The latest QS World University Rankings, an annual league table of the top 700 universities in the world, reveal no Irish universities in the top 50 and only one in the top 100.
A statement released by IBEC following the publication of this year’s results described the trend as “worrying”, as it suggests that “all eight Irish universities have lost ground in terms of their reputation amongst employers”. The current figures also show a marked change from three years ago when there were two Irish institutions in the top 100 and one in the top 50.
Among those who fell in this year’s rankings were Trinity College Dublin (TCD) and University College Cork (UCC), with TCD dropping two places from 65 last year to 67 this year, and UCC dropping 9 places from 181 last year to 190 this year.
There was some good news however, as Dublin City University (DCU) rose in the rankings for the second year running and was the only Irish university to do so. It now stands at 324, up from 326 last year. Other universities to go up the rankings were University College Dublin (UCD) which now stands at 131, up 3 places from last year, and NUI Galway which stands at 287, up a significant 11 places from last year.
In response to the figures IBEC Head of Education Policy, Tony Donohue, said: “The quality of Ireland’s higher education system is a key factor in attracting multinationals to invest in this country. We need universities with an international reputation for excellence in both teaching and research. The deterioration in the employer reputation indicator is particularly worrying given that world-class skills and talent are essential to helping drive improvements in productivity, ensuring business and employment growth.”
Mr Donohoue also highlighted the link between the results of this year’s rankings and the cutbacks being made to the Irish higher education funding. A recent Higher Education Authority study showed that, “funding per student in Ireland is between 19% and 29% lower than funding per student in England” and with British universities featuring highly in the top 50 (Cambridge University came in at number 2 while University College London and University of Oxford came in at 4 and 5 respectively), this difference in funding cannot be ignored.
The QS Rankings, some of the best-known and respected of their kind, are based on four key pillars – research, teaching, employability and internationalisation.
With regards to ‘internationalisation’, Trinity has just announced its Global Relations Strategy with one of its key aims being to improve education by “embedding interationalisation in the educational culture of the university”. The university hopes to achieve this by increasing the recruitment of international students, developing global relationships with other world leading institutions, and encouraging Trinity students to spend time working and studying abroad.
Perhaps, in the wake of today’s results, other Irish universities will follow suite with Global Relations Strategies of their own. Regardless of whether they do or not, the Government must now work hard to ensure that the slipping standards in Irish higher education do not have a negative impact on business and employment growth.