University rankings

Rankings and league tables of universities are ubiquitous. While objections to their methodology are obvious and much debated, they are clearly a necessity as the starting-point for sifting through the vast amounts of data on university quality.

Irish rankings. There is no official Irish government ranking of universities, and while there is a blizzard of official statistics about Irish universities, there is no very obvious way of turning them into a ranking – quality assurance mechanisms produce general assessments and suggestions for improvement, rather than producing a mark or score. There are three unofficial measures to which frequent reference is made:

  • The Times Higher Education rankings cover the world, and an Irish ranking can be produced from the national sub-set of the data. For 2010-11 (world ranking in brackets):
    1. Trinity (76)
    2. UCD (94)
    3. UCC (243)
    4. NUIG (299)
    5. DCU (313)
    6. Dublin IT (347)

    NUIM and UL scored less than 400. The detailed ranking is here. See also Trinity, UCD among top 100 universities (Irish Times, 16 September 2010).

  • As part of the QS World University Rankings, the Irish sub-set of the data can be used to create a ranking. For 2010 (with 2009 data in brackets), this yields a listing as follows:
    1. Trinity – 52 (43)
    2. UCD – 114 (89)
    3. UCC – 184 (207)
    4. NUIG – 232 (243)
    5. DCU – 330 (279)
    6. Dublin IT – 395 (326)
    7. NUIM – 401 (437)
    8. UL – 451 (451)

    (See Trinity and UCD slip down rankings of top universities (Independent, 8 September 2010); Trinity and UCD slip down world university rankings (Irish Times, 8 September 2010); Trinity, UCD climb up the world rankings for universities (Independent, 8 October 2009); College rankings place UCD in top 100 for first time (Irish Times, 8 October 2009). )

  • The Sunday Times compiles an annual league of Irish universities. For 2010, the top 12 positions are as follows (2009 rank in brackets):
    1. Trinity (1)
    2. UCD (2)
    3. UCC (3)
    4. NUIG(4)
    5. DCU (6)
    6. UL (7)
    7. NUIM (5)
    8. Dublin IT (8)
    9. Cork IT (11)
    10. Waterford IT (9)
    11. IT Sligo (21)
    12. IT Tralee (10)

    More detail for 2009 is here. For what I can only assume are copyright reasons, full 2008 data does not appear to be online (though see “Trinity College Dublin tops Sunday Times University league table”, Sunday Times 28 September 2008). 2007 data is here.

  • Announcement of each year’s new Times figures accompanies a separate award of the title of “Sunday Times Irish University of the Year”; this award is based on other, looser criteria, and the “University of the Year” is not necessarily (or even usually) at the top of the league.  For 2010, the winner was DCU (runner-up Trinity). For 2009, the winner was NUI Galway (runner up UCD): see  “Galway takes on presidential look” (Times, 20 September 2009). For 2008 see  “NUI Maynooth named Irish University of the Year” (Times, 26 September 2008).

World rankings. There are a number of rankings which seek to identify leading universities world-wide. Different ranking use very different methodologies, and are indeed not asking the same questions (some are meant to inform those planning to take a degree, others seek to determine the degree of influence or prominence of faculty members in an international context). For lists of rankings and discussion, see: College and university rankings (Wikipedia). Some frequently-cited rankings relevant to Ireland are:

For reportage see: “Go-getting UCD is university of year” (Sunday Times, 10 September 2006); “Bright Cork graduates narrow gap with Trinity” (Sunday Times, 27 September 2007); “TCD joins prestigious university Top 50 list” (Independent, 9 October 2008); “Trinity and UCD rise in top university rankings” (Irish Times, 9 October 2008).

See also: CRELL: critiquing global university rankings and their methodologies (GlobalHigherEd, 27 January 2009); Registrarism – League Tables (Registrarism, 23 February 2009); The Role and Relevance of Rankings in Higher Education Policymaking (IHEP, September 2009); University rankings don’t tell the whole story (Irish Times, 21 April 2009).

Galway takes on presidential look


2 Responses to “University rankings”

  1. Surely the system can be gamed really easily by taking on scores of highly-paid (and part-time) “adjunct” professors whose work gets referenced?

    In DCU, this was done at the expense of teaching resources for vital “skill” subjects like computer programming.

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