UCC becomes Ireland’s first ‘five-star’ university

THREE out of four Irish universities have lost ground on their competitors in global rankings, with the exception being University College Cork, which has also become the country’s first five-star university.

While Trinity College Dublin, University College Dublin (UCD) and NUI Galway all slipped from their 2010 position, UCC bucked the trend and climbed three places in the QS World University Rankings system, an annual league table of the world’s top 600 universities.

As of today, the survey shows:

* UCC ranked in 181st place, up from 184;

* Trinity ranked 65, down from 52;

* UCD came in at 134, down from 114;

* NUI Galway down from 232 to 298.

John O’Leary, editor of The Times Good University Guide, said Irish universities had suffered because, while student intake grew by about 12%, staff headcount had dropped by 6% since 2009, due to funding cuts.

NUI Galway president James J Browne said it is critical for Ireland to maintain its investment if its universities are to remain internationally competitive.

UCC was celebrating after gaining unique five-star status, a reputation that will enhance its global standing among the lucrative overseas student market, president Dr Michael Murphy said.

“The main thing for us is that we are trying very hard to attract more international students. The value of this ranking is that it appeals particularly to the Asian students, who like to looking at rankings before making a decision, so it is very important for us to be well rated.”

Universities must apply for five-star status and Dr Murphy said he did not know if any other Irish university had done so.

QS measured several areas before awarding the grading, including the quality of research, the employability of graduates (UCC is ranked 100th worldwide by employers), the proportion of academic staff and students from overseas — close to 3,000 — and innovation levels, including converting research into products, patents and spin-off firms.

Dr Murphy said they were surprised to have improved their overall ranking at a time of economic turmoil, and that it was a tribute to the commitment of staff.

“It’s very positive news for us, given Ireland’s current international standing. There are three million students out there looking for an international education and everyone is looking for a piece of that market. This kind of international affirmation is very positive because it is someone else making a statement about our performance, and not just us making a claim.”

The QS 2011 results follow surveys of more than 32,000 academics and 16,000 employers. Globally, Cambridge retains the top spot, ahead of Harvard, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Oxford.


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