NUIG leaps ahead of UCC in world university rankings

A big jump for NUI Galway brings a ray of light to an otherwise worrying performance by Irish colleges in the latest major world university league table.

The country’s universities remain outside the top 100 and a number fell in the Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2014 published tonight.

Highest-placed Trinity College Dublin (TCD) dropped nine places to 138th while University College Dublin (UCD) is now out of the top 200.

But NUI Galway (NUIG) made considerable gains by leapfrogging University College Cork (UCC) with a jump from the top 350, a year ago, into 261st place. 

UCC retains a position in the top 276-to-300 universities, higher than it was two years ago, while the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland enters the rankings by making the top 400. But Maynooth University has lost the top 400 placing it held in each of the previous three years.

The Times Higher Education table was topped, for the second year running, by two US institutions, California Institute of Technology and Harvard University; followed by Oxford in the UK, Stanford in the US and Cambridge in the UK. All except two other universities in the top 20 - the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich (13th) and Canada’s University of Toronto (20th) - are US and UK colleges.

NUIG’s increase is down to improved scores in most areas, but largely due to  a major increase in marks for citation impact which measures the influence of research. Its president Jim Browne said his college’s major rise, along with the only Irish improvement in the QS World University Rankings two weeks ago, affirms its focused approach to developing an international reputation in select research areas.

“Despite significant cuts in overall funding at third-level in Ireland and increased student numbers, our university has gone against the tide to secure a consistent improvement in these very competitive rankings,” he said.

Ireland is one of only 28 countries — and only 12 in the EU — with any university in the top 200, and TCD ranks higher than the best-placed institutions in Taiwan, Spain, Russia, Norway, New Zealand, Israel and Austria.

Two weeks ago, the QS World University Rankings showed TCD keep a top-100 spot but slip 10 places to 71st, and UCD stay in 139th, although both improved their overall scores. UCC dropped 20 to 230th and there were falls too for Dublin City University, Dublin Institute of Technology and Maynooth University.

On Monday, TCD provost Patrick Prendergast told a conference held by Irish Universities Association (which he also chairs) that Government failure to address a third-level funding crisis —through increasing their investment or getting students to pay higher fees, or both — would lead to social and economic damage. 

He said Irish universities would continue to slip in world rankings, making it harder to attract international staff, students or researchers, with knock-on economic effects. 

“It means we will lose competitiveness, our society will be poorer, employers around the world will be less interested in hiring our graduates, and industry will be less interested in investing in our research,” he said.

Read more on this in tomorrow's Irish Examiner

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