UCC says €22k fee for five-star rating is worthwhile

TWO Irish universities have said tens of thousands of euro paid to receive their recent top international ratings is worthwhile for the potential to attract more overseas students.

University College Cork and the University of Limerick were the only two Irish colleges to undergo the QS Stars evaluation, a new international benchmarking tool by the same firm that undertakes one of the world’s most prestigious university rankings.

UCC paid almost €22,000 for its evaluation, which includes a €7,035 audit fee and three annual licence fees of €4,893. It was awarded five-star status, which it can use for marketing purposes for the next three years.

The audit involved a visit to the college by QS researchers but is mostly based on analysis of data provided by UCC on eight criteria. The university’s five-star rating is largely down to top marks for research, infrastructure, internationalisation, innovation, and life science, but it got just three stars for teaching and engagement.

About 3,000 international students from more than 100 countries earn UCC approximately €19 million a year.

UCC vice-president for external affairs Trevor Holmes said there are plans to raise the proportion of international students from 13% — one of the highest of any Irish college — to 20%.

“Should UCC’s participation in QS Stars result in attracting a single additional, full-time international student to study at UCC then the costs of participation are covered,” he said.

“In recent times, unlike many other Irish universities, UCC has not been in a position to spend significant sums on marketing and advertising domestically or internationally. QS Stars represents a very cost-effective approach of increasing our profile in international media and online.”

In response to questions from the Irish Examiner, UL said the cost it negotiated for the audit is commercially sensitive data.

It also refused to disclose what it is paying for another benchmarking audit being undertaken in partnership with QS, again claiming it to be commercially sensitive.

However, the Irish Examiner understands the €22,000 fee paid by UCC is the normal charge paid by most institutions taking part in the QS Stars programme, which is in its first year of operation.

UL’s evaluation did not involve a site visit by QS and it was awarded an overall four-star status, having achieved five stars in all six of the criteria on which it was assessed.

A university spokesperson said the report provides an independent verification of the key fields of activity at UL. “It is an important tool to inform our strategic planning and marketing activities with particular focus on attracting international students to Ireland.”

Last week, UL was focusing on its top scores for the employability of its graduates and its record on innovation. President Don Barry said it reflects recent trends in which UL graduates have been more likely than those of other colleges to find work within nine months.

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