The placement of NUI Maynooth (NUIM) in 64th, Dublin City University (DCU) at 86th and University of Limerick (UL) in 97th place on the Times Higher Education (THE) league follows the listing of DCU as 46th earlier this week in the QS ranking of top “young” universities.
Tom Boland, chief executive of the Higher Education Authority (HEA), said it is a credit to management, staff and graduates of all three that no other country had all its young universities in the top 100.
“This is against a backdrop of major challenges facing our higher education institutions. While there is often dispute as to what rankings measure, Ireland’s universities are always among the top 2% to 3% in the world,” he said.
There is renewed controversy over the funding of higher education, with the Union of Students in Ireland vowing last week to continue campaigning for free tuition. At the same time, the HEA is preparing a report for Education Minister Ruairi Quinn that is expected to put pressure on the Government for a fees scheme to keep the sector afloat.
Rising student numbers are expected to push the annual cost of running the third level sector up by €500 million a year to almost €2.5 billion in the next few years. Mr Quinn has said student contributions will not rise beyond €3,000 from the current €2,250 rate before 2015.
Despite concerns about the quality of third-level provision, international students have ranked Irish universities above average, giving an overall 91% satisfaction rating in a study of visiting students.
The Irish Universities Association said the results in the International Student Barometer will boost the country’s higher education profile. The 5,400 students surveyed at the seven universities rated them particularly highly for opportunities to teach, language support, careers services and social activities.
The three Irish colleges in the latest THE rankings make the country 10th for the number of universities in the top 100 aged less than 50 years old.