Ireland ranks 16th for higher education

Ireland’s higher education system has been ranked 16th in the world despite criticism about under-funding and dwindling quality of services in third-level colleges.

In a table of 48 countries, the US, Sweden, and Canada emerged as having the best systems, using 20 measures of a range of factors.

The ranking was compiled by Universitas 21, an international network of research universities.

Ireland’s ranking ahead of Germany, Israel, Japan, and several European countries is a boost to a third-level system many say is bursting at the seams from increasing student numbers, continuous cuts to funding, and falling staff levels. The factors have been cited by higher education figures in response to falls in the placement of some Irish universities in other rankings. However, others have said the country does very well to have three or four colleges among the world’s top 300 or 400.

Higher Education Authority chief executive Tom Boland said the latest ranking was positive news for Ireland, hard-working colleges, their staff, and students.

“The Universitas 21 approach, in looking at overall systems of higher education, demonstrates in a way which other ranking systems failed to do the great strengths of our higher education and research system.”

However, college bosses and student leaders may question Ireland’s the ranking of Ireland in 12th position in terms of resources, which includes Government and private inputs. More than half of third-level students will have to pay a contribution of €2,250 in the autumn, up from €2,200, as colleges try to maintain standards in the face of falling State funding.

The Irish system’s lowest score in the four main Universitas 21 headings was 22nd place for environment, a combination of data on government policy, and regulation, diversity, and participation opportunities.

The best ranking was 11th, just behind Sweden, for connectivity, which takes account of international networks and collaboration.

Output ranking — measuring research and its impact, and the extent to which labour market needs are met by an educated workforce — was 17th.

President Michael D Higgins recently criticised the focus on global rankings. He said some universities placed more emphasis on the ability of staff to improve their standing than on their teaching ability.

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