher level education. Fine Gael stated in its manifesto that €100m was required in additional funding for higher education ‘just to stand still.’ Despite this it committed only €36.5 million in the last budget to higher education, a major shortfall.”

Sweeney noted how the stagnation was a reflection of the Irish education system’s failures on a broader level. He discussed the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s (OECD) annual “Education at a Glance” reports which measure the performance of national education systems. Regarding at the 2015 and 2016 reports, it was “clear that when looked at from an overall position Ireland’s performance ranks in the bottom quartile.”

The reports measure education against a total of 10 Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) targets by 2030; the aim of these targets is to reach the goal of “inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.” Sweeny said that the 9 top performers in the 2015 report are Australia, Canada, Belgium, Netherlands, Norway, New Zealand, Denmark, Japan and Sweden. “However. when Ireland is ranked amongst these countries in 2015 using a GDP Per Capita perspective it ranks in 3rd place. This shows that the government is not making education a priority.”


Phil Baty, Editorial Director of THE Global Rankings

NUI Galway and the Royal College of Surgeons (RSCI) both kept their place alongside UCD in the 201-250th category. The RCSI attributed its performance to an expansion in its research activities over the past two years. NUI Maynooth (NUIM) fell into the 401-500 the category, and now sits alongside Dublin City University (DCU). The drop has been linked to a falling doctorate to academic staff ratio and citation impact. NUIM was the only Irish university to drop places this year.

Professor John Boland, Dean of Research at TCD, told the Irish Times that success had come despite intense international competition and domestic underfunding. Sweeney commented that “while Trinity may have reversed its previous downward trend, when looking at these rankings in the context of this report it is clear that even those who criticize these ranking systems cannot deny that the OECD report shows the Irish Education System is in crisis and a furthermore a state of managed decline.”

Unsurprisingly, Phil Baty (pictured above), Editorial Director of THE Global Rankings, said that Irish universities risked a decline unless third-level funding is increased. However, he noted that Brexit presented a chance for Irish institutions to recruit researchers from top UK universities in the coming years. Oxford took first place overall, with Cambridge in second. The US saw their California Institute of Technology and Stanford University receive joint third. US institutions secured 15 of the top 20 spots. European universities secured 101 of the top 200 places, but Asian universities continued to show the greatest growth potential.

Alison Graham – Senior Reporter