The award comes weeks after it was named Ireland’s first five-star university and became the only Irish university to improve its position in the QS World University Rankings.
UCC rose to 181th place from 184 the previous year. It was ranked 386th five years ago.
The Sunday Times award was bestowed due to UCC’s excellence in the field of research. A UCC device for treating lung cancer and a potentially revolutionary advance in microchip technology were hailed as two of Ireland’s best inventions in 2011.
Its improvement in world rankings, despite ongoing cuts in third-level funding, was also cited as a reason for this latest accolade.
UCC president Dr Michael Murphy said he was very proud of the university’s continued success.
“This prestigious award reflects UCC’s outstanding reputation as a centre of excellence for teaching and research, the highly successful Access Programme, the ability to attract international students and establish links overseas,” he said.
“The high calibre of students choosing the university, along with the outstanding quality of the student experience clearly places the university as a world-class education provider.”
Up to 20,000 students attend UCC, with 2,800 attending from overseas.
Director of international student recruitment and strategy in UCC, Louise Tobin, said the award “is certain to have positive implications for our international student recruitment campaign”.
“The Sunday Times designation is another means of boosting our international profile. We are already punching above our weight in terms of our ability to attract students from overseas; accolades such as this, that arise from independent comparative evaluations, are guaranteed to increase our visibility externally. It’s good news for us all around,” she said.
UCC was also praised for the establishment of a programme to help students take advantage of opportunities in Asia through a joint programme with the Nanyang Business School.
It was also noted that it had set up and expanded a Confucius Institute and invested in its Chinese language and culture teaching programmes.
Its Access Programme, which reaches out to students from disadvantaged backgrounds, has also won praise from the Higher Education Authority.
UCC also has the highest combined number of full-time mature students, students with a disability, Traveller students and students from lower socioeconomic backgrounds of all the third-level institutions in Ireland.